The story follows Marcellus, a member of the Praetorian guard, whose duty is hunt down Christians, regardless of age or gender, and drag them to a horrific death in the Coliseum for the entertainment of the "civilized" Roman masses, but Marcellus wants to find out for himself if the Christians are truly as evil as he and the majority of his society have been lead to believe. Along the way, he encounters a 13-year-old believer named Pollio and a venerable old believer named Honorius. Is it possible they have the Truth Marcellus has vainly sought in his study of philosophy? Can Marcellus kill those he now calls friends? How will he be changed by an encounter with those who "love not their own lives, even unto death"? Will this member of the esteemed Praetorian guard discover that a mere child is much braver than he?
I won't give away any spoilers, but I will say this made me get a little misty eyed toward the end. It certainly caused me to question my own faith and ask myself whether I would be strong enough to lay down my life and be martyred for Christ if called upon to do so, and the truth is I really don't know.
The novel is emotionally engaging and intelligently written, and it's a good way to learn about the persecution that plagued not only the early church, but that still exists in many countries around the world today where Christians are still being martyred for their faith. Death didn't end at the Coliseum.