Liviu's Reviews > Circo Máximo: La ira de Trajano

Circo Máximo by Santiago Posteguillo
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 2013_release_read, read_2014, mainstream, top_25_2013_novels, all_time_favorites

The second volume of the trilogy about Trajan covers the years 101-107 and the Dacian wars - though essentially it takes place in 101-early 103 and 105-early 107 - but it brings so much more especially in the Rome parts that focus on the vestal Menenia and her childhood friend, chariot superstar Celer; the portrait of Trajan from the first volume where he is more of an enigma and a distantly seen character is here rounded with a lot of personal details, though the author still keeps him at some distance

The battles (Tapae, Adamclisi, multiple sieges ending with the final one of Sarmisegetusa), the construction of the bridge at Drobeta, the fate of Longinus and more generally all of Decebal's ruses and plots to stop the Roman juggernaut, all very well known events about which I read in countless books and studied in school (as after all the Dacian wars are the foundation of the Romanian people), are rendered extraordinarily well - and surprisingly balanced with great respect towards the Dacians - and with such narrative power that kept me in suspense despite knowing perfectly well what will happen

On the other hand the Rome events and to a lesser extent the fate of Marcio and his family among the Sarmatians, while predictable to some extent (including the parentage of Menenia which was obvious by the dates and by what we knew from volume 1), had enough twists and turns to lift this book to one of my huge favorites of the year and possibly of all time - though of course for that time needs to pass

The only minor negative was making Hadrian (and Plotina to a lesser extent) the sort of baddies of the book and hinting at the future novel about Partia and Trajan's world changing plans that he believed needed a successor with his universal vision - and not the cautious and scheming Hadrian - and we will see how the author will approach this in the last volume

As characters, here there is no one that took over the novel like big bad Domitian in the Killers of the Emperor - and we even have a cameo appearance of the monster in a flashback from Menenia's childhood when at age 10 she is taken from her Patrician home and made a Vestal by the emperor with a promise to investigate her parentage and haunt her forever if what he suspects is true, flashback that the horrified child manages to suppress for a long time - while Domitia, the second superstar of the first volume, actually appears in a lot of great scenes but is still only a secondary character here, so overall I would say that Menenia and Trajan were the ones I really enjoyed following the most, but almost all the rest - Celer, Pliny the Younger, King Decebal, Longinus, Dochia, Marcio, Alana and Tamura, the various Roman generals, Appolodorus, the corrupt senators that try to frame Menenia and Celer, the fanatical "rex sacrorum" who wants to erase all traces of Domitian's line and quite a few more are outstanding, only Hadrian as mentioned seems at odds with his historical portrait, though it is true that like Octavian reviled for his cruelty in his youth, became Augustus, it is possible that the scheming youngster laughed at in Trajan's military court, for his awkwardness, learning and Greek manners, will become the famous emperor of later

Of the many great scenes, I would say that Trajan's recounting of his teenage trip with his father to Subura when he saved a few street children from death by beating for stealing a few apples to appease their hunger - fact that impressed so much the young Trajan that when he became Emperor one the first things he did was establish orphanages for the street children of Rome despite an empty treasury and lots of other things to spend money on - when preparing for the hunt with the leaders of the Roman renegades who deserted Decebal, one of whom obviously was Marcio, the street kid of long ago, was the most emotional, though his conversations to Menenia came close second, while in a nod to the present I really enjoyed Trajan's economic conservatism when he kept refusing to raise the taxes as asked by all his advisers, pointing out that if they do that people will spend less and they will evade taxes more so the government will actually get less...

A mammoth 1000+ page book like its predecessor (though there are extensive glossaries and authorial insertion of classical sources in the text, so the actual novel text is about 150 pages less than the total page count) which was almost un-puttable down and as opposed to its predecessor which was excellent but more scattered by its 63-99 time span, I stayed way too late to read a couple of nights, Circo Maximo is highly, highly recommended

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Reading Progress

December 31, 2013 – Started Reading
December 31, 2013 – Shelved
January 2, 2014 – Shelved as: 2013_release_read
January 2, 2014 – Shelved as: read_2014
January 2, 2014 – Shelved as: mainstream
January 2, 2014 – Shelved as: top_25_2013_novels
January 2, 2014 – Finished Reading
July 24, 2014 – Shelved as: all_time_favorites

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