17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Gladiators and Emperors,
This review is from: Caligula (Paperback)
Douglas Jackson's debut novel Caligula arrives strong to the historical fiction genre where the competition among peer authors Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden, John Stack, Steven Pressfield, and Valerio Manfredi is getting very strong. There are many new talented authors writing ancient Rome and Greece novels and Jackson certainly proves he can keep up with the best.
Set in Ancient Rome this is a gritty novel about two slaves under the tyranny of one of Rome's most evil Emperors, Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, otherwise known to us all as Caligula. Born bad, with a blackened heart and soul, Caligula from little boy to man is as mad as a hatter, sadistic, greedy, and cold blooded.
Rufus is a young boy with a love of animals that shows talent as he is bought as a slave and apprentice to an animal trader who travels far and wide to bring the most exotic and wildest of beasts to the arena games of the Circus Maximus. Rufus' way with animals and his ability to tame and earn their trust proves beneficial to his master, allowing the duo to exhibit and delight the blood thirsty fans of Rome, with new and entertaining animal spectacles the crowds have never seen before. Working within the gladiatorial arena, watching and learning with the best fighters, Rufus befriends a young gladiator named Cupido, whose strength and courage catches Caligula's eye and is soon transferred out of the arena to be one of the Emperor's private Praetorian Guards.
Delighting the Emperor with his natural charm with animals, Rufus is also torn from his master as Caligula purchases him to care for his most prized possession, an African elephant named Bersheba. Boy and man, both still slaves yet under the protection of Rome's elite, find a better home to earn their keep in, but equally find themselves embroiled in the many palace intrigues and plots that will threaten their lives as they overhear court secrets, fear for their lives as plots are hatched, and try to stay alive when a great conspiracy to murder Caligula becomes a cat and mouse game they never imagined possible.
Lot's of action, romance, and espionage dance across this fictional sport arena with lots of blood and guts, love and friendship, passionate dramas, and intricately woven plots to bring the reader a top notch action adventure thriller. Jackson's talent to evoke the atmosphere of ancient Rome had me feeling I was living the story and was in the picture he was creating rather than viewing it from the amphitheatre benches. While in the arena I heard the lion's roar, the fans cheering, I heard the clanging of swords, and while walking down the stone alleyways of Rome, I felt the chill run up my spine as I smelled the metallic tang of murderous blood as it dripped from daggers plunged into the hearts of those that didn't play the game. A boy and his elephant, a man and his sword, a ruler hell-bent on lust and greed, three men of Rome entangled. Book two entitled Claudius is high on my to-be-read-next list!!