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Feast of Sorrow

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,218 ratings  ·  281 reviews
Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.

On a blistering day in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, a young chef, Thrasius, is acquired for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denar
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by Atria Books
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Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
This was a feast indeed, a rare treat of a novel so richly evocative that the reader cannot help but lose themselves in the wonder of arriving in ancient Rome.

Set around the household of Marcus Gavius Apicius, a wealthy Roman gourmet who probably lived during the reign of Tiberius (1st Century AD), it is told through the eyes of his coquus Thrasius. While the personal and familial elements of the novel are pure invention, it is clear that King has researched the contemporary and/or primary sour
Heidi The Reader
A Feast of Sorrow captures the beauty, opulence and madness of Rome during the reign of the Caesars. The story is told from the point of view of a slave in the household of Apicius. But, not just any slave. Thrasius is a cook, a coquus, the head of Apicius' kitchen. He makes some of the finest delicacies known and invents new ones.

Apicius is wealthy beyond reason. He has the ability to purchase Thrasius the finest ingredients and the rarest spices. Apicius' dream is to become Caesar's gastronomi
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
I read this 400+ page book in about 72 hours and I loved every page. It's old school fun: great characters, fabulous sense of place, evocative detail, drama in spades, and satisfying emotional peaks and dips.

The novel's narrator is Thrasius, a young slave gifted in cooking. He's purchased by Apicius, an immensely wealthy Roman determined to use his fortune, fabulous parties, and appreciation of exquisite cuisine to gain power with Caeser and his heirs.

Thankfully, Thrasius' reputation isn't exagg
Sandi Ward
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
While I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, I love to watch it on TV or in a film. I wondered if Feast of Sorrows would remind me of HBO’s show Rome (which I thought was an amazing show). This story lived up to my expectations, with a spectacular portrayal of intrigue, shrewd political maneuvering, and human greed that had me hooked. I flew through the pages from start to finish.

The level of detail provided about ancient Rome—the food, customs, and way of life— transported me to that place
Oct 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: food, antiquity, rome
This took me over a month (!) to read, which is insane because it features two of my favorite things: Rome and food. While I thoroughly enjoyed the descriptions of the meals and the author clearly did her research, I found the characters and plot pretty boring.

This book centers around Thrasius, the coquus (or chef) for Marcus Gavius Apicius, one of the richest men in Rome and a notable gourmand. The issue is that it covers the entirety of Thrasius's life, which means each chapter is more of a v
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I wondered for most of the way through this wonderful book why it was called feast of sorrow. You will have to wait till the end...

A magnificent combination of history and food, I thought this was really well written and kept me glued to the book as the story unfolded over about 40 years.

For those who have read it already, I'm just going to say here that I would have much preferred the big Red Mullet that night over the Pig!
May 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jane by: Carol, librarian at Vestal Library
One man's obsession and how it nearly destroys him and his familia. Set in Augustan Rome, this tells of the famous gourmand Apicius , his slave Thrasius, and Apicius' yearning so much for the position as the emperor's gastronomic advisor that this dream overtakes his life and he sacrifices his daughter to it. Apicius buys Thrasius for his new chef. The two of them love cooking and together develop marvelous dishes. Apicius's cenae [suppers=banquets] become famous; everyone wants an invitation. T ...more
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was just the kind of historical fiction I like. In Roman historical fiction there is a glut of stories based on the army or based on Imperial or Senatorial intrigue.I’ve read quite a few of these and enjoyed them but over time I’ve found they all blend together. Either that, or many retell the same notorious events from different perspectives. This book was more social in its historical focus and I enjoyed it very much. Very rich in details and in calories! How rich Romans didn’t drop dead ...more
Reeda Booke
Wow! This book was quite impressive for a debut author! At first I thought most of the book would center mostly on the cooking and foods from the era, and as I don't like to cook, I thought it would get boring. Boy, was I wrong.

This book mainly centers on the life of Marcus Gavius Apicius whose recipes were written down, but according to the author's notes, no cookbook survived but some of his recipes did survive in the writings of other historical figures. Apicius was a very wealthy Roman citiz
Jessica Strawser
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've always been fascinated by ancient Rome, and thought I had a decent grip on its history from other books, TV programs and visiting the city firsthand, but Crystal King's Feast of Sorrow schooled me in the best possible way -- which is to say the story swept me away to another time, another world. The author's meticulous research is evident from Page 1, but it's the characters who carry the story and offer us a fascinating glimpse into the complex relationships forged within and even across t ...more
Kari Lemor
Dec 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Feast of Sorrow by debut author Crystal King is quite an interesting book. I have to premise this by saying it's not my typical read but I'm so glad I found it. First, the details and descriptions in this are outstanding and so well developed you'd think you were in ancient Rome. Some of the characters are based on real people and others made up but they all seem real in Ms. King's world and are totally fleshed out. The book is quite long and takes place over about a thirty year period of time b ...more
Alyssa Palombo
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you're a foodie, then this is the novel for you. Yet this book is so much more - it's a Roman epic, spanning most of the life of its hero, Thrasius, and his friends and family. You will absolutely become attached to Trasius, Aelia, Apicata, Passia, and Sotas as this novel goes on.

