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on 20 September 2009
Is it daft to compare this with the Star Wars films?

Well, follow me on this. The underlying politics in Star Wars is all about the Republic being ripped apart by the malice and evil of Senator Palpatine - the Sith Master.

These stories are all about the Roman Republic being torn apart by a number of actions by a number of different men - Marius, Sulla, Pompey and Caesar. And in fact over four books they tell a finer action and poltical story than the six Star Wars films ever could - I'm not knocking Star Wars, just pointing out that 'real' life is sometimes more staggering than fiction ever can be.

Yes, the books are fiction, but based on facts. Okay, it will never be a totally accurate representation of Caesar's life but for a rip roaring read this is beyond doubt a great quartet.
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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 20 January 2005
Volume three in the series devoted to the life and times of Julius Caesar. Here, we follow his political and military career from Spain to the conquest of Gaul and his abortive expedition into Britannia. Caesar had a well established political presence in Rome by the time he was given the freedom to pacify Gaul. Once engaged on this task, his star rose higher and higher, aided by Caesar's ability to manipulate news and spin a heady story for the people of Rome.
The cast of characters is well established now and Iggulden is able to leap backwards and forwards between the political chicanery and turmoil of Rome and the battlefields of Gaul, the Rhine frontier, and Britannia, sustaining both strands of the story quite effectively. Caesar was a great military leader - and it is clear that he had the personality to inspire his soldiers and drive them on to victory after victory. But Caesar was also a very ambitious man, politically. Indeed, given the bloody nature of Roman politics, ambition was probably a good survival strategy.
Iggulden manages to make the political in-fighting as exciting and well-paced as the military action - at the price of some over-simplification and a bit of judicious manipulation of history. As a piece of fiction, however, it continues to work quite well. In fact, there may be evidence of a bit more maturity and confidence creeping into his style in this volume, particularly given the more complicated nature of the plot he has to tackle this time.
"The Field of Swords" is an excellent page-turner - if you have read the first two volumes and enjoyed them, this one will not disappoint. If you haven't read the first two, I'd encourage you to start with "The Gates of Rome" to see if you like Iggulden's style and themes - you will lose too much of the back-plot and character building if you leap straight in to volume three
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on 28 March 2005
Conn Iggulden's third book builds further on his successful other two book in this series. Putting aside the occassional historical liberty, which in all fairness he justfies at the end of each of his books, this book is fantastic escapism. It is engrossing, well written and gives the reader a genuine desire to find out more about this period. I can't give enough complements for this book, it has thoroughly entertained me for the last few weeks and i'm looking forwards to his next book - which will involve Cleopatra no less.
Worth buying, though start at the begining of the series "The Gates of Rome" to fully appreciate the major players in this book.
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on 2 September 2005
Volume three in the series devoted to the life and times of Julius Caesar. Here, we follow his political and military career from Spain to the conquest of Gaul and his abortive expedition into Britannia. Caesar had a well established political presence in Rome by the time he was given the freedom to pacify Gaul. Once engaged on this task, his star rose higher and higher, aided by Caesar's ability to manipulate news and spin a heady story for the people of Rome.
The cast of characters is well established now and Iggulden is able to leap backwards and forwards between the political chicanery and turmoil of Rome and the battlefields of Gaul, the Rhine frontier, and Britannia, sustaining both strands of the story quite effectively. Caesar was a great military leader - and it is clear that he had the personality to inspire his soldiers and drive them on to victory after victory. But Caesar was also a very ambitious man, politically. Indeed, given the bloody nature of Roman politics, ambition was probably a good survival strategy.
Iggulden manages to make the political in-fighting as exciting and well-paced as the military action - at the price of some over-simplification and a bit of judicious manipulation of history. As a piece of fiction, however, it continues to work quite well. In fact, there may be evidence of a bit more maturity and confidence creeping into his style in this volume, particularly given the more complicated nature of the plot he has to tackle this time.
"The Field of Swords" is an excellent page-turner - if you have read the first two volumes and enjoyed them, this one will not disappoint. If you haven't read the first two, I'd encourage you to start with "The Gates of Rome" to see if you like Iggulden's style and themes - you will lose too much of the back-plot and character building if you leap straight in to volume three
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on 17 November 2006
...It seems to be too long for me!

'The Field of Swords' continues on from where 'The Death of Kings' left off - Caesar has helped to end the Spartacus rebellion, but his wife has been murdered, and due to his political influence, has been dispatched to Spain with his Tenth Legion by the Consuls Crassus and Pompey to keep him out of the way.

With the Consular elections approaching in Rome, Caesar sees his chance to end his isolation in Spain, returns to Rome, and is elected Consul. When he effectively renders the other Consul useless, he becomes the most powerful man in Rome, and strikes a deal with Crassus and Pompey, the previous Consuls. Pompey is named proxy-Consul in Caesar's name, and in the meantime, Caesar gets an open Senatorial mandate to go wherever he wants, doing whatever he pleases. So he goes to Gaul, and sets about Romanising it.

Okay, now we're halfway through. You see what I mean? This book should have been split in two! The first half is gripping with Iggulden's blistering narrative pace keeping you turning the pages. However, once Caesar arrives in Gaul (with the newest addition to his cronies, Mark Anthony), the pace quickly slackens. There are some tremendous battles with the various Gaulish tribes, but because Caesar spent nearly 10 years in Gaul, the book seems to slow down, and then jump five years in one go. This breaking up of Iggulden's natural pace shows, as his ability to keep you turning the pages is reduced, and as a writer, that's his biggest advantage.

