The Gates of Rome is the first novel in the Emperor series written by the ex-English teacher Conn Iggulden. Unfortunately my first impression was unfavourable, a comparison with the 'blockbuster' movie Gladiator. The cover features a gladiator's helmet and quotes The Times, 'If you liked Gladiator, you'll love Emperor'. However The Gates of Rome is no mere Hollywood distraction like the previously mentioned Gladiator, the recent Troy, and the soon to be released Alexander. Instead it is a true historical epic with fewer gladiators than the cover would have you believe (however for those who look for such things, the occasional gladiator does appear). It is an instant classic with all the depth and passion that you would associate with one.
Emperor: The Gates of Rome is the story of two young boys, Gaius and Marcus, who are destined to become two of the greatest Romans, who are still, even today, house-hold names. Cleverly and well written, the story hides the identities of the two boys until well into the book. The reader is continually drawn into the story with Conn Iggulden's descriptive style evoking the ancient Roman world incredibly well. We are taken from the rural farm of Gaius and Marcus's youth into the opulent Rome with all the excitements of gladiatorial games, political manoeuvrings of the senate and the deadliness of war. We follow the boys on the early steps of their careers, Gaius as a senator and Marcus as a legionary, both hoping to one day to make their impact on the Rome they love so much.
The Gates of Rome is incredibly well written, although this is sometimes achieved at the cost of historical accuracy. However, this is excusable, as all the changes made improve the plot and the passage of the story. In fact, the whole story is so well written that the 600 and so pages are consumed far too quickly, leaving you with only a single consolation; that there are two more books already published and hopefully more on the way.