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Conspiracies of Rome [Hardcover]

Richard Blake
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

21 Feb 2008
609 AD. Rome is torn apart by war, plague and internal power struggles between the Emperor, the aristocracy and the Church. Into this morass stumbles the young and handsome Aelric. His father was murdered, his inheritance stolen. Forcibly separated from the woman he loves, he is determined to win back all that he has lost. Through his naivety and ambition, he unwittingly becomes involved in a heretical plot that will lead to fraud, murder and high treason. Introducing the most compelling anti-hero since Flashman, Conspiracies of Rome is the first in a searingly sharp trilogy that takes you to one of the darkest and most dramatic periods of history.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; 1st Edition edition (21 Feb 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340951125
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340951125
  • Product Dimensions: 3.4 x 16.1 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,500,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Blake is a historian, broadcaster and university lecturer. He lives in Kent with his wife and daughter.

For Hodder & Stoughton, he has written the following six historical novels: Conspiracies of Rome (2008), Terror of Constantinople (2009), Blood of Alexandria (2010), Sword of Damascus (2011), Ghosts of Athens (2012), Curse of Babylon (2013). These have been translated into Spanish, Italian, Greek, Slovak, Hungarian, Indonesian, and Chinese.

He also writes as Sean Gabb. His latest novel written under this name, The Break, has been nominated for the 2015 Prometheus Award.

Product Description


'I can't resist recommending this first volume of a promised trilogy. Set during the last pangs of Imperial Rome, with a vivid account of the machinations of the early Church, it is well-informed, atmospheric and beautifully written.' (Literary Review)

'It's simply the best historical novel I've ever read, perhaps short of C.S. Forester. It's a very great deal better than any of the ancient Roman detective novels I've seen.' (L.Neil Smith)

'Fascinating to read, very well written, an intriguing plot . . . I enjoyed it very much.' (Derek Jacobi)

I cant resist recommending this first volume of a promised trilogy. Set during the last pangs of Imperial Rome, with a vivid account of the machinations of the early Church, it is well-informed, atmospheric and beautifully written. (Literary Review)

'I've just called to tell you how much I enjoyed it. At times it needed a bit of pruning but it was fascinating to read, very well written, an intriguing plot and I enjoyed it very much.' (Derek Jacobi (message over the telephone))

Book Description

The first in a sharply-written trilogy set in crumbling 7th Century Rome which introduces the most compelling anti-hero since Flashman.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite a Roman Romp... 26 Feb 2012
This, I think, is one of those not-very-wonderful books that still manages to be rather entertaining. It is in dire need of a thorough edit (there are opaque sentences, repetitious/inelegant phrases and typos to contend with) and, furthermore, the author has a slightly odd command of swearing. It is as if he is unaccustomed to using profanity and employs naughty words in this text with the coy clumsiness of a blushing adolescent. The book is also crucially deficient in sex! Sexual scenes are alluded to, but there is a disappointing lack of detail! This jars when you consider the personality of the main character. And really, in a lightweight historical romp (if I can use the r-word!), occasional steaminess is kind of a requirement!

Those criticisms notwithstanding, there are certainly good points to this book. Whilst some people don't like a modern mode of speech in historical fiction, I think it always works much better than cod historical dialogue. This book doesn't bother with any of that faux-archaic stuff. Plus, I very much took to the main character/narrator and enjoyed his company along the way of the story. The other characters too came to life quite well. I enjoyed the lighthearted tone of the book (ponderous historical fiction = a pompous annoyance). And I felt the uncertain, 'interesting times' of the setting, and the rough justice of the ancient world, came across tangibly - and without the free ancient history lecture that you often get in historical novels.

So, on balance, I enjoyed reading this book. Great literature it ain't, and it has plenty of clumsy moments. But it lacks many of the common annoyances of historical fiction and will pass the time admirably if you approach it with an uncomplaining, uncritical eye!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and very enjoyable 18 May 2012
An out of place character ( an Anglo-Saxon), in an unusual setting ( the Church of 7th Century Rome ) gives this well-written book a real charm.

I loved it from start to finish and would recommend to anyone. It is not a 'battle-action' novel in the Cornwall or Scarrow style, but it is great historical fiction, bringing the unusual setting to life.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not so sure 12 May 2009
Taking everything into account, this book is an average read.

I do not believe it is one of the best books within this genre as I find the story is quite fragmented and I am not sure whether I can warm to the main character who appears to have a split personality.

The story is well told and relatively fast paced, yet I found there was a `missing element' that would usually have prompted me to give a higher rating.

