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A Mist of Prophecies: A Novel of Ancient Rome Hardcover – May 27, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (May 27, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312271212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312271213
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,293,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Saylor's ninth outstanding Roman historical (after 2000's Last Seen in Massilia), it's 48 B.C. and the Empire is wracked by civil war and civic unrest. In Rome, the beautiful and enigmatic seeress, Cassandra, has everyone from Forum "chin-waggers" to high-society matrons entranced by her convulsionlike attacks of prophecy. Gordianus the Finder, more captivated than most, finds himself involved professionally and romantically with the seeming madwoman. Officially he's retired from his finding duties, but he resumes the hunt after Cassandra, just before dying in his arms in the market, whispers, "She's poisoned me!" Seven of Rome's most influential women including Caesar's wife, Calpurnia attend the seeress's humble funeral. All have something to do with Cassandra's fate, just as she, in secret ways, has something to do with the fate of Rome itself. The action picks up as Gordianus interviews these women and tries to sort out their connections to Cassandra. Conversations among Gordianus's chin-waggers also serve to clarify the situation. As usual, Saylor's research is impeccable, but the history never distracts from the very human drama. Especially touching is Gordianus's wife, Bethesda, whose "malady" is a source of concern and mystery to her errant husband. With this intelligent and compelling story, Saylor shows once again why fans of ancient historicals regard him as the leader of the field.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In the ninth book in Saylor's "Roma Sub Rosa" series of mysteries set in ancient Rome, Gordianus the Finder has now retired from his life as an investigator of crime and political intrigue and has settled into peaceful domesticity with his family. But his newfound tranquility is soon shattered by a series of events brought on by the continuing struggle between Julius Caesar and Pompey for supremacy over Rome. Gordianus's wife falls ill, the city is in upheaval owing to food shortages and rising prices, and factions within the city begin to vie for power in Caesar's absence. When Cassandra, a beautiful seeress who is subject to epileptic seizures and prophetic outbursts, is poisoned and dies in his arms, Gordianus is drawn out of retirement and into an increasingly dangerous investigation of the murder. Intriguing both as a mystery and as a historical novel, this should find a wide audience. Readers will enjoy the plot twists, the deft portrayal of characters, and the attention to historical detail. Saylor is particularly fine in his presenting of the common people of Rome. Recommended for larger public libraries. Jane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Steven Saylor is also the author of the ROMA SUB ROSA series of historical mysteries featuring Gordianus the Finder, set in the ancient Rome of Cicero, Caesar, and Cleopatra. The latest books in the series are two prequels--THE SEVEN WONDERS, which follows the 18-year-old Gordianus on his journey to the Seven Wonders of the World, and RAIDERS OF THE NILE, in which young Gordianus, living in Egypt, finds himself drawn into a plot to steal the golden sarcophagus of Alexander the Great.

To read the previous books of the ROMA SUB ROSA series in chronological order, begin with ROMAN BLOOD, then THE HOUSE OF THE VESTALS (short stories), A GLADIATOR DIES ONLY ONCE (short stories), ARMS OF NEMESIS , CATILINA'S RIDDLE, THE VENUS THROW, A MURDER ON THE APPIAN WAY, RUBICON, LAST SEEN IN MASSILIA, A MIST OF PROPHECIES, THE JUDGMENT OF CAESAR, and THE TRIUMPH OF CAESAR.

Steven is also the author of the international bestseller ROMA: THE NOVEL OF ANCIENT ROME and its follow-up, EMPIRE: THE NOVEL OF IMPERIAL ROME. These two epic novels comprise a multi-generational saga that spans the first 1200 years of the city, from Iron Age trading post to the height of the empire under Hadrian.

Outside the Roman books are two novels set in Steven's native Texas. A TWIST AT THE END is based on America's first recorded serial murders, which terrorized Austin, Texas in 1885. The chief protagonist is young Will Porter, who later became famous as O. Henry. HAVE YOU SEEN DAWN? is a contemporary thriller set in a small Texas town not unlike the one where Steven grew up.

Steven's books have been published in 22 languages, and book tours have taken him across the United States, England, and Europe. He has appeared as an expert on Roman life on The History Channel, and has spoken at numerous college campuses, The Getty Villa, and the International Conference on the Ancient Novel.

Steven was born in Texas in 1956 and graduated with high honors from the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied history and Classics. He divides his time between homes in Berkeley, California, and Austin, Texas. When not using his brain, he likes to keep in shape running, swimming, and lifting weights.

