Set in Rome in 68 AD during the reign of Nero, focuses on two men, two as unequal as can be men who come to love each other. One of the men is a close friend of Nero (a very perilous position), the other a recently captured slave from the Teutenberg region of Germany who had the extreme bad luck to be the kind of young man that Nero and others in his court enjoy using sexually, often sacrificing them to their gods when they tire of them.
Nero's friend Senna, if that is the right word for their relationship, has a special job, whenever the Emperor has turned against a high ranking Roman it is his place to tell them it is time to kill themselves. Aenor is a new slave who has been brutalized and humiliated for the amusement of Nero and his sycophants. Senna decides to use the slave, who can get close to Nero during sex, to assassinate him. It is a suicide mission for both but neither cares. Senna, once a man of character, hates Nero so much and feels a great sense of shame and the slave would rather die than live on as a sex toy so both agree to give their lives in this plot on the life of Nero. Neither can quite trust the other.
He Is Worthy does a good job of letting us imagine how horrible it was to be a male pleasure slave in Rome, not a job with a lot of long term prospects. Contrary to the movies, it did not involve servicing the needs of beautiful female aristocrats. The sexual abuse of the slave is very graphically described. If this were a movie it would be X-rated. We also see how feared the Roman soldiers were by the ordinary citizens and how dangerous Rome was after dark.
The two men fall in love, or what passes for it in the world they live in. The ending is one we might have hoped for.
I would classify this as a good read. It is not that long and it will keep your attention. It is not for those who do not like X-rated descriptions of gay sex, including rape. If you enjoyed, as I did, the HBO series, Rome, I think you will enjoy this book.
Lisa Henry is a very good prose stylist.
|"I quite enjoyed this book!"|
In the interests of full disclosure, I received a free copy of this book.
You can learn more about Lisa Henry and her work on her blog