Thumbs way up for The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough. Historical fiction.
It takes a hell of a great writer to keep me reading through 931 pages, and then right on through the 122-page glossary because the book’s still so good I don’t want to put it down. In brief, The First Man In Rome is about Gaius Marius and his brother-in-law Lucius Cornelius Sulla, as Marius rises to ascendancy in Late Republican Rome.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Pompeii by Robert Harris. Historical fiction.
Marcus Attilius Primus, aqueduct engineer from a long line of aqueduct engineers, tries to figure out why the water’s stopped running; and discovers more than he bargained for. (Hint: the title’s a spoiler.) Not Great with a capital G, but a good solid page-turner with a really impressive depth of historical research about the working of the Roman aqueducts.… >> Read more
Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Under the Eagle by Simon Scarrow. Historical fiction.
Straightforward Roman military adventure, with about as much depth as a made-for-TV-movie. Not very good, but not inept either – a first novel by an author whom I suspect has probably got better with time.
‘My cause? That humiliation you just witnessed wasn’t for me. I did it for the Emperor and Rome.
… >> Read more
Thumbs up for The Eagle of the Ninth (aka The Eagle) by Rosemary Sutcliff. Young adult historical fiction.
Ah. It’s hard to write reviews when you read a couple of amazing books in close proximity, because you want to convey how each one moved you without repeating yourself or resorting to meaningless hyperbole. (OMG JUST READ IT ALREADY. Etc.) Well, a few chapters into The Eagle of the Ninth I realized that it was going to be one of my favorite books of all time.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Breem. Historical fiction.
While I was reading this, by happenstance my uncle (a naval man) began a blog post with a quote: “Amateurs talk tactics; professionals talk logistics.” And that sums up the consummately professional Eagle in the Snow in a nutshell: it is a book about logistics. If you are looking for Hollywood-style speechifying, swordfights and fanfare, look elsewhere.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Historical fiction.
Weirdly, I’ve never actually read the Illiad (or not all of it, anyway) but since my interest in the Greeks was originally piqued by reading The Firebrand and the The Odyssey at an impressionable age, I am intimately familiar with the story. The Song of Achilles is not, however, just the story of the Trojan War retold; it is about the lifelong love of Achilles and Patroclus (which requires a couple of brave authorial decisions I think Miller pulled off beautifully, but I can’t comment without spoilers).… >> Read more