The Ides by Peter Tonkin

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The Ides of Mars is fast approaching and there are evil portents aplenty warning Gaius Julius Caesar to beware of the day.  As is well known, Caesar did not heed the warnings; his violent death ushering in another period of Roman civil war and the rise of emperors.  In The Ides the reader experiences a different take on this history shaking event as we follow the story through the eyes and actions of a cadre of agents who seek to protect Caesar from those who would do him harm.  The tale is replete with wonderful characters, a story line that is filled with surprises, and a detailed view of the city of Rome and it’s varied citizenry from lowly plebs and former soldiers to the aristocrats who vie for power during the unsettling aftermath.  I read a lot of Roman historical fiction and this rendering of those climatic days rates up there with then best of them and I’m looking forward to the sequel.  4.3 stars

Pax Gallica – Marius Mules IX by SJA Turney

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Things are heating up between Caesar and the Senate.  The Senate calls for him to lay down his legions and return to Rome for prosecution while Caesar seeks to be made a Consul.  Marcus Falerius Fronto, ex-legate of the Tenth Legion has been declared an outlaw and takes his family to Massilia whereupon he decides that despite his differences with Caesar, the only way to regain what the Senate has taken from him is to rejoin Caesar.  Meanwhile there is an uprising in Aquitania led by an enigmatic man known as The Smiling King and Fronto is sent there with one legion made up of veterans ready to retire to put down the incursion and settle the veterans in that region.  Throughout this series, the author has created some very memorable characters, both Roman and barbarian.  In Pax Gallica, that honor belongs to The Smiling King; driven by vengeance, fueled by sacred vows, and totally ruthless in his pursuit to bring down Caesar.  Fronto needs all of the steadfast, professional demeanor of his ‘legion’ just to survive the opening salvos from this new enemy.  Fronto also needs all of his guile and experience to try to stay one step ahead of Smiley but is inexorably and with much loss led to where The Smiling King wants him.  Mr. Turney delivers yet again a muse inspired tale filled with drama, mystery, heroic deeds, loyalty, and most importantly a story of many twists and turns as he sets the stage for the inevitable showdown between Pompey and Caesar.  5 Stars and a Hoover Book Review query, Why haven’t you started this series yet?  🙂

Conspirata by Robert Harris

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The middle book of the trilogy,  Conspirata encompasses Cicero’s life during his Consulship and the subsequent fall out from the Catiline Conspiracy.  Through the voice of Tiro, the uber secretary, the author continues an excellent reading experience chock full of history enhanced with intrigue and emotion.  Cicero rides a stormy sea as he vacillates between victories, doubt, and a surprising predilection to turn his fears into heroic acts.  The characters ring true, from the pompous (Catalus, Hortensius), to the pretentious power seekers (Pompey, Crassus) and a unremitting, ruthless Caesar.

It had been quite a while between my reading of Imperium and Conspirata.  I predict that it won’t be as long before I start the final volume, Dictator.  4.8 stars & The Hoover Book Review’s coveted “It’s a Good One, Boys & Girls” award.

 

Lady of the Eternal City by Kate Quinn

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There are times when this humble scribe finds it difficult to articulate or to even come close to the right words to use.  This is one of those times.  Kate Quinn has delivered a masterpiece of a series that culminates in Lady of the Eternal City.  There aren’t many books that reduce me to tears or has me screaming in disbelief but  Kate has done those things to me repeatedly throughout.  On top of the emotions, she also has me believing that this is the way things might have actually happened.  That’s what comes out of a fiction so well written; so well researched.  I cannot recommend the Empress of Rome series highly enough but you must begin with book one; otherwise you will miss out on the muse inspired character developments, the emotion touching prose, the elegance of language that permeates all four books.  I, for one, will have this series on my To Read Again List.  5 Stars

Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

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The son of Gaius Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, Caesarion, seems to get most of the press in fiction in relation to the three children borne by Cleopatra with Marcus Antonius, Selene, Helios and Philadelphus.  The fate of those three is the backdrop to Stephanie Dray’s series starting with Lily of the Nile.  I was captivated from the get go as the author begins with Cleopatra’s death and the arrival in Rome of the children as part of Octavian’s Triumph; a humiliating experience to say the least.  They are given over to Octavia’s care but it’s Octavian with help from Livia who are the true architects of the children’s future.  The interaction between Octavian and Selene progresses through the story and is one of the highlights of the book.  The author does a superb job in that relationship, one that changes/grows as the power of Isis is made manifest in Selene.  The erstwhile rulers of Egypt never give up their hope of being restored to their rightful place but there are many obstacles and lessons to be learned.  I really enjoyed this story, the portrayal of Caesar Augustus is especially well done as are the characters of the twins…indeed this is a hallmark of Stephanie Dray’s writing acumen…the way she draws the reader into a character’s state of mind.  Looking forward to the rest of this series… 5 stars.

Marius Mules VIII – Sons of Taranis by SJA Turney

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In this episode of the Marius Mules saga we find both Caesar and Fronto looking forward to the future.  For Caesar, a pacified Gaul has him preparing for his return to Rome and a Consulship.  For Fronto, it is trying to make a go as a wine merchant in a somewhat hostile business environment but at least it is not one requiring one’s skill with a gladius .  This is what both men desire, peace, so as to get on with the next phase of their lives and careers.  Ahh, but peace is an ever elusive and tricky beast and once again, Caesar has revolts and plots to put down and Fronto finds himself not only in a business turf war but also in a scheme by a band a fanatic Gauls whose plan is to release Vercingetorix from his Roman captors.  As per usual with Mr. Turney, the story is written with the intent to further  flesh out the main characters in this saga, so we are given more insights into the minds and actions of men like Varus, Decimus Brutus, the Gaulish noble Caravinos and of course our congenial host in Masillia, Fronto.  Of action, there is plenty, from the scattered pockets of revolt in Gaul, to the streets of Masillia to the…well I’ll not say where as that might be a spoiler.  The plots/story lines are seamlessly woven together and are marked with the occasional twists that make things more interesting.

We all know how the story ends regarding Gaius Julius Caesar but we are a few episodes away from that bloody day in March so it will be with much anticipation that we wait to see how the author gets us to that momentous time.  But as the humble scribbler of the cover blurb for this edition of the saga states, ‘Marius Mules just keeps getting better.’  I couldn’t agree more.  5 stars

S J A Turney: Marius Mules VII The Great Revolt (Review)

Me and Parmenion agree…a most excellent read.

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Author Bio: in his own words

I live with my wife, son and daughter, and two (close approximations of) dogs in rural North Yorkshire, where my wife and I both grew up, surrounded by friends and family. A born and bred Yorkshireman with a love of the country, I cannot envisage spending my life anywhere else, though my anchor is sometimes tested as the wanderlust hits and we travel wherever I can find the breathtaking remains of the classical world. I have a love of travel and history, architecture and writing and those four interact well enough to keep me almost permanently busy.

Since leaving school and University, I have tried a great number of careers, including car sales, insurance, software engineering, computer network management, civil service and even paint ing and decorating sales. I have lived in four counties and travelled as widely as time and budget allowed and find myself…

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