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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and very enjoyable
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.
Published on 18 May 2012 by Signalman

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite a Roman Romp...
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...
Published on 26 Feb 2012 by Erastus Rosemond


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite a Roman Romp..., 26 Feb 2012
This review is from: Conspiracies of Rome (Paperback)
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
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This review is from: Conspiracies of Rome (Paperback)
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
By 
J. Cooper (Sheffield, England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Conspiracies of Rome (Paperback)
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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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What a disappointment, 11 Nov 2009
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D. Donnelly-Wood "ddw" (Newcastle upon tyne, Englandio/x-midi) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Conspiracies of Rome (Paperback)
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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39 of 50 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Am I reading the same book as everyone else? Is it just me who thinks this is rubbish?, 13 April 2009
By 
Kev Partner "Writer, geek, dad." (Alton, Hamshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Conspiracies of Rome (Paperback)
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". "You can make this easy for us or hard for yourself" he said "You'll take us to them letters if you knows what's best for you." Very sophisticated.

Blake insists on using modern day vernacular without any real skill. There's certainly nothing worse than when a poor author uses cod-medieval language in an attempt to add atmosphere...except when a poor author uses the F word countless times to achieve the same. This wouldn't work even if it had been done well as it lends a modernist feel to an ancient time period but in Blake's hands it's a disaster.

The only similarity this book bears to the greats of historical fiction is the set-up. An ancient priest sits in his cell writing his life story at the request of his superiors. Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles anyone? If you haven't read those three books then go off and do that now, they are several orders of magnitude better than this.

The setup would have been forgivable if the end result had been carried off with any panache but, honestly, I can't imagine what Hodder & Stoughton thought they were doing publishing it in its current form. Presumably they respected Blake's academic credentials which I'm sure are excellent. Indeed, he drops into "lecture mode" on several occasions including an in-depth description of how papyrus is made. This would be a forgivable indulgence if the rest of the book was up to the mark but, as a novelist, Blake is decidedly amateurish.

I appreciate my view is in the minority when compared to the other reviewers here on Amazon and I can't explain that. To me, this is a book without virtue set in a time period that I find fascinating. As a fan of historical fiction, this should have suited me down to the ground and this is what made it especially frustrating. I don't have any particular axe to grind with Blake himself: I don't know him at all and would have very much preferred to be positive but I have to be honest.

Just to be clear, this isn't about me just not liking the book. This is a book that is not fit for purpose. The publishers should be ashamed of themselves for allowing it to be released in such a sorry state and, furthermore, for commissioning a follow-up!

This whole sorry episode goes to show that the prime requirement for being a great historical novelist is that you are a great NOVELIST. A great writer can do the research and write an excellent book (Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow, Conn Igulden) but being a historian does not, in itself, mean you can write historical novels. This is a sad example of exactly that point. Sorry Richard, but you're no writer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, 21 Aug 2014
This review is from: Conspiracies of Rome (Paperback)
I was looking for a similar genre to the Flashman Novels. This was certainly different, but also very good. Apart from being a very good read the Author crams in alot of background about the historical context. This might be be daunting for some but with my schoolboy Latin and interest in history I so enjoyed this novel I went and got the rest of the series.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling reading, 27 Aug 2014
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This is the first of the Aelric books, a first person historical thriller that alagamates deeply rich historical narrative with a fast paced intrigue.
Look out for the chase which is nearly equal in tension to that of Stokers Dracula. As always, a touch of Flashman about it too!
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Agree with the above!!!!, 12 May 2008
By 
MayGoodComeToUs (Rome, Lazio, ITALY) - See all my reviews
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 the motivation to read more Roman history but a very good starting point! Buy this book! Keep it in your library forever!
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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable!, 16 Mar 2008
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This review is from: Conspiracies of Rome (Hardcover)
This is quite simply the best historical novel I have ever read. From the quiet opening on page 1 to the shattering revelations that only end on page 356, this grabbed and held my attention. If you like Stephen Saylor, if you like Ellis Peters, if you enjoyed the BBC/HBO series 'Rome' on TV - if you like Mary Renault and the historical fiction of Gore Vidal and 'The Name of the Rose' and 'The Da Vinci Code' - you will love this. Read this, and you can see and smell Rome after the Fall. NB - contains violence and strong language and descriptions of a sexual nature.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 23 Oct 2010
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This review is from: Conspiracies of Rome (Paperback)
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. I was fascinated by his portrayal of Rome, a city mostly in ruins but still, by the standards of the day, a great city. Equally well portrayed is his main character, Aelric, an immensely charismatic young barbarian (a Briton)who rattles around Rome and effectively makes it his own! The book has great pace, lots of adventure and is well researched and well written. I really recommend it!
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Conspiracies of Rome
Conspiracies of Rome by Richard Blake (Hardcover - 21 Feb 2008)
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