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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