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Book review: 'Maximus' is an adventure, love story in New Testament era
"Maximus" is by Richard L. Black. - photo by Eric Rigby
"MAXIMUS," by Richard L. Black, Shadow Mountain, $25.99, 464 pages (f)

Lucius Fabius Maximus is a high-ranking general for one of Romes most dominant legions. He has helped to expand the empire through warfare, but he is struggling to accept traditional Roman beliefs. The only person aware of these deep thoughts is his best friend and second-in-command, Androcles.

Their next campaign is not one of violence, but rather one of diplomacy. They will investigate claims about a man named Jesus, who Roman Senators fear is amassing an army to overthrow Rome. The greatest challenge of their mission is to travel in disguise as Jews, a people they know little about.

Ezra, a scholarly Jew, teaches them about Jewish customs and faith as they sail to Judaea. Maximus and Androcles are quick learners, even if its difficult to leave behind years of military training. Their disguise requires them to take on new names: Maximus becomes Jacob, and Androcles becomes Levi. As Jacob absorbs Jewish beliefs, he desires a personal relationship with God.

In Judaea, Jacob and Levi are shocked to discover the Roman soldiers are undisciplined and cruel. They begin to question their service to Rome. These doubts grow when they meet the family of Jershon, a kind Jewish fisherman. His faith in Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah softens the Romans in disguise.

It isnt long before Jacob falls for Jershons niece, Liora, who believes more than anyone that Jesus is the Messiah. Levi falls for Jershons daughter, and the once-rough Romans begin having serious thoughts about abandoning their old lives and becoming fishermen.

However, ever the dutiful soldier, Jacob tells Levi they have a mission to accomplish. They seek out Jesus to examine him on their own. They agree he is a peaceful teacher and that his throngs of disciples have no interest in overthrowing Rome.

But the greatest challenge they face comes during the week of Passover in Jerusalem, when they must convince Pontius Pilate of their report before resentful Jewish leaders can persuade him otherwise.

It's an interesting premise that Utah author Richard L. Black explores in "Maximus." He has done his homework about that era and includes rich and detailed descriptions that clearly share the settings. However, these descriptions also cause the plot to bog down at times.

Also, only a few characters are developed to the point where readers will care about them, and it seems as though the only consistent character trait is that everyone is overly sensitive.

There is no swearing or sexual content, and there is some detailed violence and death.
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