This book is a follow-up to Manda Scott‘s Boudica series of novels (2003-6), which I’ve not read; unfortunately, that makes a difference, as I’ll explain shortly. The Emperor’s Spy is set during the reign of Nero, who tasks one Sebastos Abdes Pantera with investigating — and preventing the fulfillment of — a propecy that Rome will burn. Panter’a journey will take him from northern Gaul, to Alexandria, then to Rome itself.

Most of the key characters in The Emperor’s Spy seem to have a history that extends back into the previous series — so much so that I felt at a distinct disadvantage not knowing exactly who Scott had carried over, and what had happened to them. It didn’t stop me following the novel but, like joining a conversation halfway through, I had to manage without the context that would have made my passage smoother.

That said, I found the novel pretty good. Scott is good at integrating historical detail without it seeming intrusive, and evoking the sensations of her setting (though I don’t know the Roman period well enough to judge the authenticity of Scott’s re-creation).  In addition, her thrills-n-spills action sequences — so central to this kind of story — do all the thrilling that they should.

More Rome books are planned, so would I read another one? I think I’d have to read the Boudica series first . Would I try a Boudica novel? Yes, I think I probably would.