Book Review: Master and God by Lindsey Davis

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An interesting story, full of historical detail and engaging characters.  An highly enjoyable read.  4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

From “New York Times” bestselling novelist Lindsey Davis comes an epic novel of first-century Rome and the Emperor Domitian, known to all of the Roman world as “Master and God”.  Set in the reign of the Emperor Domitian in first-century Rome, “Master and God” is Lindsey Davis’s meticulously researched epic novel of the life and times surrounding the last of the Flavian dynasty of emperors.

Gaius Vinius is a reluctant Praetorian Guard–the Emperor’s personal guard–and a man with a disastrous marriage history.  Flavia Lucilla is also in the imperial court and she is responsible not only for having created the ridiculous hairstyle worn by the imperial ladies but for also making toupees for the balding and increasingly paranoid emperor.

The two of them are brought together in an unlikely manner–a devastating fire in Rome–which then leads to a lifelong friendship. Together they watch Domitian’s once talented rule unravel into madness and cruelty, until the people closest to him conspire to delete him from history. As an imperial bodyguard, Vinius then faces a tough decision.

“Master and God” is a compelling novel of the Roman Empire–from the height of power to the depths of madness–told from the perspective of two courtiers and unlikely friends who together are the witnesses to history.

Favourite Quote

Patrician families in Rome, a select group of famous names who had multiple consuls and generals among their ancestors, believed what mattered was a pedigree that ran back to some moss-covered hutment next door to Romulus.  

(Master and God by Lindsey Davis, page 29)


Before we begin, although this book is set in Rome during the reign of the Flavians, and is written by Lindsey Davis, this is not a book from the Falco series. I was aware of this before I started reading, though I have come across a handful of reviews where the reader seemed confused or unaware of this.  It’s worth pointing out, this is not the first standalone story the author has written set in the same place, during the same dynasty; the other book is, of course, Couse of Honour (which I have also read and enjoyed, though not yet reviewed).  However, with the Falco series being one of my absolute favourite book series, there was always going to be an element of comparison, even if it was unintentional.

The style of writing is strikingly different to the Falco books and it did take a little bit of getting used to.  That being said, some of the humour I associate with those books did make an appearance in this one, which I was very pleased about.

The relationship between Gaius Vinius and Lucilla Flavia is a complex one, and at times I found it frustrating, even if the circumstances were believable.  It is from their viewpoints that we are given insight into the reign of the emperor Domitian.  Being a Praetorian Guard and an imperial hairdresser, respectively, we are given almost front row seats to watch as his rule unravels. I did enjoy the portrayal of Domitian; his character came across as authentic and accurate, and very, very convincing.  On a lighter note, one of the surprise POVs, and perhaps even the most entertaining, was Musca the Housefly.

The story is set between 80 – 96 AD, so it does cover quite a prolonged length of time. Also, there is no getting away from the fact that there is a lot of historical detail in this story; this doesn’t bother me at all.  In fact I enjoy being immersed in descriptions and facts from the period.  If you don’t like Roman history especially that of the first century, I think you might struggle with this.  A number of important events are covered in the story including the fire of Rome in 80 AD and the war with Dacia.

All-in-all, I found Master and God to be an interesting story, full of historical detail and peopled with engaging characters.  I have no doubt I’ll be reading this again at some point in the future.


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #5 in the list: A book by a favourite author that you’ve not yet read.

13 thoughts on “Book Review: Master and God by Lindsey Davis

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  3. The part about lots of Roman history appeals to me (which I’m sure doesn’t surprise you!), but I’m mostly looking for a novel that delves into what life was like in Ancient Rome for everyday people. It’s clear from the books that are out there that most people want to read about emperors and queens and such, but I’d like a bit more about daily life for the other 99%. The two POV characters aren’t royals, at least. Is this a good book for that, or would you recommend another by the author?

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I’m not surprised at all 🙂

      Lindsey Davis’ Falco books tend to deal with the nitty-gritty aspects of life in Rome, from the lowest social strata to the very highest, depending on the story. This particular story is interesting if you want to see what life might have been like for freedmen – Lucilla Flavia was born a slave. Also good if you you’re interested in what life was like for a vigil, a soldier and a praetorian.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll put it on my list, then I’m definitely not interested in starting another series at this point*, but a standalone is doable.

        * Given that I’m still toying with the idea of finally finishing the Wheel of Time, requiring going back to the very beginning and all the way through. WHEW.

        Liked by 1 person

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