How often do you think about the Roman Empire? According to TikTok, if you’re a man, it’s anything from twice a week to several times a day. Whether or not there’s anything in that claim, this book makes twice a week look like rookie numbers.
The Blind Seer and the Gift of Love, part of The Day of the Labyrinth series, is a historical novel set in the Roman Empire, but isn’t about it. Yes, Mitchell demonstrates a detailed understanding of the history and archaeo-sociology of Rome, but his story is of resistance and prophetic witness in contradiction to empire – Roman or otherwise.
And while it fits into the genre of historical fiction, it could also be called epic fantasy. It concerns dynasties and trans-national struggles, both political and spiritual, and features literal angels and seers.
This is the fictionalised story of Saint Eusébie (the title’s ‘blind seer’) and her spiritual forebears, heirs, associates and enemies, among them saints (in the Catholic sense), soldiers and at least one emperor. But really, it’s the story of the Church in the third and fourth century AD, a spiritual movement that challenged the morality and hierarchy of the Roman Empire by preferring love, inclusion and equality over self-seeking power, imperial class structures and violence.
Be warned that the book contains a lot of violence (though not gratuitous or graphic). Persecution, in this novel, comes more often as a result of challenging unjust social structures than from proclamation. Some things, it seems, never change.