While little is known for certain about the martyr St. George, he is always portrayed slaying a dragon. This image is the inspiration for Michael Lotti’s story of the conversion of a Roman soldier originally named Marcellus. Marcellus has a reputation for being a courageous and just tribune of the Empire’s army, loyal to Rome and family. Upon returning to his father’s estate to prepare for his wedding, Marcellus discovers that many of his neighbors, including his fiancée, have joined a cult that worships a dragon living in a nearby cave. In spite of an instinctive aversion to the creature, Marcellus visits it and finds the serpent’s influence irresistible.
Equally compelling, however, are the Christians that Marcellus’ father harbors on his land, among them the family’s most trusted slave, Pasikrates, and Agathon, a travelling bishop. Marcellus is torn between the hypnotizing power of the dragon and the gentle wisdom and brotherly love of the Christians. He must decide if he is willing to forego a glorious military career and advantageous marriage to follow a new religion that appeals to both his strong sense of reason and desire for inner peace.
Lotti’s dramatization places this legend within the context of its historical period. Roman military life and culture form the background for Marcellus’ interior journey. His training as a soldier enables him to think rationally when faced with supernatural evil and to follow his conscience in spite of his feelings. At the same time, the reader feels the battle waging inside of Marcellus who has little time to decide how best to serve the Empire he loves. Fans of both historical fiction and fantasy will find this book entertaining.
Jennifer Minicus is a wife, mother and teacher living in Ridgewood, NJ.