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
To quote the band Queen, “Another one bites the dust.” Rome is going through emperors faster than Lincoln went through generals in the American Civil War. In fact, it is going through them so fast that Vitellius thinks he’s supplanting Galba who’s already been supplanted by Otho. A troubling time for the men and women who made up the bureaucracy that ran the Empire. Those are the main characters in this, the third volume of this marvelous series. The author once again conjures up a thrilling account of one of Rome’s more raucous and unstable times. She continues her fine descriptive powers and her frequent humorous touch right from page 1, “Beside them sat the boiled quail’s eggs, the roasted dormice, the crispy lampreys, and the steamed turbot that constituted Vitellius’ breakfast. This was the first course. There were another eight to come.” As this period in Roman history rolls on we get to meet some new characters as well as the old standbys like Mina, Sporus, Epaphroditus and Philo, who all shine by the way. We now get to meet the famous consort of Vespasian, Antonia Caenis; a formidable woman and Domitian, his younger son. The story is a rousing rendition of Otho’s attempt to ward off a coup and is done so in a fashion that had me alternately snickering at the antics of the characters but also in very poignant way that showed the anguish, uncertainty and sorrows of the campaign. A page turning delight with surprises galore as the story gathers momentum for the exciting finish. I look forward to the next edition. 4.7 stars
A witty, jocose romp through the imperial reign of Galba, the second of the four emperors in a year. Wonderful characters throughout, the story is told from the viewpoint of the slaves and freedmen who staff the Imperial Palace and who run the bureaucracy that runs the Empire. While I thoroughly enjoyed the humor that permeates the pages of this book, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the well written intrigues and political machinations that bring home the stark reality of this unsettled period in Rome’s history. It is the kind of tale that is; well let me put it this way : I usually read three books at the same time and I divide my reading time between them pretty evenly….in this case, and in spite of the fact that the other books currently being read are really good, I broke protocol and couldn’t put this one down. My only disappointment is that book three is not out yet. 4.7 stars and the coveted Hoover Book Reviews ‘You Gotta Read This One’ official seal of approval. 🙂
Depraved, deluded and plainly not playing with a full deck, Nero ruled the world mostly through his imperial staff. It is the staff that the author focuses on in this, the first part of the Year of Four Emperors. Her characters include Nero’s personal secretary, the two Praetorian Prefects, the lowly messengers, the slaves and freedmen who made life possible in the palace complex. It is through their eyes and actions that we witness the downfall and overthrow of Nero. The author has given us an entertaining read full of drama and emotion and characters that are well written and who run the gamut from the lovable(Artemina) to the despicable(Sabinus); from the ostentatious, larger than life(Nero, Sporos) to the lowly slaves dwelling in the clutches of overseers and power hungry freedmen. The dialogue is crisp and quite witty, if just a tad modern at times and yet that did not dampen my enjoyment. Indeed I am looking forward to reading more of this series. 4 stars.
About the author:
After gaining a BA Hons in Ancient History LJ Trafford toured the amphitheaters of western europe before a collision with a moped in Rome left her unable to cross the road.
Which was a shame because there was some really cool stuff on the other side.
Returning to the UK somewhat battered and certainly very bruised she spent several years working as a tour guide. A perfect introduction to writing, involving as it did, the need for entertainment and a hefty amount of invention (it’s how she got tips).
She now works in London doing something whizzy with computers.
Palatine is the first in the Four Emperors series. Book Two is Galba’s Men, to be followed by Otho’s Regret and Vitellius’ Feast.
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