The attention to historical detail is minute and intricate, yet King has the gift of weaving in these period details seamlessly, so that the reader is never taken out of the story and feels fully immersed in the peri
Amy Poeppel
Oct 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Crystal King, historical fiction writer and fellow Debutante (at has written an epic story of politics, romance, fabulous food, and relationships, causing the reader to be fully invested in all the people who inhabit her tale of Ancient Rome, from the slaves to the ruling class. It's a well-written book that thoroughly entertains while it also teaches about the culture, dangers, intrigues, and power plays during the reign of Augustus Caesar. Crystal has written a ...more
Dec 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is INCREDIBLE. Seriously. Set in Ancient Rome, it blends the scandals of real-life historical figures with the drama of the fictional Thrasius, a slave and companion to famed gourmand Apicius. It's clearly well-researched and richly detailed, making the story engrossing and impossible to put down. (True story: I was finishing it this morning -- Christmas morning -- and I was so reluctant to set it aside to open presents.) ...more
I finished the audiobook for this one last night. While the narration was fine the overall plot failed to fully engage me. From a storytelling perspective, the plot feels as though it skims over the surface of what should be, or at least could be, an emotionally deeper story. Some of the problem stems from the fact that the story is being told through the perspective of Thrasius, a slave. IMO this hamstrings the plot because he can never truly react to anything going on around him because it's a ...more
Tim Weed
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Crystal King has clearly done her homework. The historical world of Feast of Sorrow lives and breathes, and it is a delight to follow its characters’ struggle for happiness and survival amidst the simmering peril of Rome’s great houses. Even if you’re not a foodie drawn to novels of ancient Rome, this immersive, sensorily rich page-turner will take you for a delicious and unforgettable ride.
Judith E
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, food, italy
I skim read this from 60% on. The ancient menus and ingredients were semi-interesting, but an uncompelling plot and undeveloped characters made it slow and boring. The author’s notes about the true gourmand, Apicius, were interesting.
Kristen McDermott
You don't have to be a foodie to enjoy this book, but if you are, you'll absolutely love it. King has created the ideal narrator to guide us through the everyday life and political turmoil of Imperial Rome in the first four decades of the Common Era. Thrasius, a slave who happens to be a culinary genius, is the talent behind the famous Roman cookbooks attributed to an author known as Apicius; King has chosen a real-life wealthy gourmand by that name to identify as the patron of those books, and ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In late Augustan Rome, food is power. Good food, that is. That’s why Marcus Gavius Apicius spends an unheard-of twenty thousand denarii to buy a slaveboy named Thrasius, who has begun developing a reputation as a chef. Exhilarated by his new purchase and entranced by the prestige of becoming Rome’s premier gastronome, Apicius disregards the warnings of a soothsayer that success will bring sorrow with it.

Apicius’s star ascends as Thrasius invents ever more unusual, succulent, and expensive dishes
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical-fic
In this beautifully-written debut novel, Crystal King brings to life the world of ancient Rome. She has masterfully created a brilliant story centered around the oldest known collections of recipes and Apicius, the only well-known gourmand from ancient Rome.
Narrating Feast of Sorrow is Thrasius, Apicius' fictional slave and coquus (chef). Through his eyes, Rome of the 1st century is brought to stunning life, the opulence and violence, the treachery and treason. Through Thrasius' eyes, we watch
Anjali Duva
Jul 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Crystal King's Feast of Sorrow is truly a feast. Against the backdrop of meticulously researched Ancient Rome, full of the extravagances of society at the time, brimming with incredible descriptions of true gastronomy, this is a story of a colorful cast of characters--sometimes appalling, often compelling, always richly portrayed--playing out the gamut of human behaviors and emotions. There is love, there is enmity, there is death, there is compassion, there is arrogance, there is humility, ther ...more
Jenni Walsh
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: debutante-ball
Let me start by saying this is quite the impressive book. King has done her homework. Many times, I forgot I was reading a novel and thought I had picked up a memoir recovered from the first century. I found it very interesting to learn of the politics, intrigue, scheming, and happenings of ancient Rome, along with all the customs, superstitions, and loyalty to the Gods. Learning of the food during this time was also intriguing, though forgive me if flamingo tongue is not served at my next dinne ...more
I really enjoyed the author’s assured writing and the fascinating details of daily Roman life and customs that are woven into the plot – dining customs, religious rituals, rules of hospitality and so on. The focus of the book is the life of Apicius so naturally there are gorgeous descriptions of actual Roman recipes, even if some of the ingredients themselves are not so gorgeous sounding to modern diners. Each section of the book opens with an authentic recipe from the time.

