Action-packed historical drama
Conn Iggulden seemed to like my review of his "quick read," Blackwater, almost as much as I enjoyed reading that book. Being in a one-to-one conversation gave me the opportunity to ask him if he would recommend his Emperor series to anyone who had enjoyed the shorter story. He was very honest in admitting that he didn't know but advised me to walk into a bookshop, pick up The Gates of Rome, read the first chapter then decide whether to replace it on the shelf or buy it.
That's almost exactly what I did. In fact, what I actually did was to buy the whole series and read the books back-to-back.
This is the first of a series of four historical that describe the life of Julius Caesar and his best friend, Brutus, from boyhood through to his violent death. Knowing what happens in the final pages of the final book does nothing to damage the reader's enjoyment of the set. The action starts in the opening pages as Gaius, as Julius is known in his youth, and his friend Marcus, later known as Brutus, are captured and bullied by older boys from the neighbouring property.
As Gaius grows up, he has an early introduction to the Roman Senate and shares some very tough training for his military manhood with Brutus. His mentor is his father's estate manager and his trainer is an even tougher ex-gladiator. These men follow and support Julius and Brutus through most of their lives.
Violence, death and political treachery abound and the first book ends with Julius embarking on a voyage as a junior officer on a Roman military ship in North Africa as Brutus heads off to the colonised lands of Greece.
After reading the first chapter in the bookshop, I bought the book. Before I'd finished The Gates of Rome, I'd bought all three remaining books in the series and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the same course of action to any friend.