Brilliant…stunning," raved the Los Angeles Times about Conn Iggulden's first novel, Emperor: The Gates of Rome. "Iggulden is a grand storyteller," declared USA Today. Now Iggulden returns to the landscape of ancient Rome and the life of Julius Caesar in a new novel filled with all the sumptuous storytelling that distinguished his first book. Sweeping from the windswept, pirate-ruled seas to the stifling heat of the Roman senate, Iggulden takes us further down the path to glory as Julius Caesar comes into his own as a man, warrior, senator, husband, leader.In a sweltering, sparsely settled region of North Africa, a band of disheveled soldiers turn their eyes toward one man among them. Ragged, dirty, and half starved, the men will follow their leader into the mad, glorious fight for honor and revenge that only he wants to fight. Their leader is named Julius Caesar. The soldiers are Roman legionaries.
After what was in effect a preamble-Emperor: The Gates of Rome (2003)-Julius Caesar takes center stage in this second fast-moving, action-oriented installment in Iggulden's projected four-book retelling of the Roman emperor's saga. Julius, a rising young officer assigned to the Roman-controlled northern coast of Africa, distinguishes himself in a bloody raid on the fortress of Mytilene only to have his transport ship captured by pirates. He and the crew are thrown into the hold to rot while awaiting a ransom that will likely ruin his young family back in Rome. After the ransom arrives, Julius gathers his loyal men and marches along the coast, impressing the locals (pirate collaborators all) into military service. He makes good on his bloody promise to wipe out the pirates, then takes his forces to Greece, where, at long odds, he defeats old king Mithridates, who is leading an insurrection that threatens Roman rule in all of Greece. Julius returns to Rome victorious and rich-only to find that the corruption and thuglike violence at the heart of the Republic has come near to destroying those he holds dear, including his wife and small daughter. Those looking for depth of character may be disappointed that Julius Caesar is pictured as little more than a man gripped by driving ambition. Iggulden does a better job in weaving an intricate and compelling tapestry of Roman underling and slave life, with several well-developed minor characters whose craftiness, loyalty and heroics far overshadow those of their social betters. (Mar. 9) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2003
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Excerpt from Emperor: The Death of Kings by Conn Iggulden
The fort of Mytilene loomed above them on the hill. Points of light moved on the walls as sentries walked their paths in the darkness. The oak-and-iron gate was shut and the single road that led up the sheer slopes was heavily guarded.
Gaditicus had left only twenty of his men on the galley. As soon as the rest of the century had disembarked, he had ordered the corvus bridge pulled in and Accipiter slid back from the dark island, the oars barely splashing in the still seawaters.
The galley would be safe from attack while they were gone. With all lights forbidden, she was a blot of darkness that enemy ships would miss unless they came right into the small island harbor.
Julius stood with his unit, waiting for orders. Grimly, he controlled his excitement at seeing action at last after six months of coastal patrol. Even with the advantage of surprise, the fort looked solid and dangerous and he knew scaling the walls was likely to be bloody. Once more, he examined the equipment, testing each rung of the ladders he had been issued, moving amongst the men to make sure they had cloths tied around their sandals for silence and better grip on the climb. There was nothing out of place, but his men submitted to the checks without complaint, as they had twice before since landing. He knew they would not disgrace him. Four were long-term soldiers, including Pelitas, who had ten years of galley experience behind him. Julius had made him the Second in the unit as soon as he realized the man had the respect of most of the crew. He had previously been overlooked for promotion, but Julius had seen the quality behind the casual approach to uniform and the quite astonishingly ugly face on the man. Pelitas had quickly become a staunch supporter of the new young tesserarius.
The other six had been picked up in Roman ports around Greece, as Accipiter made up her full complement. No doubt some of them had dark histories, but the requirements for a clean record were often ignored for galley soldiers. Men with debts or disagreements with officers knew their last chance for a salary was at sea, but Julius had no complaints. His ten men had all seen battle, and to listen to them tell their stories was like a summary of the progress of Rome in the last twenty years. They were brutal and hard, and Julius enjoyed the luxury of knowing they wouldn't shirk or turn away from the dirty jobs--like clearing the Mytilene fort of rebels on a summer night.
Gaditicus walked through the units, speaking to each officer. Suetonius nodded at whatever he was told and saluted. Julius watched his old neighbor, feeling fresh dislike but unable to pin it to any one thing in the young watch officer. For a year, they had worked together with a frosty politeness that now seemed unbreakable. Suetonius still saw him as the young boy he and his friends had tied and beaten a lifetime before. He knew nothing of his experiences since then and had sneered as Julius told the men what it was like to come into Rome at the head of a Triumph with Marius. The events in the capital were only distant rumor to the men on board, and Julius felt he wasn't believed by some of Tonius's friends. It was galling, but the first hint of tension or fighting between units would have meant demotion to the ranks.