This slender, quiet novel packs quite a punch and is so easy to slip in to, I challenge anyone not to finish it in one sitting! Set in the second century A.D., the story is told by Antinous, a handsome boy from a rural province who ends up the lover of the emperor Hadrian.Despite the possibility for some serious torridness, McDonald's writing as Antinous had a kind of restraint that felt aloof at first. But as the story progressed, the facets of love, possession, power, and privilege emerged and created a complicated portrait. Was this love? Abuse? Both?Very little is known about Antinous' life, but I greatly enjoyed McDonald's envisioning of what it would have been like: the competitive schooling and classmates jockeying for power, the tension between Greek and Roman, the jealousies that emerge when one is privileged above all others, and the pain that comes from an unequal love. Additionally, Antinous lived in a fascinating era historically and McDonald included those tidbits -- which made me want to head to a library immediately and read more!Even if you're not typically a reader of 'gay' fiction, I strongly recommend this novel. It's far from salacious or shocking for the sake of shocking; instead, McDonald envisioned what this historically notorious relationship could have been like, and the result is moving and enjoyable.