Caligula – The Damned Emperors 1 by Simon Turney

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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

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Roma Amor by Sherry Christie

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Whenever I think of Caligula, I see John Hurt’s I,Claudius portrayal, one of a madman ruling an empire.  In Roma Amor, we find a different Caligula, one who is still working out how to be Emperor while trying to keep at bay the tormenting demons in his mind.  This story, while it is certainly about Caligula, is more than that.  Marcus Carinna returns to Rome, a successful military campaign completed and hostages in tow and finds himself in a struggle to find the truth about his family and the truth behind Caligula’s rise to power.  It is also a tale of loyalties, mostly misspent loyalties, to the greater good of Rome.  I found it easy to like Carinna and likewise felt the pain and anguish he experiences throughout the book.  Indeed, that is one of the strengths of the story, that the characters, real and fictitious, are believable; no matter their station or role.  The plots and subplots keep the reader guessing as Carinna and Caligula head into a clash of wills; a clash that an emperor usually wins…but I will leave it at that.  3.8 stars