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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 February 2007
This is volume 2 of McCullough's massive 6 book series, and follows the decline of Marius into illness and madness, and the ruthless rise of Sulla. The two men, once friends and mentor/apprentice, become enemies, and draw the Roman world into their bloody conflict.

McCullough is excellent at sticking to the sources and yet bringing the characters and events to real life. No-one is a single-dimensional hero or villain, and the moral complexities of the age are delineated marvellously.

This is a little-known period of history, and McCullough is excellent at conveying the unease and political turbulence that was to eventually brind down the Republic.
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on 8 January 2008
Colleen McCullough was born in Australia. A neurophysicist, she established the department of neurophysiology at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney She then worked as a researcher and teacher at Yale Medical School for ten years. She is the author of the record-breaking international bestseller The Thorn Birds and her series of books on Rome have also been bestsellers. Colleen lives on Norfolk Island in the Pacific with her husband.

Colleen McCullough has been one of my favourite authors ever since I read this book many years ago. Her research on the subject and her feel for the period of history she is writing about is second to none. The only slight criticism that I have with the books on Rome and it is probably outside the author's control is that the books are so detailed that the number of characters that become part of the story is so large that it is sometimes difficult to keep track of them all, but this is a small price to pay for the enjoyment the books give the reader.

The First Man in Rome begins the series and the reader is introduced to Gaius Marius, one of Rome's greatest and most successful generals. Wealthy but from a low born family. A man who has pulled himself up by his boot straps and on the other side of the coin, Cornelius Sulla, a man from well bred stock. Both men have a driving ambition, both want to be the `The First Man in Rome'. There ambition drives them forward and will lay the foundations for the greatest empire known to mankind.

In the Grass Crown Gaius Marius is aging and not a well man but sheer strength of will continues to drive forward the man who conquered Germany and Numdia. After all was it not foretold all those long years ago that he would be consul of Rome for an unprecedented seventh time. It is a prize that will not be gained easily. There are many who would like to see him fall, not least Lucius Cornelius Sulla, once his most trusted right hand man but now his most dangerous rival . . .
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on 16 December 2003
First,if you plan to read "Grass crown" -you should start from the beggining-and that is "First man in Rome"!This book continues where the "First man in Rome" ended.Maybe first 100 pages or so are a little boring and fluid,but don't let that dissapoint you,the rest of the book is excellent.The author, Colleen McCullough,based all of her "roman" books on firm historical facts so anybody who knows anything about Marius and Sulla ,and the civil war in Rome that they started, will know where this book leads...so i don't intend to write any spoilers here.Just read the book,those ~1000 pages are worth of your time!
I would recommend it to all of you who,like me,love reading about ancient Rome,its life,turmoils,ups and downs and great Romans who created world history.But also, i think "Grass crown" is deffinitely must read for everybody who appriciate GOOD book!
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on 15 July 1999
As in her first book "The First Man in Rome" this second novel of the series from C. McCullough covers a time you probably have not heard much about when you were taught history or Latin in school. So you will hold most of what is told here to be just a fictitious story. Of course you recognise some of the more illustrious names, but it is all too weird, too bloody, too chaotic to really have happened. But amazingly, when you start to do some research yourself, it all turns out to be as the scholarly, mostly unreadable books about the subject describe it. I have indeed not found one (!) description in "The Grass Crown" that would be in contradiction to antic sources or learned guesses (McCullough identifies her own guesses at the end).I have even rebought that old Sallust "Bellum Iugurthinum" I burned after my graduation. Having read a lot of books about that time now, I still would give this to my children to teach them about the time, of course only when they are old enough to stomach the sex and violence so openly described in this absolutely stunning book. Just one thing: The utter admiration shown of G. Iulius Caesar by McCullough may be a bit too much if measured against the real historic person, but that seems forgivable...
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on 11 October 2000
I adore her characterisation of Sulla. Whilst it still reads as very informative and text bookish the characterisation of Sulla, which is far more accurate than one might ever have dreamed, so far as the primary sources would indicate, is strong and compelling. For all his vices - and they are considerable - I can't help but admire him enormously. A brilliant read but not for the fainthearted.
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This sequel continues the story of Marius, one of the greatest generals that Rome had ever known, and his student and rival, Sulla. Julius Caesar is also a child prodigy in it and the familiar cast of characters from the first volume are back as well. As far as new characters go, there are the brutal "oriental" despot Mithradates, Ciciero, and the ambitious Pompey family. They are all believable and very interesting as well as embodiments of possible roman futures in a way that most history books do not explore. The characters also evolve, which adds a depth that makes it all the more believable.

