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The Gates of Rome (Emperor, Book 1) Hardcover – January 1, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
If the Roman Empire had taken as long to rise and fall as this novel takes to discover a main character and a plot, most of the world would still be wearing togas today. The story, such as it is, revolves around two boys: Gaius, the broody son of a wealthy senator, and Marcus, a prostitute's mischievous child who is reared as Gaius's brother and trained with him in the arts of war. Before the two boys reach majority, they are thrust into adulthood by the untimely death of Gaius's father and take up residence in Rome with Gaius's uncle Marius, a powerful consul who is vying with Sulla for control of the Republic. When Marcus is 14, he joins the Fourth Macedonian Legion to earn his fortune; Gaius remains by his uncle's side. Iggulden lingers long over boyhood pranks, trying the reader's patience; the pace picks up only halfway through the novel. Frequent fight scenes, ranging from individual combat to full scale battles, liven the mix somewhat, but the cartoon-like ability of the characters to bounce back after a few stitches weakens the effect. Though Iggulden has a solid grounding in Roman military history, anachronisms in speech and attitude ("Cabera took him outside and gave him a hiding") roll underfoot and trip up authenticity. A major twist toward the end reveals the protagonists to be two of Roman history's best-known figures, but readers with some knowledge of the period will have guessed their identities already. This is ultimately little more than a protracted introduction to a bigger story, which Iggulden will surely go on to tell.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
English writer Iggulden's first novel is the story of two young boys-Gaius and Marcus, raised as brothers though one is illegitimate-as they grow to adulthood in Rome two millennia ago. At that time, the republic was beginning to fall apart, a collapse that would result in the civil wars that brought the emperors to power. It was a time of turmoil, chaos, revolutions, casual violence, and savage brutality, and Iggulden's descriptions of the culture and environment are vivid. Although covering a period unknown to most lay readers, Emperor is a surprisingly fast and often exciting read. Iggulden admits to taking some liberties with history, and his masking the identities of Gaius and Marcus is unnecessary and distracting. While the real identity of Marcus (Et tu, Brute?) may be a puzzle, readers with a fair knowledge of Roman history will quickly identify Gaius (think of the Ides of March). Also, the roles of historical warlords Marius and Sulla are not well clarified. Still, this entertaining historical novel will appeal to fans of Steven Pressfield and Michael Curtis Ford. For larger collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/02; also, look for Colleen McCullough's The October Horse: A Novel About Caesar and Cleopatra, which will be released by S. & S. in November.-Ed.]-Robert Conroy, Warren, M.
--Robert Conroy, Warren, MI
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
So...what did I think?
I enjoyed the writing style and the story line a lot but really struggle with how badly mis-characterized some of the major historical figures are. Octavian is one of my favorite people in history and this books absolutely misses the boat on him and that flaw alone drives me batty to the point of distraction. With each historical character, it feels as if Igguiden didn't even attempt to tap into their writings or exploits in order to connect his story and the characters with reality.
It's hard to rate, in that I've read and enjoyed these books, but in order to do so, I had to divorce myself from any knowledge or sense of who these men and women were in real life, or, more appropriately, how I envisioned them to be.
In summary, my neurosis and love of this period in Roman History keeps bumping into my overt affection for it. I will read anything about this time period because I love it, but that very reading and studying caused me to hate how he drew the characters up.
In the end, the rating is "like it" and I did, but, if this were presented as a fiction about characters the author created, then it would be five stars.
I can see taking liberties with Caesar's childhood since so little is known about it, but colossal distortions of major historical events is unforgivable. The author obviously did a lot of research and then just tossed it aside.