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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing completion of the series
I enjoyed this volume as much as the others in the series, and shall certainly go back and reread the whole thing now it is complete.
McCollough offers some interesting explanations for events which are consistent with character and history but different from the standard ones - for example her explanation of the character and motivations of Cleopatra and her...
Published on 28 Jan 2003 by alexandria1121

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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The end at last!
So, here it is. Must be nearly 10 years since I read 'The First Man in Rome' and so started on Colleen McCullough's 'Masters of Rome' series. Now, at last, the whole lot can be viewed as one.

This one follows right after the last, there's no annoying 5 year gap like there was between 'Caesar's Women' and 'Caesar' If you know anything about history (or even if...
Published on 24 Oct 2003 by S. Flaherty


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing completion of the series, 28 Jan 2003
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I enjoyed this volume as much as the others in the series, and shall certainly go back and reread the whole thing now it is complete.
McCollough offers some interesting explanations for events which are consistent with character and history but different from the standard ones - for example her explanation of the character and motivations of Cleopatra and her relationship with Caesar. I enjoyed her portrayal of Octavian, although I felt it lacked the depth of come of her other work, perhaps because she knew she wouldn't be following him.
Although I cannot blame her for calling a halt here (after all, to get into the Octavian/Augustus saga would be a commitment to another 6 books) I am sorry, since Augustus interests me more than Caesar as a historical character, and I would have liked to have read her interpretation of some of his later behaviours. .
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book, 13 Sep 2003
This review is from: The October Horse (Masters of Rome) (Paperback)
I bought "The October Horse" not knowing that it was part of a series. Hence I can't compare it to McCullough's other books but I have read several other books on the era ("The Memoirs of Cleopatra" among others).
It took me some time to get used to her style of writing. The action seemed sluggish (though you might as well blame that on history) and I wondered whether or not I was ever going to finish it. Fortunately (for me), I am not a quitter and once you get used to her style of writing and the action begins, you can't let go. All historical characters have received their own personalities and feelings, making their actions believable and the events more understandable. But it can also be quite confusing, Margaret George's "The memoirs of Cleopatra" shows Cleopatra in a far more favorable light. It takes some time to get used to a far more narrow-minded Cleopatra. But this is, of course, no fault of the book.
The book gives you a really good overview of all events including the less known ones (like Cato's desert march, Mark Antony's murder attempt, the story of Brutus' head and so on). It's a pity she ended the story with the defeat of Brutus and Cassius. The battle of Actium would be far more appropriate. Those, who did not pay that much attention during history lessons, will want to know what happened to Mark Antony, Cleopatra, Sextus Pompey and other loose strings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent exercise in historical fiction writing at its finest, 16 Aug 2011
This review is from: The October Horse (Masters of Rome) (Paperback)
The October Horse was a long time coming from the proflic pen of McCullough's acknowledged genius, after 'Caesar' in 1997. The Masters of Rome series (a fictional history of the fall of the Roman Republic) has firmly placed the author at the very apex of historical fiction and (with the equally fine 'Anthony and Cleopatra') it will be considerable time before anyone produces anything better.
This book in the series picks up where `Caesar' left off with the ignominious death of Pompeius Magnus, with Caesar's arrival in Alexandria. There are X items that anyone with rudimentary knowledge of the period will anticipate to come in the novel, but the questions that remain to be answered is exactly how McCullough will deal with them. Namely, Caesar and Cleopatra, Caesar's murder, Antony and Cleopatra, and Octavian. Her answer is to focus on the increasing irreconcilability of Caesar's clemency and practical and political necessity. Caesar's failure to understand this, aptly commented on by Octavian as his only flaw being the dismissal of his lictors, may be due to the increasing weariness as he realises the task of empire management is far greater than one man.
The plot is no less than the shaking events that spanned Rome's demise as a republic and rebirth as an empire and I will not move into the details, suffice it to say the historical accuracy and chronology is remarkable.
The only minor issue is with character depiction. If the reader has studied the period in any depth then this is inevitable. Cicero's pusillanimous prevarication raises an eyebrow, given his intellectual lauding, however, the conceited undercurrents are excellent. Cleopatra's summation by Servilia as good at government without an ounce of commonsense seems a trifle harsh. Anthony's excesses have been hugely exaggerated. However, as there must be disagreements over character presentation, so must there be agreement and McCullough's depiction of Octavius, Agrippa, most of the Republican boni (including Brutus and Porcia) and, most of all, Cato is brilliant. Cato's unassuming anabasis counters Xenephon's in its stark simplicity and the sympathy the overtly stoical epitome of morality generates is remarkable.
So, we follow Caesar to his inexorable conclusion and discover McCullough doesn't have him utter the famous Shakespearian line, to his genius in selecting Gaius Octavius and the inevitable race towards Augustus' founding of the Principate.
This 2002 book was a long time coming and the wait has proven its worth just as the next five years was worth the publication of Anthony and Cleopatra in 2007. The entire Masters of Rome series is a magnificent exercise in historical fiction writing at its finest, and it is only a pity there is no intent to move onwards through the Empire. It stands out at the pinnacle of the genre (and will do for many years to come) and one any aspiring historical fiction author should read. This is a set of books that is highly recommended and if six stars were available, it would get it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pure entertainment, 8 July 2008
By 
Adam Graham Malster (Taiwan) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The October Horse (Masters of Rome) (Paperback)
This is a great book and a fine series of novels. I can't wait to read the final installment "Anthony and Cleopatra". The scope of this story is amazing. Africa, Syria, Egypt, Italy and Gaul are but a few of the locations for the action besides Rome. When you take into account what McCullough covers in the five novels previous to this it is indeed astounding.

