First things first – I’m going to be sad for a long time. This is the final episode in this, ‘the year of four emperors’, and this makes me sad. Now whenever I get a craving for the author’s very creative writing style I’ll be forced into a rereading her books – oh, wait a moment, that is actually a good thing. 🙂 Alrighty then, glad to have thought this through, I feel much better; now onto the review of Vitellius’ Feast.
As with the other failed emperors, this particular failure is told from the perspective of the professional palace staff members, which means we get to follow the exploits of some of my favorite fictional characters (at least the one’s who have survived the previous failures). Philo, Epaphroditus, Lysander, Felix, Sporus, and Mina are all involved in various ways. At first, serving the new emperor, but in the end – well I best not go there, let’s just say that the author has once again bewitched me with her plots, subplots, and surprises. The interaction between the fictional characters and the historical figures is, as expected, flawlessly contrived; the description of Vitellius’ gluttony and abhorrent bedtime practices, the sometime comical interplay between Mina and Domitian, yes dear readers, the author is at the top of her game. I expectantly await more from her. 🙂 5 stars
Well now, my faithful legion of readers, I am somewhat baffled. I actually started to read this novel about five years ago, but through the vicissitudes of life, I never finished it. I, as you may have guessed by now, have finished after finding it snugged up with my collection of Tom Clancy novels, and then re-reading the beginning chapters. The tale takes place during the reign of Nero and while there are many plots and subplots, the famous episode of the burning of Rome is the focal point of the narrative. Nero is often depicted as a spoiled narcissist caring nothing except for his own pleasure and power. The author does indeed include those elements of his character, but also shows a side that cares deeply, if a bit mercurial, about the well being of his people. As for the famous fire and who caused it, it has been speculated that Christians were the culprits. Here is where the author transcends the oft repeated cause and takes it further, having the fire played out as a Sibylline prophecy with some surprises as to who runs with that prophecy and seeks Rome’s downfall. Indeed, I was taken aback slightly with this particular look at what I was brought up to believe about God and Jesus…not that that is a bad thing, by the way. I hesitate to say more as to not be a spoiler. Hint – be sure to read the author’s notes at the end. So, my peeps and fellow travelers, I absolutely recommend this highly entertaining rendering of Nero and his fire. After all, not only do you get that aspect, but also a spy tale, a charioteer tale, and remnants of the Boudiccan revolt all wrapped up in a superbly written book guaranteed to keep you turning the pages. 5 stars
A murder mystery set during the enlightened reign of Nero (well, maybe not enlightened, more of a spoiled kid playing with power). An aged Senator, Gaius Nerva dies suddenly and it is assumed it was a natural death, but his devoted steward/slave Calidus thinks otherwise and embarks on an investigation. This search for the murderer leads in many directions including to the Imperial Court. A cleverly concocted set of circumstances reveals many suspects and motives. Calidus, now a freedman, is persistent despite a lack of results, and an increasingly dangerous situation. The authors kept me engaged throughout this many faceted who done it including a look at Nero and the strange relationship he has with his mother, Agrippina; an interesting subplot to this enjoyable look at what Rome was like during this rather bizarre period of history. The characters, from the upper echelons of Roman society to the seedy underworld of the delightful cut purse thief, Piso are brought out in exquisite detail. The conclusion of the investigation and the resulting revelations is a top notch bit of creativity, though I will not say more about that. 🙂 4 stars
The author has done it again. Tides of War had my attention fully riveted from the start. This is book eleven in one of the more fascinating, entertaining, educating and creative series I have come across, and it has not diminished one iota; indeed it just gets better. When I start reading the newest episode of Marius’ Mules, I feel as though I am getting together with old friends, though even after so many adventures together, they still find ways to surprise me. I guess that’s a testament to the author’s creative ability in that he continually tweaks his characters as they grow older, a little more bone weary, but still forces to be reckoned with. This part of the Caesarian saga is the great chase across the sea to Dyrrachium and beyond, as the Gaius Julius Caesar/Pompey Magnus battle for supremacy comes to a head (literally). 🙂 I know that I am repeating myself, after all this is the 8th Marius’ Mules I have reviewed, but I will say it anyway; to wit, Mr. Turney is a master in describing where the action is taking place, and writes a hell of a battle scene. The most impressive feat, I think, is no matter that the historical events portrayed in Tides of War are well known, the author presents them in a manner that is fresh, detailed, and integrated with his own creative touch. Yes, my peeps and fellow travelers, I will have to repeat another phrase I have used before: 5 stars
I have known the author for a few years now. Well, I know him in the online sense of the word, and have enjoyed reading his books so much that I even used his name for a character in a book I wrote (and killed him off in a very dramatic fashion) 🙂 . It is a somewhat sad fact that often when an author has written a series that spans this many volumes, the content loses some of it’s vitality; it’s level of excellence begins to dwindle. It pains me to say this because it may cause Mr. Doherty’s head to swell to an uncomfortable size, but The Blood Road is in no way an example of lost vitality or excellence lost. In fact, I think this actually surpasses his other work, as hard as that it is to imagine.
The Gothic War comes to a head as peace offerings are sabotaged and the XI Claudia is in the thick of the action. So too are Emperor Gratian’s special hunter/killer squad of heavies. Gratian has a score to settle with our hero, Pavo, and will stop at nothing to have his revenge. The Blood Road, a mixture of political intrigue, war time maneuverings and battles, and legionary cohesiveness and loyalty, is a taut, thrilling ride taking the reader on unexpected treks and paths as Pavo and the XI Claudia struggle to survive the Goths and the Romans who seek to destroy them. A page turning delight awaits you, my peeps and fellow travelers, so sit back and enjoy a thrilling romp through the Thracian countryside. 5 stars
I must confess at the outset that the portrayal of Caligula that is permanently etched in my mind is John Hurt’s magnificent, raving lunatic character in I, Claudius. Having said that, I must also confess that if any author could convince me otherwise, it would be Simon Turney. As proof of that I submit his Gaius Julius Caesar from the Marius Mules series, his Caesar is much more convincing than say, Colleen McCullough’s, and I loved the way her Caesar turned out. Told through the person of his sister Livilla, we find a Caligula who was protective, caring and very shrewd; qualities that were necessary while Tiberius and Sejanus ran amok through the descendants of Germanicus. That’s not to say he didn’t have some issues that gave wings to his destructive behavior later – but I will not divulge much of that aspect except to say that irony plays an important role. Indeed, the author has done another splendid job in creating a tale full of surprises, even if he does shred my preconceived ideals first encountered in the writing of Robert Graves. 🙂 I have had the pleasure of reading many of Mr. Turney’s books; this new series on some of the more, shall we say colorful emperors, is off to a robust start. 5 stars
Powerful men will do whatever it takes to maintain or increase their power – even if it destroys an entire Legion. Wrath of the Furies follows the exploits of a newly appointed magistrate; charged by Hadrian to administer justice to all segments of Roman society, no matter how rich or poor. Lucius is not a brave man, nor is he a powerful one, but he does possess the intelligence and perseverance to succeed. A fast paced mystery awaits the reader as Lucius and his crew struggle to identify the man or men responsible for the destruction of the legion while a brutal killer hunts the same men. A tale paved with frustrating stops and starts for the investigators; twists and turns in the plot, surprises galore and an exciting, climatic conclusion. I look forward to the sequel. 4.3 stars