Recommended to me in Libya by Lois, in exchange for my Bernard Cornwell and Dorothy Dunnett tips, the first in the Emperor series introduces us to Gaius and Marcus, two boys growing up on an estate just outside Rome.
As Rome’s democracy descends into chaos, the boys turn into (teenage) men, defending their home with their trusted servants and slaves against the mob, and subsequently entering Roman high society through Gaius’ uncle, senator-general Marius. Cleverly, Conn Iggulden keeps secret the future identity of the two key characters until the book’s later chapters, and en route you learn about Roman society, customs and politics, the mechanics of the Army that maintained its Empire and wealth, and the upbringing, training and education of its ruling class.
However, as the blurb says, ‘If you liked GLADIATOR, you’ll love EMPEROR.’, and the converse applies – if you found Gladiator a bit light, I suspect you’ll feel the same about this novel. Not that that’s going to stop me reading its successors…..
Amazon.co.uk link: Emperor: The Gates of Rome – Conn Iggulden