“Heading west in as straight a line as they could manage. Which, being Romans, was pretty d—d straight.”
Excellent alternate history. Imperial Rome invades thirteenth-century North America in search of gold. Smale drops the reader into the story and supplies details as the Romans march west. Good character and plot development.
“Even when you were younger. Would you have spoiled her?” “You don’t have daughters, do you?” “No.” “Ask me again when you do.”
Lacks a believable antagonist after the opening scenes. Marcellinus is his own worst enemy, of course, but someone to butt heads with would add to the fun. Sintikala is that and more, but someone more rabid would move the story better.
“Even now it was hard for him to square the pragmatic and down-to-earth everyday aspect of the Cahokians with the more superstitious and pagan side that came alive during their nighttime ceremonies and the occasional daytime rituals like this.”
Read the appendices, but not until after reading the story. Smale did his research and made his assumptions, but the first time reader should dive in and swim with the flow.
“By later afternoon she had made it almost all the way to her goal, the Black Mountain in Applachia.” Three hundred miles a day on a hang glider?
Quibble: Okay, hang gliders, but not ones that can fly over three hundred miles a day. Three days to canoe from Saint Louis to Cairo, Illinois? There’s another non sequitur involving boats which is also a spoiler.
“The elders nodded as if Marcellinus had said something very wise, which meant they were humoring him.”