I disliked the frequent use of modern words and expressions that litter the book and help to destroy an authentic scene.

I am undecided as to whether or not I shall purchase the next book within this series.

This is certainly not one of the best historical novels available.
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39 of 50 people found the following review helpful
By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE
I want to begin by saying that I wanted to like this but I wonder if I'm reading the same book as most of the other reviewers. Perhaps I have a rogue copy containing the first draft because this certainly doesn't read as though it's been edited at all, either by the author or the publisher. I'm not sure on what basis other reviewers (including those on the cover) consider this "well written" but the number of times this is repeated makes me suspicious. Emperor's new clothes anyone?

For me this is, without doubt, the worst written book I have ever read. It is ham-fisted, without any trace of sophistication and, on occasion, is total nonsense. A couple of examples:
"Next stop was the Church Bank, housed in one of the cellars. Armed guards stood outside a monumental brick arch that led down into what I cannot imagine once had been." WHAT? I can sort of understand what he's driving at but this is clumsy to the point of opaque.

...and on the next page:

"But the Church Bank was an excellent choice. Handling and backed by the vast revenues of the Church, it has never closed its doors." Say what? Now that actually doesn't make any sense at all.

As if this wasn't bad enough, we're treated to a whole cast of cliché characters: everyone from the two tailors from the Fast Show ("You'll look lush sir - really, truly lush": I kid you not, this is a direct quote. Followed by "For a lady, is it, sir? Is she pretty? Will you be marrying her in Rome? Or simply [italics]visiting her") to the battleaxe landlady who drops her Hs in order to sound posh.

When he wants to indicate that a character is English, he simply adds the word "mate" to the end of every sentence and has them talk in "mockney".
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What a disappointment 11 Nov 2009
Conspiracies of Rome
I am only moved to write reviews when a book is either outstanding or is really, really bad. Sadly this is prompted by the latter.

I am a big fan of historical mystery fiction and am always on the look out for new (to me) authors. It was therefore with great hope that I picked up this volume in the library. By chapter 5 I just could not bring myself to read any more. The book was simply crude, and at times gratuitously crude. One might almost think that the author hated the people, places and time portrayed, so brutal, in the wider sense, was his writing. I know that the very early medieval period, immediately post Roman Britain and with the empire slowly dying (or changing) in Europe, was not a place of sweetness and light. But neither was it as brutish and crude as portrayed here, as archaeological discovery (the Staffordshire hoard being only the latest) and historical research has demonstrated.

Other writers -- Davis, Doherty, Rowe, Saylor, Scarrow, Sidebottom to name a few -- manage to cover the same broad periods both realistically and entertainingly. And that last is important. Most of us read these books for entertainment, not for academically sound education. Unfortunately, this volume provides neither and, for me, is a waste of paper. I will not be looking for more titles from this author.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling reading
This is the first of the Aelric books, a first person historical thriller that alagamates deeply rich historical narrative with a fast paced intrigue. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Martin B
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended
I was looking for a similar genre to the Flashman Novels. This was certainly different, but also very good. Read more
Published 26 days ago by Tinhatter
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
The end of the Roman empire is a really interesting period in European history and I really enjoyed the way that Richard Blake has brought that period to life. Read more
Published on 23 Oct 2010 by F. Cotton
2.0 out of 5 stars How to confuse the reader
This is a reprint of a book by a differently named author - is this reasonable!
stating that first published in 2008 is incorrect, why would a respectable publisher like... Read more
Published on 17 July 2010 by D. White
3.0 out of 5 stars Oh Dear !!!!
Just a bit naughty NOT to advise that this novel was previously published a few years ago under the author's name of Sean Gabb . Read more
Published on 3 Mar 2010 by Michael F. Star
3.0 out of 5 stars The Column of Phocas
I saw this novel in WH Smith, and being a lover of historical fiction, picked it up. Reading the back cover and flicking through a couple of pages made me pause and not buy it... Read more
Published on 30 Jan 2009 by cemlyn
3.0 out of 5 stars Book for Bin
Interesting period and makes a real change from stories about Caesar and Augustus as well as Rome at the height of her power. Read more
Published on 11 July 2008 by A. Taylor
5.0 out of 5 stars Agree with the above!!!!
I have not even finished reading the book and I feel safe in rating it 5 stars. Living in Rome, I should be better informed as to its history and this book has given me not only... Read more
Published on 12 May 2008 by MayGoodComeToUs
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Am I the only reader of this book that thinks it's rubbish? 1 2 Jul 2009
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