Posts Tagged With: ancient Rome

Caligula by Douglas Jackson (Transworld Book Group)

Title: Caligula (Roman Trilogy 1)
Douglas Jackson
First Published:
Feb 2009
No. of pages:496

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (back cover):
Rufus, a young slave, grows up far from the corruption of the imperial court. He is a trainer of animals for the gladiatorial arena. But when Caligula wants a keeper for the emperor’s elephant, Rufus is bought from his owner and taken to the palace.

Life at court is dictated by Caligula’s ever shifting moods. He is as generous as he is cruel – a megalomaniac who declares himself a living god and simultaneously lives in constant fear of plots against his life. His paranoia is not misplaced however; intrigue permeates his court, and Rufus will find himself unwittingly at the centre of a conspiracy to assassinate the emperor.

Fans of intrigue, action and historical drama will all be thrilled by the first novel in the Romans trilogy by Douglas Jackson. From the first sentence, the reader is totally immersed in the unfolding drama – once can almost taste the paranoia dripping from each page as it is turned.

Caligula’s sadistic tendencies, even as a child, are quickly revealed, but so is the constant fear with which he lives and I, very surprisingly, found that on occasion, I actually felt some sympathy for him – I wasn’t prepared for that and it was a refreshing change. Rufus, and his friendship with Cupido, were written with such devotion that one could almost believe the author was writing about close friends of his own, such was the realism of both their characters and their relationship. As for Bersheba, the emperor’s elephant, she has such character that it’s no stretch of the imagination to feel her presence and hear her huffing breath as one reads – she’s right there beside you.

There’s excitement by the barrel load and the roar of the crowds in the arena is almost palpable, along with the stench of the animals and the stink of sweat and blood. It’s a vividly recreated world that one feels could almost be touched. It’s not just a story, it’s an experience.

I highly recommend this novel and am champing at the bit to read the rest of the trilogy.

Review by Kell Smurthwaite

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Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran

Cleo's Daughter

Title: Cleopatra’s Daughter
Michelle Moran

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Following Cleopatra and Marc Antony’s deaths, their three children – twins named Alexander and Selene plus a younger son named Ptolemy – are exiled from Egypt and sent to Rome in chains to be raised in one of the most fascinating (and dangerous) courts of all time. Cleopatra’s Daughter is the remarkable true story of what happens to these three surviving children as seen through the eyes of Selene. Their adaptation to Roman culture, their treatment as both a curiosity and a threat, and Selene’s perilous journey to adulthood, are all chronicled in the elegant detail and gripping pace for which Michelle Moran is celebrated.

I’ve always been a fan of historical novels set in ancient Rome, but seldom have I enjoyed one as much as this. From start to finish, this meticulously researched novel is filled to the brim with characters and settings so richly depicted that one could almost believe one was right there experiencing the action with the narrator, Kleopatra Selene (known as Selene), daughter of possibly the most famous female ruler in history.

There is a real sense of danger and intrigue throughout the plot that kept me on the edge of the seat and made it very difficult for me to put down the book in between reading sessions – I always found myself, while doing other things, wondering about the characters and what could possibly happen next. And I was kept guessing – the mystery of The Red Eagle; the romantic feelings of Selene and also of her brother, Alexander Helios; there was always something happening that had me gagging to find out more!

The sights, smells, tastes, fashions, architecture and social strata of ancient Rome are laid out like a feast for the senses and I truly felt I was devouring this novel which, when finished, felt incredibly satisfying and complete, yet had me hankering after further research into the characters and their circumstances on my own part. After doing so, and discovering just how much of the story is based on historical fact, I am even more impressed.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, this is a must-have addition to your personal library – get it, read it, love it, then go out and get hold of anything else you can find by the author!

Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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