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on 9 April 2017
I wasn't expecting to love this book as much as I did, but it really surpassed my expectations. The amount of research that Harris has put into it is astounding, and yet despite the historical accuracy it's also a genuine page turner.
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on 22 October 2017
This is a great read particularly if you like historical fiction. Usually the combination between this genre and Rome arrives at Caesar, and while he appears in this, Harris' main thrust is Cicero. The story of Cicero's road to achieving the consulship of Rome is told through the eyes of his trusted slave and secretary Tiro as he looks back over his own life. Cicero's commitment to developing his skills as an orator, his branding as a 'man of the people' and his battles with the the echelons of Rome's rich and aristocratic make for absorbing reading. Imperium is the first book in Harris' Cicero trilogy so I've now got Lustrum (#2) and Dictator (#3) down on my to-read list.
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on 17 November 2017
These are brilliant books but I would definitely recommend reading them in order:
- Imperium
- Lustrum
- Dictator
(which I did and was glad I did)
First two much better than the last in my opinion but third is still good. I never really studied Rome or classical civilisations but these books are said to be incredibly well-researched, based on history but obviously hugely dramatised too. Very well-crafted and a hard-to-put-down style. I really felt I knew Cicero by the end of the 3rd book (at least the Harris version of Cicero). I may have even shed a tear for all the sadness but perhaps that was for the comparisons to our present day world.
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on 7 March 2017
I have just read this novel for the second time and find it just as gripping and intriguing as the first. Highly recommend.
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on 25 October 2017
I hesitate between three and four stars. This is a relatively painless way of catching up on the history of ancient Rome at the time of the transition from republic to empire. My guess is that the factual basis of the story is pretty accurate, but if you know anything about it, you shouldn't expect new insights into history. This is the first of three books cast in the form of a three-part biography of Cicero, and he seems to have been a fascinating character, and was certainly a great writer and thinker as well as politician who played a key role. The book is written like a middle-brow thriller. Harris knows how to keep up the narrative tension, but he has no pretensions to style, and there are no surprising thoughts or ideas.
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on 28 January 2016
The Cicero Trilogy makes sense of a complicated and fascinating period of history. If you want detailed characterisation or a sense of psychological motivation, then look elsewhere - but neither is really necessary here. Harris' purpose seems to be to lay out and explain the rich plot, twists of fate and astonishing skulduggery that made up this period of Roman history. His style is not high literature, but the story barely needs it. The power struggles and fascinating gossip of the time are shown here, with sufficient clarity and drive to disentangle the many strands of Rome's political families. I learned a great deal about Rome, its politics and social history without feeling that I was reading a dry text book. I really recommend this and its two companion books in the trilogy.
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on 28 December 2015
Do not doubt Harris's ability to write outstanding historical novels. If you need evidence , look only at the millions of books he has sold. "Imperium", the first of the currently fashionable trilogies, introduces us to Cicero and follows his path to power in ancient Rome. Harris tells the story via the medium of notes kept by a slave - Tiro - who is credited with inventing shorthand. This technique has been used before and works acceptably. Harris spins a compelling tale but does not afford any new or convincing insight into the character or motivation which drove Cicero. The portrayal is detailed but lacks the real depth or perception which can be seen in a novel such as "Augustus" written many years ago by John Williams. The great strength of "Imperium" is the meticulous research which underpins the story although I found some of the details to be somewhat unnecessary and verging on the "show-off" without adding much to the story.
Very few will read this novel and not move on to the next in the series.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 24 April 2016
This is a delightful combination of entertainment, quality writing and, for those like me who have forgotten the very small amount they ever absorbed in school history lessons, educational.

Harris both dramatises and explains the politics of Rome just before the rise of Caesar, and does so brilliantly. It is a fascinating story and reveals universal themes in the working of power that are illuminating today and surprisingly relevant to the problems of greed and inequality that are challenging western democracies today.
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on 4 March 2016
Personally I really enjoy the fictionalising of historic events rather than just dry facts and in this trilogy Rorbert Harris presents the life of Cicero seen through the eyes of Tiro, his slave and secretary really well.

When a book captures my imagination, I can't put it down and find myself using every spare moment in the day to read a few pages further into the story and that was certainly the case with this, I had already purchased and downloaded the other two books before being halfway through the first!

Funnily enough because of how well Harris portrayed events, I have since downloaded the actual letters and speeches of Cicero and find it so much interesting to read them in context to the events as described in the books.

Hope this may be of help to potential readers new to this author with an interest in history and the love of a great plot.
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on 10 September 2012
Set in the dying days of the Roman Republic, Marcus Cicero begins his ascent through the ranks of the senate to become one of the most powerful men in Rome. But the path to becoming the famous orator we now know is strewn with dangerous men who would see a high-minded lawyer dead in a ditch to get what they want. Men like Pompey and Julius Caesar who are looking to destroy democracy for a military dictatorship and absolute power.

Robert Harris writes another fantastic novel, his second Roman novel (after "Pompeii") and the first to feature Cicero as main character. He effortlessly creates the Roman world for the reader so that you can really see and feel what it's like to live in this time, detailing the numerous social structures and customs that are completely alien to 21st century people. He brilliantly chooses Cicero's slave Tiro to be the narrator of the story, a man who was Cicero's right hand man but also created short-hand so that it seems plausible that so much detail could be put into the book when someone who was there could conceivably have recorded it all.

But I will say the first half of the book is the better half. The first sees Cicero take on a corrupt governor of Sicily as he builds a case against the man and the reader is introduced to the brutality of Roman law and punishment ("miles and miles of crucifixions") and the showdown in the courtroom. Despite being set in antiquity it reads like a contemporary legal thriller such as you might expect from John Grisham, and the book really takes off.

The second half is where things become extremely complicated. There is a conspiracy to take down the Republic and create an absolute ruler, an Emperor, which we know will be Julius Caesar, and so there is endless discussions over elections, bribing voters, legal discussions of ruling, and so on that become the main focus of this second part. Throw in dozens of Roman names which make it hard to keep track of the plot, and the complications of the Roman voting system, and the momentum built up in the first half of the book completely fizzles out in the second.

That said, "Imperium" is an incredible achievement by Harris who has crafted a well-researched, completely viable ancient thriller that is believable, informative, and well written. Intelligent and compelling to read (for the most part anyway), it is well worth a look for fans of Robert Harris but also those interested in Roman history who want to see some of history's biggest names come to life on the page. Despite it's problems, I'm fully invested in Cicero's plight and will definitely pick up the sequel.
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