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4.6 out of 5 stars207
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on 28 July 2011
After reading the first one I stated that I thought the series would get better and better.
Unfortunately not., but it's no worse than the first.
Any complaints about historical mangling in the first novel will only be increased on reading this one and I suspect it'll either get great reviews or bad reviews depending on your need for historical accuracy.
Iggulden's second novel `Emperor: The Death of Kings' opens with the young tessarius Gaius Julius Caesar part of a naval party storming the fortress town of Mytilene to rescue governor Paulus. The chapter serves, as does much of the previous novel and this one, to demonstrate the episodic nature of Caesar's rise through the ranks as he overcomes physical obstacles and personally rescues the governor.
As with the preceding novel anyone with any knowledge of the period and the characters will swiftly realise the gaping historical inaccuracies, fundamental character reversals and disappearances of other key people (Marcus Tullius Cicero the most blatant) continue in this volume. This is neatly demonstrated by Sulla's death at the hands of Tubruk's ice sorbet.
Still....we move swiftly on to the episode with the pirates, a clout to the head being the given cause of Caesar's future epilepsy and follow Marcus Brutus as he returns a centurion and promptly cuts a swathe through the female nobility of Rome with more alacrity after meeting with his mother Servilia who is a high class courtesan. From there we focus on Julius' destruction of Mithridates, his retention of his home in the law courts, his continuing enmity with Suetonius and now the portly Cato and the hiccup with Brutus over the recreation and command of Marius' Primigenia legion (which never existed). Once all this has settled down Julius lopes off with his wolves to take on Spartacus which he does by holding the left flank after Lepidus dies mid-battle. Eventually, both Pompey and Caesar get to avenge themselves on Cato after members of their families are murdered by Cato's command.
By the end this is a good historical fantasy (in fact it's almost an alternative history) best evidenced by the running title of the quartet as Caesar was never an Emperor (in fact it was his suggested kingly ambition that got him assassinated) but historical accuracy is not fundamental to Iggulden's story. An excellent example of this is when by page 190 or so of the hardback version we find the future true first emperor of Rome, Augustus, (who's not Caesar's great nephew but cousin in this interpretation) as a thieving street urchin with his impoverished mother, stealing butcher chops and getting involved in fights before being carted off to Uncle Julius for some horseriding training. Reality is entirely suspended.
So, for its merits as a historical fantasy Iggulden provides a sequel that is faced-paced, easily readable and exciting, providing action, love, politics, war and peace against a tumultuous backdrop of change.
The key to dissatisfaction, however, is that the lack of historicity leaves a slightly sour taste and the characters are two-dimensional which leaves this reader feeling no justice is being done to these historical greats.
I confess the historical purist in me makes me undecided as to whether I will read the third installment but there is no denying it is an exciting, easy read. If writing a flowing historical fantasy plucking some names from Roman history was Iggulden's aim, then he gets 4 stars. If it is intended as historical fiction based on reality it would get one star.
Whatever your thoughts on it, one thing is clear - this needs considerable improvement if it aspires to the dizzy heights of McCullough or Saylor or Davis...
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VINE VOICEon 22 October 2008
Again, Iggulden blends fact and fiction in a seamless and gripping combination. He puts the known facts together with fiction based on historical knowledge to fill in a time when we know little about our hero Julius Caeser. I recommend this series to all my friends, and not a single bad comment amongst them, a must have for the bookshelf
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on 6 February 2004
I won't bore you with my wonderful understanding of Roman history and point out all the errors within this book. Mainly because I don't care and it didn't detract from the story.
This is a great adventure story, very well written. It really keeps your interest with the main characters all having their own separate adventures. The characters are charismatic and this book was a real page turner. I really do recommend it.
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on 14 January 2010
The author of this book is very popular. My husband loves the series and I was so happy that the book arrived in time for Christmas. I also liked the way I have been made aware of other books by the same author. Well done, Colin Iggulden! It kept my husband out of my hair for most of Christmas.
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on 19 November 2007
I have picked up the Wolfs of the Plains at Heathrow airport three weeks ago on my way back home and by the time I arrived I decided to order all the historical novels by Conn Iggulden. Now I am almost done with the third book in the Emperors series, the Filed of Swords, so my comment here relates to the whole series.

I have read many books by great authors who excel in bringing ancient events to life, but this guy is unbelievable. My advice is to start reading on a weekend or on a holiday as trying to read it during a working week can ruin your schedule.

I can not comment on the inconsistency of the historical events that many of my fellow readers have expressed their concern about as my knowledge of Roman history remains very general. However, I will say this, these books are of the highest quality as history based novels are concerned. The characters are vivid and the scenes are superbly described. The war scenes alone would get the book a five star rating.

A highly recommended read. A lot of fun.
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on 21 July 2013
Conn Iggulden's books are enjoyable, fast paced and would get a higher rating from me if they based on made-up characters instead of real historical figures. Julius Caesar grew up during a turbulent, extraordinary time for the Roman people so I don't think it is necessary to change events to such a drastic extent just to make his early life seem interesting. I love reading historical novels but I have also read a lot of non-fiction history books and visited Rome three times so the moments when Iggulden has altered or even invented major events are jarring. This greatly spoiled my enjoyment of the novel but I hope that other readers will be encouraged to look into the real history and especially the lives of Marius and Sulla. I will probably read more books by Conn Iggulden but will switch to some of his other series based on events which I know less about.
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on 27 February 2012
After reading the first book in this series, I could not wait to pick up the next one.

GOOD POINTS: It had everything that an action book needed. Wars, heros, twists. The way Iggulden presents Caesar and Brutus are important, but he also succeeds in doing this with Alexandria, Gaditicus and Cato. I also enjoyed how every few chapters, he would switch the focus between Brutus, Caesar, Alexandria, or Antonidus. This gives the reader more to think about, and they can look forward to returning to a particular character.

BAD POINTS: The book was a bit too long, but my advice would not be to shorten it, but to make two books out of it, because at times, it felt too long.

OVERALL: An absolute thriller. Cracking read, and great for a bit of excitement.
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on 6 June 2011
The book starts with a bang as all good books should, it is thrilling from start to finish and is about the Rise and fall of the Roman Empire and the part which Julius Ceasar has to play in this, the story starts with a Young Julius with his adopted brother Marcus and then steadily progresses through their lives, their father dies and they are sent to be looked after by thier uncle who is very high up in the senate, this is when they story really starts and the power struggles begin, if you are one of those people who think they can guess what happens next think again with this first book nothing is what it appears. A really gripping read.
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on 3 October 2010
Not bad, a bit mickey mouse compared to Robert Harris and it feels like it's been written to be turned into a film/several films, hence the characterisation is quite shallow.... we never really learn anything of the motivations of the characters or their inner thoughts, and the author has strayed from historical fact in places, but the book is entertaining at times. A good light read.
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on 20 February 2004
Most of the complaints seem to focus on the historical inaccuracies, this is a work of fiction and the author readily admits the inaccuracy's and actually corrects them at the back of the book with a history note (did you not read that far!?). I finished this book in three days and it was better than the first (which I would also give five stars) I can't wait for the next one!
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