To write a review here is almost to repeat what I said in my review for McCullough's Caesar. I have big problems with her description of Caesar as a superhuman force for good. There is definitely a lot of hero worship going on here. Despite an heroic description of Cato's march in Africa I think that the Republicans come off much too poorly for people who must have had their fair share of skill and intelligence. I'm sure that nobody in the ruling oligarchy had truly noble intentions but we are lead to believe that Caesar did.

Despite McCullough's obvious love for Caesar above all others I still really enjoyed the book and the series. By putting aside what I took to be the author's personal feelings about the characters I was able to learn an awful lot.

While McCullough's weakness is her pedestrian narrative her great strength is her knowledge and attention to detail. Overall I am grateful to her for expanding my knowledge of history and inspiring my interest in all things Roman.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The end at last!, 24 Oct 2003
By 
S. Flaherty "steve3742" (Nottingham) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The October Horse (Masters of Rome) (Paperback)
So, here it is. Must be nearly 10 years since I read 'The First Man in Rome' and so started on Colleen McCullough's 'Masters of Rome' series. Now, at last, the whole lot can be viewed as one.

This one follows right after the last, there's no annoying 5 year gap like there was between 'Caesar's Women' and 'Caesar' If you know anything about history (or even if you don't) you probably know a lot about what's going to happen. This book takes up the rest of the Civil War and - surprisingly - goes on past Caesar's famous assassination and onto the end of the second civil war with the battle of Phillipi, with Octavian/Augustus taking his first steps along the road that would make him the first emperor. I suppose McCullough had to add a postscript, she couldn't just end with the death of Caesar - after all, she began it before the birth of Caesar.

So what to say? Well, it's a worthy climax. The book is as good as any of its predecessors and also shares its faults. The main one, and this has been inherent throughout the series, is McCullough's hero-worship of Caesar (which seems to rub off onto Augustus by association) Caesar can do no wrong, in this book, hence Marcus Antonius' atrocities committed in Rome were all down to him, not Caesar. So she makes Antonius a deadly enemy of Caesar, a little strange considering how much power and responsibility Caesar entrusted him with. Not that I'm doubting that there was friction and rivalry between the two but I think she exaggerates in order to whitewash Caesar. And, likewise, she never gives any serious consideration to the idea that Caesar wanted to be emperor, even after the Civil War is over and Caesar is emperor in all but name, she has him going on about how he'd been forced to do this and how he'd have preferred to have just become one of the 'Grand Old Men' of the Senate but his enemies FORCED him to march on Rome and seize more power than any man in the world had known up until then. Poor guy! The incidents in which Caesar acted as though he'd like to be an emperor are all dismissed by McCullough as machinations of Marcus Antonius or (in one case) Caesar's health problems (she does something similar with Augustus, giving him asthma to explain why he ran away at the battle of Phillipi. She says she's as likely to be right as wrong seeing as ancient sources didn't know too much about health, but I think someone would have mentioned Augustus having asthma.)

And, as in its predecessor, you have the revolting spectacle of McCullough 'justifying' Caesar's atrocities in Spain, in terms of Realpolitik again. I am aware that people had different values 2,000 years ago, but a massacre is a massacre and even Thucydides could see that, 2,300 years ago. McCullough's 'justifications of this are as convincing as Slobodan Milosovich's or Ariel Sharon's and just as repellent.

That aside, though, this is a good end to the series. And the series as a whole is worth reading.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars October horse - a let down, 26 Dec 2002
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I am a huge fan of Colleen McCullough's Roman series, and waited impatiently for some 3 years for the last volume. What a disappointment! I still enjoyed it, it was still a vivid portrayal of late Republic Rome, but a vital ingredient was missing. It is hard to pinpoint what, but at times it was crass instead of witty, the characterisation was unsubtle, too black or white, and it just did not match up to the previous volumes for me at all. Even Caesar himself seemed to have lost some of his quality since the last volume, and I was left with a feeling that the author was now putting in information for the sake of it rather than because it was essential to the plot, and it often seemed not to be integrated with her old fluency. Sorry, but this, for me, fell far short of her usual magnificent standard.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great but have missed out/changed crucial passages, 14 Jun 2014
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Fantastic, although as its abridged they miss out crucial parts such as Catos motivations and life which is a shame
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Race Is Run., 2 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The October Horse (Masters of Rome) (Paperback)
McCullough's earlier books about the great characters around at the end of the Republic - Marius, Sulla, and especially Caesar, have been extremely readable, even if they are very detailed and slightly over long. My interpretation is that she was a great admirer of Caesar, but not quite so enthused by what came after!! Very understandable. Perhaps she should have stopped at the assassination of Julius!! However, very interesting, if you enjoy Roman history!!
Tom
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5.0 out of 5 stars The story continues, 4 May 2014
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Colleen McCullough has yet again excelled herself with the continuance of the story about the 'Masters of Rome'. This book continues with what happened after Caesar had been killed and the beginning of Octavian fight to be recognised as Caesar's heir.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Roman novel, 11 April 2014
By 
Stephen M. Lock "Hendonman" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Great Roman novel and enjoyed very much. A great intro to McCulloch's writing and she has provided me with a lot of enjoyable reading.
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