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Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome Paperback – April 10, 2018
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“Through the lens of a slave in ancient Rome, Crystal King illuminates a realm of seemingly impossible gluttony and excess, along with every other deadly sin. In the household of outrageous gourmand Apicius, he of extraordinarily decadent mores, one man, a slave, Thrasius, provides the sole ethical center. Feast of Sorrow is impossible to put down.”
-- Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author of Accidents of Marriage
"Crystal King’s debut novel, Feast of Sorrow, tells the story of Apicius, the notorious gourmand of ancient Rome, from the viewpoint of his slave and cook Thrasius. It’s a dark and engrossing read, and provides an evocative new perspective on the rule of Tiberius." -- Emily Hauser, author of For the Most Beautiful
"Crystal King has written a delicious feast of a book, one that allows us to not only see, but also taste ancient Rome in all its dark and varied appetites." -- Yael Goldstein Love, author of Overture
"The historical world of Feast of Sorrow lives and breathes, and it is a delight to follow its characters’ struggle for happiness and survival amidst the simmering peril of Rome’s great houses. Even if you’re not a foodie drawn to novels of ancient Rome, this immersive, sensorily rich page-turner will take you for a delicious and unforgettable ride." -- Tim Weed, author of Will Poole’s Island
‘An engaging foray into the treacherous world of Claudio-Julian Rome from a fresh perspective. Who knew that the gourmand Apicius was larger than life? King deftly serves up intrigue, scandal and heartbreak with lashings of exotic sauces, mouth-watering recipes and the occasional drop of poison. Highly recommended.” -- Elisabeth Storrs, author of the series Tales of Ancient Rome
"The ancient Rome of Crystal King’s Feast of Sorrow is filled with delectable dishes and astonishing injustice, deep loyalties and stunning loss. By the time you’re done, you’ll want a sip of honeyed water alongside some fried hyacinth bulbs. An engrossing read." -- Marjan Kamali, author of Together Tea
“Ancient Rome comes alive with a remarkable degree of immediacy and authenticity. I savored every page of this compulsively readable novel.” -- Lisa Borders, author of The Fifty First State
"King’s descriptions of the food and entertainment are exquisite, her characters are beautifully drawn, and events and people of the times are deftly woven throughout . . . A delight to the senses, King’s debut novel is to be savored and devoured." ― Library Journal, starred review
"Finely paced. . . . the novel combines exotic menus with the melodrama of a Greek tragedy. King’s debut is a compelling historical drama with an appetizing center."
About the Author
- Publisher : Atria Books; Reprint edition (April 10, 2018)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1501145142
- ISBN-13 : 978-1501145148
- Item Weight : 12 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.25 x 1.2 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #982,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Apicius was a famous gourmand of first century A.D. Rome, the beginning of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. He wrote and published a number of cook books and was renowned for his cenas-the many course feasts that Romans ate while lounging on their triclinia.
The story is told from the point of view of Thrasius, a freed slave who is the true genius behind Apicius’ culinary success. He begins from the time Apicius buys him in the year 1 BC.
Apicius is extremely rich, having inherited 100 million denarii, and he is monumentally profligate, something that makes Thrasius uncomfortable. He has a villa in Baiae, a popular resort town and Apicius installs Thrasius there as his cook. His feasts are the talk of the town, with everyone vying for invitations.
Apicius is married to Aelia, and they have a little daughter named Apicata. Thrasius soon becomes a favorite of the family, and falls in love with Apicata’s nursemaid, Passia. Baiae is idyllic, and Thrasius leads a privileged existence for a slave. Apicius, however, is not content. He wants to be famous. He wants to be he gastronomic advisor to Caesar. In pursuit of this ambition he brings his household to Rome and builds a cooking school, installing Thrasius as the instructor. As Thrasius’ fame spreads, Apicius’ rival, Publius Octavius seeks to buy him from Apicius but Apicius won’t sell him. Octavius is the gastronomic advisor to Augustus Caesar, and Apicius’ refusal angers Caesar’s wife, Livia, not a person whose enmity you would want to court. (The author appears to be of the “Livia was a monster” school. This makes for dramatic historical fiction but was probably contrary to fact. If anything, Livia may have actually been a moderating influence on both Augustus and Tiberius. Tiberius certainly became far more vicious after she died.)
The infant, Apicata grows into a beautiful teenager, and, unfortunately she draws the attention of the ambitious Sajanus, a cousin of Aelia and a close friend of Augustus Caesar’s step-son and heir, Tiberius. Sejanus has damaging information on Apicius and he uses it to force him to give Apicata to him in marriage. I had read enough of Tacitus and Suetonius to realize that this story would not end well for Apicius and his family.
Feast of Sorrow is a fascinating story and well told.
An article I read some time ago said that historical novels can be divided up into four groups: good history/ bad story; bad history/ bad story; bad history/ good story; and good history/ good story. This is definitely both good history and good story!
The protagonist of 'Feast of Sorrow' is a young Roman slave, Thrasius, who, as a cooking prodigy, is purchased by a very wealthy and extremely ambitious Roman patrician, Marcus Gavius Apicius, a gourmet and nightly host. The plot is the sweeping story of Apicius and his household -- his slaves, his family members, his guests, his friends, his socio-political machinations, his travels, his ups and downs, his successes and failures. It's all fascinating, and all incredibly well researched.
The timeframe of the book is roughly from 1 - 35 AD, during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius. The book quickly becomes quite a page-turner and you may very well end up, like me, staying up through the wee hours to find out what happens next. It's all the more delicious when you realize how many of its characters and events were real and are based on facts. Enjoy!
Top reviews from other countries
The atmosphere of extravagance and danger, of dark premonition and blinding glamour was superbly executed. The research was meticulous, and it showed. I could appreciate it all the more, because the author decided to show these momentous events through the eyes of a decidedly “downstairs” character – a highly skilled slave, but a slave nonetheless.
As we all know, history doesn’t tend to leave us many details about the daily life of people like Thrasius; those few bits of information that exist are hard to fish out – the further we go back in history, the harder it becomes. So, I really applaud Crystal King for this effort.
Among other things, she managed to capture perfectly this feeling of an ordinary person caught up in the struggles of the powerful; the human emotions and small, personal ambitions history so often forgets, the mix of helplessness and hope.
Very obviously written by a modern woman not a male Greek slave in Ancient Rome.
A shame, the subject matter is so promising.