Vercingetorix's rebellion at the end adds some life back into the book, but it does seem a tad too late. Unfortunately, it seems to be weaker than the previous two volumes, but it does link onto the final chapter, 'The Gods of War'. And as Cabera says on his dying breath to Caesar...

'Beware the Ides of March...'

I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.
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on 18 October 2010
Knowing full well that Igguldens' retelling of Gaius Julius Caesar's life owes very little to actual historical fact and much to pure fantasy I set about this third installment curious to know precisely what period had gone through the mangle this time and what the result would be. Apart from the wincing at the total exclusion of Marcus Tullius Cicero's finest hour in 63BC in stopping the Catiline Conspiracy (Julius gets the credit here and it's brought forward 4 years as well - never mind), the blatant chronological reversal of Clodius' death in 52 and the invasion of Britain in 55/54, and the casual use of Cabera to act as the soothsayer for the infamous Ides of March quote nearly a decade ahead of reality... I was cautiously optimistic by page 200 or so.
The third in Iggulden's Emperor series opens with our young praetor with his Tenth legion in Spain with Brutus and his extraordinarii cavalry. Dark, moody and brooding the mix is swiftly stirred as Brutus' courtesan mother, Servilia, turns up with three girls to make a handsome profit and catch Julius' eye. From there he swiftly returns to the political mire of Rome, coming up against both Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus and Marcus Licinius Crassus as he seeks to establish himself in Rome and take his first consulship. Much of this is given over in two very lengthy episodes - the first his quelling of the Crassus backed Catiline conspiracy, the second over a gladiator contest for Marcus Brutus to be First Sword in Rome. Once this has been achieved Caesar hotfoots it to Gaul with his comrades in tow wearing silver armour to start conquering the land. Battles against the Averni, a quick trip to Britain and back and the infamous siege of Alesia are all dealt with in a thrilling loose style with an interim trip back to Rome by Brutus to get involved with Caesar's daughter, Julia, and quell the infamous street gangs of Milo and Clodius whilst Julius' relationship with Servilia is explored.
I confess I find my reaction to Iggulden is to sigh deeply. The historical purist in me reads on in horrified fascination as to what's going to happen next in this historical alternative history, but it is somewhat compelling. I know many reviewers will say that historical accuracy is not what Iggulden's about but it's taken too far. You can get away with the odd explained change for dramatic purposes but it's so wrong it really does detract from what could be so good.
History aside I find this the weakest of the three as it is somewhat directionless and the chacterisation fill between major episodes is creating a more of a sense of gallivanting adventurers rather than mature personages. Plot and characterisation is all too wooden and I find myself disliking Julius more and more. If it wasn't for the exceptionally brief reference to Caesar's lamentation that he is older than Alexander was when he conquered the world right at the start (and you knew little of Caesar's history) you'd have to ask what his motive for any of his actions was in this novel.
What saves the entire series is that Iggulden CAN tell a story.
So utterly compelling, but, unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. I'll have to complete the series but I know the same complaints will probably be there after the next one.
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on 31 January 2005
Absolutely incredible. The 3rd of the 4 emperor books to be released. And, trust, this one doesnt disappoint. These are, without a doubt, the best historical fiction book series I have ever read. Notice I say historical FICTION... its not fact. You'll see in these reviews, no doubt, a historian blabbering on about historical inaccuracies. It's historical fiction. And one hell of a book.
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on 1 November 2011
Conn Iggulden liberally rewrites history in order to increase the dramatic impact of his novels. That's fair enough, but sometimes it seems that his liberties with known history are unnecessary. As another critic has pointed out, what did he gain by ignoring Cicero's role in the thwarting of the Cataline Conspiracy? But enough said on that. My main gripe with this book is that the first two hundred pages (mainly about Caesar in Spain) were rather tedious and irrelevant and I found the arrival of Servilia with a troupe of prostitutes irritating and schoolboyish. My other problem with Iggulden is his writing style which has a certain laziness, for example he uses the word "chuckle" repeatedly and inappropriately. (Has he actually ever heard anyone chuckle their words? I don't think I have.)
However, leaving aside the negatives, I must confess I absolutely loved the account of Caesar's Gallic Wars. This is Iggulden at his best with plenty of good historical detail and, perhaps more importantly, and understanding of the psychology of the Gauls, combined with respect and sympathy for their plight when confronted by the remorseless Caesar. Vercingetorix gets a fine cameo role. (After Vercingetorix surrenders, Caesar rather unsportingly keeps him prisoner for five years before having him strangled as part of his Triumph. This is not mentioned in this book although it might be in the next one.)
Caesar's detour into Britain in 55 and 54 BC is vividly described and gives an understanding of just how difficult it is to invade an island.
To summarise, this is a very readable and entertaining book which captures the character and ambition of Caesar, but which contains too many imperfections of style and detail to be recommended unreservedly.
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on 28 June 2010
Another in the excellent Emperor series.
Gripping book from cover to cover - as with the others in the series I couldn't put it down.
Have just started the last book in the series.
Will be trying others by Conn Iggulden
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