Tomas L. Martin has reviewed Theodore Judson's The Martian General's Daughterfor SFCrowsnest with the intriguing description that it is "worthy sequel in spirit to The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."Which it is, as the book serves, as he says, as a"a strong, dynamic analysis of what happens when a nation grows too far and collapses under the pressure of its ambition." And there is a large part of the narrative that is a retelling of the history of Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodius (who will be somewhat familiar to fans of the film Gladiator,yes), only that all this history is seen through the person of Justa, the daughter of the title. To me, her voice and her personal story are more powerful than the history she witnesses, which while it has a lot to say about the fall of empire (and, I believe, our own recent efforts at empire-building), is a vehicle for a very personal look at family. My two cents.
Update: Ah, and here comes a review on Neth Space that is the third one to use that word "compelling"when referring to Justa. They echo a little of what I'm talking about when they say, "The story gains new dimensions as it moves forward – becoming as much the story of Justa as the general. We slowly learn bits and pieces of Justa’s past as she relates the story of her father. As an empire decays, we feel that Justa thrives and grows. In the end, we have three stories in one – the death of empire, the biography of a great general, and the growth a young woman."
Update 4/17/08: Jeff Vandermeer opines at Amazon's Omnivoracious blog that, "this slim but satisfying novel is often willfully didactic in the way it treats political/military issues--but it works because of the context. These are the issues the characters are dealing with, this is the way they would talk about them. It's rare that a book will make you think and make you feel in quite this particular way."