Customer Reviews

Saylor's Roma sub-Rosa series is excellent, and this book does not disappoint.
S. Schwartz
Gordianus is a great character as are most of the characters Saylor has built into his family.
Timothy Haugh
His historical detail is full and accurate and his accounts of historical events correct.
Fred Mench

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on May 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Steven Saylor's "Roma Sub Rosa" stories, the adventures of Gordianus the Finder, continues to be one of the very best historical mystery series ever written. Not only is the history accurate (the First Century BCE as the Roman Republic shatters), the characters are three-dimensional and convincing, and the reader cares what happens to them. Often a mystery series will grow tired after several books, the plots becoming predictable and the relationships among the characters increasingly trivial. Not so with the "Roma Sub Rosa" tales. We continue to care about Gordianus the Finder and his family, even as new tensions tear them apart.
"A Mist of Prophecies" takes place against a backdrop of the war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great. Although these two rivals are off stage in this novel, their agents are active in Rome, creating a dangerous urban jungle. And perhaps even more perilous for Gordianus the Finder, the chaos unleashed by the war has prompted others to also grab for power, whatever Caesar and Pompey might do. Into this turmoil steps the beautiful, mad seer Cassandra who proves irresistable to Gordianus, beset by financial ruin, family discord, and the mysterious illness of his wife.
As much as I like this novel, I must discourage readers unfamiliar with Saylor's books from beginning with "A Mist of Prophecies." This is a series where the characters grow and their relationships evolve. So, start with "Roman Blood" and go through the rest in chronological order. And when you finish "A Mist of Prophecies," then you can wait with me for the next!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By ilmk on May 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Saylor's latest offering is remarkably different to the rest of the Sub Rosa series. The format, the prose-style, the characterisation and the historical basis move well away from the preceding set.
Indeed this is the first of the novels that doesn't directly use a 'mystery' set in actual fact. At the time of the novel Caesar was about to meet Pompey at Pharsalus in 48 and Saylor only uses the references to the relatively unstable calm to place a date for this mystery. There is some dragging of historical 'fact' of the praetor Caelius in this year before Caesar's dictatorship and in some respects the tired old man ambience that permeates the entire book could be seen as echoing the sudden death of the Republic.
The book takes the form of alternating chapters set in the present, as Gordianus investigates the poisoning of the ex-troupe artist/seer 'Cassandra' and the past with a series of snapshots of Gordianus' interactions with her. The denouement is reversed, actually taking place at the beginning of the novel with the mundus (Saylor actually gives some subtle direction as to where the guilty party lies) and then moves on to explain what happened.
As in most of Saylor's novels it is the motive that is of utmost importance, that and Gordianus' relationship to both deceased and affiliators. We see a man struggling to accept his age and he changing times he lives in. His relationships and his reality are laid open bare to see.
I suspect that Meto will make a 'return' to good graces in the future, Davus is broadly hinted at as possessing acute mental faculties and the continuance of Hieronymous is excellent. Bethseda's illness neatly places a sense of pathos into the proceedings.
So, the novel: very different, as excellent as ever. However, you can't help wondering what is going to happen to the Sub Rosa series as time continues to pass for Gordianus.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Edward Alexander Gerster VINE VOICE on June 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In the hotbed of intrigue that is Rome in 48 BC, Caesar is away chasing Pompey in their struggle for Empire, the populous is divided in their allegiances and life goes on. The wives, daughters, lovers and family members of the power brokers of Rome are all caught up in this most recent tale of Gordianus the Finder. It is a departure from the last two books in the Roma Sub Rosa series that concentrated on political maneuverings and military operations, now returning to a more "human" centered tale involving the women of Rome; giving a face to historical figures that went without more than casual mention in the histories written by men, for men, about men.

This is probably Steven Saylor's most non-linear novel to date. It weaves back and forth through the events surrounding the murder of his latest case, who also happens to be his mistress. The story telling has been taken to a new level in this novel, and Steven Saylor deserves the highest accolades for his work here. Am I being too enthusiastic? I think not. A truly wonderful tale that is highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Cross on May 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those long-time fans of Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa mysteries, "A Mist of Prophecies" is a deeply satisfying return after several years' gap between it and Saylor's "Last Seen in Massilia."
The shocking conclusion of Massilia is referenced, but Gordianus' problems with his own family take backstage to the chaos of Rome during Civil War. Both Pompey and Caesar have moved east to the ultimate battle between them for control of the Roman world. Left behind, the capitol seethes in financial collapse, rumor, and fear. Into this, a beautiful, half-mad seeress, Cassandra, explodes into Gordianus' life. Dying in his arms in the Forum, we then backtrack through Gordianus' meetings with her and her involvement in the intrigues taking place in the paranoid world in which Caesar and Pompey, far away, are determining Rome's future. In discovering why she died, we meet some of Rome's most famous women, each of whom may be a suspect and each of whom is deeply involved with the desperate civil struggle playing out all around them.
The women are sketched with particular vividness. We have met Fulvia and Clodia before in earlier novels. I particularly enjoyed Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, whose small but highly memorable part in the mystery makes her far more interesting than the little that is known from history. Old friends Milo and Caelius also help turn the plot.
Saylor easily balances the personal woes of Gordianus with the the larger canvas of war and intrigue. I found it consistently satisfying and, in its surprise ending, I suspect we may look forward to the next in the series as a completely different change of pace.
Although I missed actually seeing Caesar and Cicero in the novel (both are in the East), this is a fun, refreshing, and energetic read and - as always with Saylor - you will learn something about Rome. Enjoy it!
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