Christianus Sum, by Shawn J. Pollett

If you follow this blog at all, you know that there are certain things that never fail to delight me: one is Christian fiction that’s actually well-written and engaging; another is historical fiction that gives me a glimpse into an era I didn’t know much about before.  Christianus Sum offers both.

This novel takes place in Rome in the third century, as an emperor named Decius ascends the imperial throne and begins persecuting Christians.  Although I’ve done some reading in the last few years about Rome in the time of Julius and Augustus Caesar, I knew almost nothing about third-century Rome, and hadn’t realized what an utterly chaotic period this was in the Empire.  Pollett captures the imperial power struggles of this era very well, while his main focus is on the lives of Christians in this period.

The two main characters in this novel are a senator named Julius Valens, and the slave (later, freedwoman) Damarra Valensia, with whom he falls in love. She is a Christian; he is not much of a believer in anything, but tries to protect the Christians in his household from persecution.  While the novel occasionally descends into romance-novel cliches that detract from the otherwise good characterization, the strong storyline and excellent glimpse into an era I knew little about, kept me interested to the end.  Christianus Sum is apparently the first in a trilogy, and I will be looking out for others.

One note: I didn’t realize till after I’d read the book, that Pollett’s publisher, Word Alive, a Canadian Christian publisher, appears to be a “joint venture” type of publisher.  I know there’s a lot of controversy around what many people view as glorified self-publishing. I understand that it may well be the wave of the future and that it does help new writers to break into the market, but like many other writers I wore about the overall diminishment in quality created by publishers who will publish a book by anyone who has the money to buy the copies, regardless of literary value.  On the other hand, given the amount of junk published by a lot of “traditional” presses, maybe that’s not such a big concern! I will admit to some prejudice against joint-venture publishing houses, but even had I known Word Alive was such a publisher, I probably would still have read Christianus Sum, simply because of my interest in the subject matter.  Fortunately, it’s well-written enough to get past my prejudices and make me want to read more.

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3 Comments

Filed under Canadian author, Fiction -- historical, Fiction -- inspirational

3 responses to “Christianus Sum, by Shawn J. Pollett

  1. Shawn Pollett

    Trudy,

    Thank you for your excellent review, and I’m glad you enjoyed Christianus Sum. First I want to say that for years I shared your “prejudice” about self-publishing and joint publishing. Frankly, I could not afford to do either (you also have to have money to self/joint publish!) Word Alive holds an annual contest. Two winners–Fiction and Non-fiction–have their books published “for free” (ie a traditional royalty contract). Christianus Sum won the contest and was published. The book has done very well (it won three awards in the Canadian Christian Writing Awards for 2009) and so Word Alive has contracted me to write parts 2 and 3 to the trilogy: both are traditional royalty publishing contracts. Tonight, I finished the second book in the series, which is entitled What Rough Beast (by contract it must be in their hands by tomorrow night–yes, I’m cutting it close!); it will be probably be published in the spring. This reply to you is something of a “celebration” for finishing the sequel!

    I also wanted to say that my “prejudice” against self-publishing and joint publishing has changed somewhat. In the last year I have been exposed to writers who self-publish, and much of what I’ve read is quality work. Yes, I have come across some truly atrocious writing . . . but I’ve also read some books put out by Zondervan and the like that have been worse (by which I mean I agree with your own evaluation of the “junk” that some “traditional” publishing houses publish).

    My experience with Word Alive Press has been phenomenal. They treat their authors with respect, they are helpful, courteous, and professional. They also are a distributor, which means that unlike many “traditional” publishers, they have a distribution system all set up. They arranged book signings and interviews for me, as well as other advertizing. All I can say is that I am pleased, very pleased. Having said that, however, if they had asked me to self-publish or even joint-publish, I would have refused. Look into the costs of self-publishing and you’ll know why! BUT, if you have a good product and you have the finances to self-publish, I highly recommend Word Alive Press.

    Thanks again, Trudy,

    Shawn Pollett

  2. Shawn, I’m glad you found this review, and thanks for the background on your experience with Word Alive. I’m glad to hear you’re on-deadline with the sequel and I’m looking forward to reading it when it comes out!

  3. Hello,

    I have also published with Christian publisher, Word Alive Press.

    I am the author of a recently published memoir titled, DADDY BENT-LEGS. The book is for sale online at Amazon.com … available in paperback and as a Kindle eBook. Link is here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Daddy-Bent-Legs-Neil-Matheson/dp/1926676351/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257359054&sr=1-1

    I would appreciate any publicity you could give the book … and would gladly forward a digital copy of my book should you want to review it.

    Thank you,
    Neil Matheson

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