Smoothly written, can't blame the translator for this. It is a YA book, that whitewashes and romanticizes Alexander.
No conflict with Philip - exceptSmoothly written, can't blame the translator for this. It is a YA book, that whitewashes and romanticizes Alexander.
No conflict with Philip - except one scene for which Philip eventually apologizes No conflict with Olympias No conflict between Olympias and Philip No 'relationship' with Hephastion, other than special friend No son from Philip's second marriage Philip's murder was due to 'verbal insult' to Pausanias No Roxanne at all No relationship with Bogoas, he becomes a local somewhere who alerts Alexander to a plot No political killings No conflict with Aristotle over his adopting barbarian ways No destruction of Persepolis
Many times the characters talk about 'Greece' a political/national concept that was unlikely to exist at that time.
They also often talk about 'God' or 'God of Greece' when they were polytheists. Christianity sneaks in.
The barbarian ways that have softened the Persians, and that Alexander adopts are called 'Anatolian' ie: Turkish. Modern bias seeps in, with the Greeks blaming the Turks for bad things, when neither entities even exist yet.
Alka the daughter of the admiral and 'friend' of Stephan, behaves and is treated like a modern girl/woman.
This is the first book in the Marcus Corvinus mystery series set in ancient Rome. Tiberius is the Emperor and Marcus is a 21 year old, patrician who iThis is the first book in the Marcus Corvinus mystery series set in ancient Rome. Tiberius is the Emperor and Marcus is a 21 year old, patrician who is at odds with his politically wired father, and is rich, lazy and devoted to drinking. He is also a wise-ass.
The story revolves around the family of the poet Ovid, trying to get imperial permission to return Ovid's ashes to Rome for burial. Ovid was exiled to a hamlet on the Black Sea by the former Emperor Augustus for unspecified crimes. The family of Ovid are clients of Marcus' family, and he is therefore required to present their request to the bureaucracy.
Eventually Marcus is also investigating the banishment of the Julian line of Augustus's family: Posthumous, and the two Julias, as well as the loss of 3 legions in the German forest by Varus.
Anyone who has read I,Claudius by Robert Graves, or seen the TV series will have an understanding of what ground Wishart is covering, albeit poorly.
The problem with the book is that Marcus talks like a tough from modern day NYC or London. He is constantly using modern words, slang and ideas.
The other issue is that there is a lot going on in terms of plot. It starts out trying to find out why Ovid is still hated, then he starts investigating the banishment of Posthumous and Julia and her daughter Julia. Then it wanders into Varus and the 3 lost legions. It is too convoluted, and not really connected well enough. There are a cast of thousands and its hard to keep track of who is who, even though I have read both Graves books, and seen the TV series.
The writing is good, the characters are OK, and the settings are done well. It just doesn't hold your interest all the way through, and Marcus is annoying and anachronistic. Not sure if I will continue reading this series.
Lindsey Davis, Steven Saylor, and John Maddox Roberts also write mysteries set in Ancient Rome. Davis is the best. Also Colleen McCullough's First Man in Rome series is excellent.
I also recommend both the Graves' books and the TV series. I can still here Augustus screaming: 'Varus, I want my Eagles'....more
I got this book through the Librarything Early Review program. I already had the first book Black Ships but have not read it yet. It is a choice forI got this book through the Librarything Early Review program. I already had the first book Black Ships but have not read it yet. It is a choice for a RL book group of mine for May.
Luckily the books stand alone in the sense that the stories are different. I think some of the previous characters come back via reincarnation, but as different people in this book. I was in no way lost in this book or the overall story arc by not reading book 1 (yet).
At the start I found the writing to be OK, but rather pedestrian. It wasn't choppy, but it didn't flow. It just seemed to lie there on the page. It was easy to put the book down. Reading the story in small chunks just didn't make it compelling or make the story come off the page and live.
I was also daunted by the size of the book. Its hard to enjoy a huge tome if you think it might not be worth your time. The print is rather large so it really isn't as much as it seems. Once I was able to invest some uninterrupted hours, it became very worthwhile.
The story is set in ancient Egypt. though it is Egypt in the age of Hellenism. The story starts during the end of the reign of Ptolemy Auletes the father of Cleopatra, who was the last Egyptian Pharaoh. The narrator is Charmian who is a slave/handmaiden of Cleopatra and also her half sister. She and another half sister, Iras, also a slave/handmaiden are with Cleo from the age of 6 until the end. The story covers Cleo's early years and her interaction with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony, and the end in Alexandria.
Of course we all know the story and how it ends. In fact at times I felt I was reading scenes from the movie Cleopatra. Perhaps the author could have been more inventive, but she chose to follow the traditional story line. She filled in the details of what happened off stage so that we got a glimpse of their lives outside the spotlight.
The details of the setting and life at the time in Alexandria are well done, as are the characters. The narrative and description felt relaxed, and didn't seem like it was trying too hard to be 'old' and it wasn't jarringly modern. There are small trips into the real land of Egypt, but mostly it focuses on Greek Alexandria. The pacing is a bit uneven. The time with Caesar is given more depth, while the time with Antony is mostly summarized.
There are wonderful characters: Charmian, Iras, Cleopatra, Dion, Emrys, and the children who pop in and out of the story. It took me a while to get into the story, (250+ pages), but when I did it was riveting. It may be that the long build up to engagement was laying the ground work so I ended up really caring about the characters. Or it might have been that the story blossomed when I was able to read in large chunks. I feared for them, and was crushed by their losses, and happy for their peace and joy. Tissues are needed once the book moves to the end.
There are a few sex scenes and Graham has a wonderful menage-a-trois, where 3 of the characters find happiness together. I really like it when ancient people are not portrayed as modern Americans who are really republican protestants under the skin (ala the horrible movie Troy - at least Alexander took risks and tried to be real).
There are small sections when the narrator, who is dead when the story starts, is telling her life to the gods Isis and Serapis/Osiris. She must have her heart judged against the feather of Maat to see if she belongs in the land of the dead, or if she will be judged evil and devoured and destroyed. The gods are real and there is a bit of magic in that Isis appears or guides Charmian in life. Charmian is also is a seer who has prophetic dreams. The fantasy bit was well done and worked into the story. It takes the beliefs of the time and makes them real, much as moderns believe in their own religion and do not consider it unreal.
I also thought it was interesting to work in the idea that the battle was between East: Alexandria and the heirs of Alexander, and West: self-made Romans. That the best of the East: spirituality, learning, tolerance, and personal freedom could have pointed the way for the development of the rest of the world. Instead it was the best of the West: organization, rules/laws, uniformity, restless aggression that won out. We live with the consequences to this day. Some are very good, but others are not, and the rest of the world shares them with the West.
I really came to enjoy this book and can't wait for the next one....more