I can't speak for how accurate its portrayals of historical events and people are, but I found The Royalist to be an interesting and refreshing read....moreI can't speak for how accurate its portrayals of historical events and people are, but I found The Royalist to be an interesting and refreshing read. The ending wasn't as strong as it perhaps could have been, but other than that it was a book I enjoyed reading.(less)
As far as debuts go, this is really good. In fact, as far as novels go, this is really good. The two main perspectives create two intertwining stories...moreAs far as debuts go, this is really good. In fact, as far as novels go, this is really good. The two main perspectives create two intertwining stories that gradually reveal details and you always want to see more and find out what happens. I found the earlier perspective to be perhaps more compelling and more interestingly written, but the later one was by no means poor. Some of the prose in this is absolutely divine to read, too - Harris has a really good way with words.
Flaws? Well, I think it suffers from a common fault to mystery stories where the author reveals a bit of information and it's meant to confirm something for the reader... except it confirms what was already obvious and you end up screaming (internally) at the later perspective for not working it out earlier. It seemed like an anti-climax in a way, because it was such a big clue that had essentially no relevance.
If there's one thing this book is, it's misleading. I got the impression that it would be full of trivia about the Romans, from significant events to...moreIf there's one thing this book is, it's misleading. I got the impression that it would be full of trivia about the Romans, from significant events to small details about their way of life. But... it's more of a brief history of the whole of the Roman Empire. Split into chapters covering specific periods in Roman history, it details the founding of Rome through to the end of the Empire, each section being an explanation and then a series of details which don't necessarily progress chronologically.
Whilst it can be a fascinating read, it left me a little sour. It didn't seem to actually detail the end of the Roman Empire, instead coming to an abrupt end not long after Christianity becomes the religion of the Empire. There's no epilogue, conclusion, summary. Nothing. You don't know you've finished until you turn the page and get hit with the bibliography. It also loves to mention gossip and rumour, yet during the parts about Caesar, it fails to mention that Caesarion's parentage is disputed (i.e. Caesar may not have been his father), nor that for all the women he slept with over his life, at no other point has he been known to have fathered a son. It's also worth noting that Jones criticises Cicero over his view on slaves whilst never mentioning Cicero's most notable slave Tiro, again, removing context or contradiction from that segment.
The tone of the book is also inconsistent. Whilst it can be funny, there are too many sly comments or digs at contemporary politics. They'll either not mean anything to the reader or date the book. I was also a little worried by how the author's views were portrayed - he defends homosexual behaviour in Roman society, makes no comment on reporting a woman having intercourse with a bull during a show put on by an emperor, and then later refers to Emperor Elagabalus as a "sexual deviant" (with no further details), further telling us that Elagabalus "made himself as female as possible, expressing the desire for a sex change". Whilst it is impossible to know the intimacies of Elagabalus' identity, I was shocked by this segment, because there was no separation of Elagabalus' supposed sexual deviancy - and no detailing of it for context! - and it made me uncomfortable.
On the whole this book is an easy and often entertaining read, but by slimming down the history of the Roman Empire, we're left with not even half the picture. This lack of detail takes opinions, views and actions out of context and often misrepresents them. Whilst we are warned this book may need to be taken with a pinch of salt, I found it to be marketed poorly (i.e. it isn't quite what it says it is) and to have too many issues with how it presents information, not to mention the abrupt end.(less)
Not my favourite Discworld novel, but has its moments of humour and wit. Felt like the plot wasn't handled as good as it should have been, and that th...moreNot my favourite Discworld novel, but has its moments of humour and wit. Felt like the plot wasn't handled as good as it should have been, and that things happened just Because, rather than for a logical reason. But maybe that's just me.(less)