In a brothel on the Spanish coast during the waning years of the Roman Empire, a young enslaved boy of unknown parentage is growing up. His world is a kitchen, then an herb-scented garden, followed by a loud and dangerous tavern, and, finally, the mysterious upstairs where the “wolves” do their business.
The wolves, named after the muses and coming from across the vast empire, are Sparrow’s surrogate family. They are his mothers and his sisters, his guides in a rough life, his solace from it. When he is not being told stories by his beloved Euterpe, he runs errands for her lover, the cook, while trying to avoid the blows of their brutal overseer or the machinations of the chief wolf, Melpomene. But a hard fate awaits Sparrow, one that involves suffering, murder, mayhem, and the scattering of the little community that has been his whole world.
Through meticulous research and bold imagination, James Hynes brings the entirety of a Roman city to vivid life, recreating old Pagan Rome as its codes and morals give way before the new religion of Christianity, and introduces listeners to one of the most powerfully affecting and memorable characters of recent fiction. Sparrow is an enthralling, heartbreaking novel of identity, endurance, and love in a dangerous and changing time.