The Shadow of the Phoenix

The Shadow of the Phoenix - Dolores A. McCabe 3.5/5 stars. Dolores A. McCabe's novel about the Carthaginian and Roman Empires in the early 5th and 6th Centuries starts out with a great premise: following the royal Roman and Vandal families and how they intertwine. This is a fascinating period in history, with some very interesting people.Unfortunately, the book is difficult to follow for a variety of reasons. First, there are three characters whose names are spelled differently -- sometimes on the same page. Gaizeric/Gizeric, Hunneric/Honoric, and Gailamir/Gelamer. No explanation was ever given for this, and frankly it made me want to yell at the author to "pick a spelling and stick with it, already." There are also no indicators in the book for how much time passes between one chapter and the next, or for when locations are changed, so I sometimes had to backtrack to figure it out. The only time a specific year is mentioned, 567, is toward the end of the book; this allowed me to backtrack and figure out when other things took place because things like "Gaiseric (or Gizeric, depending) died more than a hundred years ago" would crop up in the text.The story is told through the eyes of five generations of Roman women, starting with Eudoxia in Rome and ending with Meridia somewhere in the steppes, so far as I could tell. The women all descend from Theodosius, the Roman emperor, but some of them are enslaved, handed over in marriages and so on, such that their children are no longer Roman. There were numerous characters, some of whom appeared out of the blue -- like an eldest son, Biachavar, for Meridia, who never appears to have been before he was mentioned as being older than the two children whose births are outlined in the tale (the eldest being a daughter and a huge disappointment; I was confused).The thing is, this is a really good premise for a book. It's obvious that the author did a lot of homework about the people, cultures and wars of the time. I just think she got too ambitious in trying to cover so many generations and things fell apart frequently as a result.