Badass titles are the clickbait of the literary world, and this one worked very well on me. The book was not quite as good as the title. It was a bit too smug and too self-involved and too busy being clever. It’s basically pseudo-Roman military engineering with a snarky first-person narrator. Fantasy Rome doing Fantasy Roman things: the book.
The snarky narrator might redeem the book for you. Or, if you’re an engineer, the insistence on how engineers are the cleverest and bestest might also work. Or you just love Fantasy Rome, not judging. I found the book a bit tedious – I finished, but thought the beginning was the strongest part and it got increasingly obnoxious. It doesn’t help that at least part of the protagonist’s genius solutions are not about engineering but about economy, logistics and ruling a city, and all those parts did not keep my disbelief suspended. That’s just … not how people work.
I’m not usually into protagonists who are always right, and this one was a damn Gary Stu: can do anything, knows tons of languages, pulled himself out of slavery by his own bootstraps blah blah blah … which is the major reason I rated it this low, along with the very weak character building on the protagonist’s moral foundation. But if you don’t take the book too seriously, it’s pretty enjoyable.