Through the invented

There is great attention to detail here as well a good sense of the sprawling big picture of the Roman Empire, and both the day to day facts and larger than life people and historical events are slipped in more or less organically without a lot of shoehorning. The author did her research, and presents a magnificent portrait of the Julio-Claudian dynasty through the lens of the famed Apicius and his not-so famed cook, who gave him that fame, literally, on a silver platter.

I just wish there had be
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Crystal King is a fellow Debutante Ball author, and lucky for me, I had the chance to read an advanced version of this novel.

Apicius, Apicius, Apicius. What a character. He is deplorable at times, and yet somehow I finished Feast of Sorrow with a softness for him. In other words, King has done a tremendous job of building him as a complete and complicated character with all of his humanity - beauty and faults alike. In fact, that was my favorite part of this novel: the depth of the characterizat
Jennifer Dupee
Aug 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Captivating from start to finish, Crystal King's Feast of Sorrow immerses the reader in the alluring yet unpredictable world of Ancient Rome. Thrasius, a slave who is uniquely gifted in the culinary arts, has everything to gain when he is brought into the household of the fame-hungry Apicius. Yet when Apicius' greed and blind ambition soars to unsustainable heights, Thrasius' fate and that of the other characters hang in delicate balance. This is the 'meat' that drives the novel forward. As garn ...more
Heather Webb
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, lush, and well-paced, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel of ancient Rome. King infused plenty of historical tidbits about the customs and peoples living during the reign of Caesar into the narrative, as well as scrumptious details about the incredible senas. All of those unending courses of pomegranate honey water, fried hare livers, prawns, and cumin dusted treats. As a foodie, I delighted in every last description. Never mind the sexual exploits and intrigue galore. I listened to thi ...more
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book! Great characters, great stories and they are told so well that I felt like I was actually there observing it all. Crystal King really brought everyone and everything to life and I loved the progression of the story from start to finish. I'm already looking forward to reading it again! ...more
Elise Hooper
Dec 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I’ll admit it: I binged gluttonously on Feast of Sorrows. King’s inclusion of fascinating historic details brought her novel about Ancient Rome's famous gourmand Apicius to life and I couldn’t put it down. The intrigue, the menus, the rituals…all captivated me. ...more
Jessie  (Ageless Pages Reviews)

This book made me very very hungry, and often for things I suspect I would not like. Sorcery!

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Ancient & Medieva...: JUNE 2017 Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King 93 112 Jan 24, 2018 11:29AM  

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Crystal King is the bestselling author of THE CHEF'S SECRET and FEAST OF SORROW. A culinary enthusiast and social media professional, her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet, one ...more

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124 likes · 44 comments
“While Apicius is full of ancient delicacies such as roasted peacock, boiled sow vulva, testicles, and other foods we would not commonly eat today, there are many others that are still popular, including tapenade, absinthe, flatbreads, and meatballs. There is even a recipe for Roman milk and egg bread that is identical to what we call French toast. And, contrary to popular belief, foie gras was not originally a French delicacy. The dish dates back twenty-five hundred years, and Pliny credits Apicius with developing a version using pigs instead of geese by feeding hogs dried figs and giving them an overdose of mulsum (honey wine) before slaughtering them.” 4 likes
“She moved closer to me. I put my arm around her, marveling at the smoothness of her skin.
She paused, and I realized that she was gathering her courage to speak. "That night, in your cubiculum, I..."
I took her hands and held them together between my own. "It's all right, Passia. You don't have to say anything."
"You surprised me," she blurted out.
"I surprised myself. It took everything I had not to keep you there with me."
She leaned forward until our faces were close. "I know."
There was nothing to do but kiss her, with all the passion I had harbored from the moment when she first appeared in the kitchen on the day of my arrival. Her lips were soft, and sweet like fresh Iberian honey. I ran my hands along her back and up into the tangle of her hair. My thumbs stroked the flesh of her neck and cheeks, and when they pulled away, her lips.
We fell into the sand, twining together our summer-tanned limbs. Our hands roamed up and down the length of each other, slowly removing each article of clothing. I delighted in feeling the way the measure of my passion made my skin tingle with desire from head to toe.
"Apicius always says you are the answer to his prayers. I think he is wrong. I think you are the answer to mine," she whispered in my ear before I entered her and we both cried aloud. The sound was washed away by the crash of waves beyond us.”
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