It is about a very sad era in Rome, with the republican institutions in precipitous decline as powerful generals rise, whose troops are more loyal to them than to the Roman Republic. The descent into barbarism is horrific and brilliantly delineated by McCullough, who has done a superb job of historical research. Just as Marius' star is waning - and his decline from the great and far-thinking man he was makes for depressing reading - so Sulla's time has arrived.

I do not know of a better way to live in a different era than historical novels. This series is so masterly, so fascinating in detail, and so fast-moving in plot and action that it is one of the best that I have ever read. Warmly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 28 March 2009
I have the whole series of the "Masters of Rome", I read them again and again from start to finish of the series. ALL are brilliantly written, later books have a short synopsis of the previous volume. They also have..at the end a brilliant glossary of the Latin terms, very helpful I found.
So please start at the first book "The First Man in Rome" and continue in the order of writing, then like me you will treasure them and read every couple of years through the whole lot again !
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on 14 August 2013
Having read the excellent 'First Man in Rome' I was highly excited for the coming clash between Marius and Sulla.

However, the few faults of the first book are exacerbated here and really make for a turgid and painful read.

Firstly, whilst the use of many perspectives was a strength in the first book, here it just takes away from the central narrative to the point where I'm not even sure what the central narrative was. I chose to read this book mainly because I was interested in Sulla and Marius, two men who do not feature greatly in literature. I do not want to read about in such length about people like Drusus, Caepios and Aurelias.

Whilst this somewhat benefited the main story in the first book, here it is just excruciatingly frustrating. The narrative meanders for sometimes 20 pages at a time about inanities when it could be furthering the story. It detracts from the main characters and I found it made the whole book a convoluted and unnecessarily long affair.

Secondly, similiar to the above point, I also found the letters sent by Rutilius Rufus extremely long and boring. As a plot device to tell us what is happening in Rome when the characters are away it is a sound idea, but his prose is incredibly frustrating, I share Marius' consternation in reading his letters. This, to the authors credit is probably what she intended to do, as Rutilius considered himself a man of purple letters, but it is still very boring to read when you want the story to advance, and it constantly bogs down in pointless passages.

Thirdly, whereas I was astounded by her literary skill in the first book, I felt that in this book, she falls prey to all the tired cliches used by numerous sub-standard 'authors' of Roman fiction. One notable example of this is her depiction of Gaius Julius Caesar. When he is first introduced, he is only 22 months old, yet she waxes lyrical already about his precociousness and intelligence to the point where the whole thing becomes farcical.

It is a perfect example of letting hindsight and admiration for a historical figure skewer her writing. Whilst we obviously expect to read about him and his abilities in a admiring way, I do not expect to be reading about a child prodigy, already portrayed as more intelligent than all the other characters in the book at two years old!

All in all, the book is painfully slow to move, OVERLY descriptive, features too many characters points of view, and commits the unforgivable crime of keeping banal characters in purely because she wants to use them in the sequels. This is akin to ruining the proper conclusion of a film, just because you want to make it clear that you are making a sequel.

I feel let down because I was so very excited to read about the falling out between Marius and Sulla,and the titanic clash that followed, but felt robbed of this experience.
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on 11 August 2013
This is part ll of Vl. I loved part l and ditto part ll. The amount of research that CMcC has undertaken is breathtaking. I'm no expert on Roman history but the amount of detail this book contains, much of which must be historically accurate, is staggering. But this is no history text book. This is the next chapter in an engrossing story which grabbed me from page one of book one and is carrying me along with it. The characters are so fully described that I can see them standing in front of me while the writing style covers complex scenes with ease. If I have any criticism it is of the maps provided which are hand drawn and could, in my opinion, be better. There is a comprehensive (and necessary) glossary at the end of the book because CMcC takes no prisoners when it comes to describing Roman customs, military terms, legal terms and the Roman system of government, not to mention the complicated Roman nomenclature and family relationships. Brilliant.
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on 6 June 2014
When I close my eyes after reading even a few pages from these books, I am there, with Marius, listening in to the conversations, the intrigue, the tumultuous events that unfold. Make no mistake, these books are epic in size and achievement. I am regretful that CM is one of the first female authors I've read - not through any misguided or derogatory view on female authors, only that I always felt that it would be impossible to connect with them as a man. How wrong and naive that sentiment was. Dive into these novels and you will be transported. The level of detail, the research, the sense of foreboding, of impending doom or climactic satisfaction for these rich and multi-faceted characters is laced throughout the narrative and I am just glad that there are as many in the series as there are. Go on. Dive in. Join them.
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