- Series: SPQR (Book 9)
- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (June 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 031233723X
- ISBN-13: 978-0312337230
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 28 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,536,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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SPQR IX: The Princess and the Pirates Hardcover – May 12, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
In Roberts's gripping ninth Roman historical (after 2004's The River God's Vengeance), former aedile Decius Caecilius Metellus is dispatched from Rome by his patrician family to deal with a resurgence in piracy to Cyprus, where he encounters the young Cleopatra, whose true allegiances remain obscure. With scant resources, Metellus seeks recruits from the dregs of Cyprian society and attempts to whip his forces into a squad capable of ending the violent pillaging. His focus shifts when Silvanus, the island's Roman governor, is found dead, asphyxiated by a mouthful of frankincense. The economics of the international trade in that aromatic spice prove relevant as Metellus suspects a connection between the assassination and his primary mission. The occasional colloquial phrase jars ("Rosy-fingered Dawn was performing her daily act as we pulled up by the naval wharf"), and Roberts has the misfortune of suffering by comparison with Steven Saylor, whose latest Roman mystery, The Judgment of Caesar, used the historical Cleopatra to much better effect. Still, longtime fans and those interested in the Roman Republic will enjoy this crafty puzzle.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"Gripping ...longtime fans and those interested in the Roman Republic will enjoy this crafty puzzle."--Publishers Weekly
"Colorful characters led by Cleopatra and historical tidbits add entertainment."--Kirkus Reviews
Top customer reviews
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Most of the details of the ships and Mediterranean seem perfectly true in what I suppose is an adventure but Roberts is no Patrick O'Brien and Decius Metellus is definitely no Jack Aubrey. There also seems to be a distinct falling off of the wit or humor that characterized many of the earlier works. All in all, I would say Metellus didn't enjoy this adventure very much more than I did. He got through it; so did I. Looking forward to a return to firmer, more familiar ground.
This mission is a challenge for Decius. First, other than his faithful slave Hermes, he is alone, without anyone to trust. Cyprus is a new territory for Rome, but the Romans living there are not friends or acquaintances of Decius or his family. There were naval assets on the island, but they were seized by Crassus and General Gabinius for previous military campaigns. Decius is left with three small ships and a few weapons.
Decius is more of a detective than a soldier or sailor. Early in his campaign, Cleopatra, a 16 year old Princess of Egypt, volunteers to join his force with her ship and warriors. Can he trust Cleopatra? Who can he trust? What can he do to find and confront the pirates? If he does find them, how can he defeat them without a significant force of trained and tough men? This novel presents new challenges to Decius, and his efforts make an entertaining story. The outcome of his battles and the final solution to the mystery of the pirates is realistic.
"The Princess and the Pirates" provides the reader with historical information on ancient Roman culture. First is the reality that Rome did not have a noble beginning, instead it was founded by outcasts and bandits that retreated to the site from various tribes in the area. This fact may explain some more "uncivilized" habits popular among the Roman "nobility."
Second, at the time, people believed in three "gods" called fates: Clotho, who is said to spin the "tread" of each person's life on her spinning wheel; Lachesis, who measures our thread of life; and Atropos, who cuts our thread solely on her whim. So, to people who believe, despite hard work, their life is out of their control.
Third, we learn much about languages of the time: Aramaic, the tongue spoken in Judea, Syria, and the surrounding land, was a simplification of several languages spoken in that part of the world; Latin was a merger of Faliscian, Sabine, Marsian, and Bruttian which had been spoken by some of the original settlers of Rome.
"The Princess and the Pirates" is a fun book. I highly recommend this novel for those who like historical fiction.
Detailed: The title is a bit misleading which actually helps sets up the rest of the story. The pirate part of the book is more part of the historical back drop for the murder than a key plot element. As per the other SPQR books, this is a murder mystery using famous historic personages and repeeating characters from the other books.
The main character development is of Cleopatra instead of the major characters. There is clear foreshadowed of Cleopatra's role in upcoming books / future events which is done very well. Hermes is freed in act of kindness caused by the realization of how short life is by Decius. It is nicely done.
The religous elements of the story are interesting especially regarding the cult of Aphrodite. There is a clear implication that Decius and Julia will be parents in the next novel. It should be a very interesting twist to see Decius as a father.
Plot: 4 of 5 stars
Characters: 3 of 5 stars
Action: 3 of 5 stars
This novel combines an solid mystery against a fabulous historical backdrop. Cleopatra is here, and while Decius is fighting pirates, Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great are maneuvering for their final showdown, which is still in the future, but easily foreseen. The atmospherics in this novel, in common with all of the SPQR series, are excellent, and the reader truly feels transported back into Roman times.
This is one of the best novels in the SPQR series and is excellent historical fiction. Highly recommended.