Thumbs up for The Legate’s Daughter by Wallace Breem. Historical fiction.
One thing to note is that this book is not at all about the legate’s daughter, so don’t be mislead by that. I waffled a lot over rating this a 3 or a 4 on Goodreads. Finally I settled on 3 stars, because I reserve 4 for books I can enthusiastically recommend (even if I don’t think they are Great Literature).… >> Read more
Two thumbs up for Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China that Never Was by Barry Hughart. Fantasy.
I was (am) reading a beautiful but very sad book, so I picked up Bridge of Birds, long lingering on my TBR list. Good heavens, why did I wait? Bridge of Birds is a picaresque fantasy of chaotic event, genuine heart, satisfying plot development, and many laugh-out-loud moments.… >> Read more
Two thumbs up for Master and God by Lindsey Davis. Historical fiction.
The Emperor Domitian comes to power; then slowly falls into paranoia. Watching his rise and fall (and each other) are Imperial hairdresser, the freedwoman Flavia Lucilla, and soldier Gaius Vinius Clodianus. Davis’s other historical novel, The Course of Honour, is one of my favorite books, so I figured I would, by comparison, be disappointed by this one.… >> Read more
Two very big thumbs up for Sword Dance, Saffron Alley, and Strong Wine by A. J. Demas. Fantasy romance.
A disabled soldier and an (apparently-)enslaved genderfluid eunuch meet at a house party in a beautifully-drawn fake ancient Mediterranean. (The hostess is an ex-pseudo-Vestal-Virgin who now owns a fish sauce factory; where has this author been all my life?) There’s trouble afoot, which may have to do with their fellow guests: a cadre of absolutely hateful but extremely funny philosophers.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. History.
No, I am not one of those people who reads histories of Rome so I can point at current political events and say “See, this is just like that!” Comparing, say, ~240 years of American power to ~2,000 years of Roman power shows a problematic understanding of scale.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis. Historical mystery.
It can safely be said that I am not really a murder mystery reader; they have to have something else going on. In this case what’s going on is the Roman Empire, a political plot, a love story with a prickly patrician girl, and a whole lot of funny. Marcus Didius Falco, the eternally unlucky private eye, is good company, the historical details are lush without bogging down the story, and the wonderful quirky style that I loved so much from The Course of Honor is in full play here.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for A Circlet of Oak Leaves by Rosemary Sutcliff. Children’s historical fiction.
A little novella taking place in Roman Britain. A slight book, but beautifully written as I would expect from Sutcliff.
So he took them on, through a vicious squall of slingstones. Where the ground grew too steep to ride they dropped from the horses and ran on, crouching with heads down behind their light bronze-rimmed bucklers.
… >> Read more
Two thumbs way up for The Course of Honor by Lindsey Davis. Historical fiction.
A fictionalized version of the love between the Emperor Vespasian and his mistress, the freedwoman Caenis. When I first started reading The Course of Honor, my reaction was a bit WTF? And I won’t lie, the writing style is unique to the point of peculiarity. At a certain point, however, I fell in love, peculiarities and all.… >> Read more