I remember reading this in grade 7, and at 13 years old, I remember the book seeming quite mature. Of course it's genre is young adult, but I remember thinking this was the first book I had read that took on so much than other young adult books that seemed so flaky, even more so than the required reading of Lord of the Flies, which I couldn't stand.
This book touched on politics and war, which was something I considered to be reserved for adults, so at 13, it was gratifying to finally read something that had some meaning to it, making sense of some history, and above all, getting an entertaining story out of the deal.
Paul is likely a ficticious character, but who is to say that his task of delivering a message to the Emporer of Rome couldn't have happened from a teenager during those times?
I have not read this since 1987, but it has always remained one of my favourite book memories, and I would gladly read this book again if I ordered it.