Both of the previous books in the Emperor series, The Gates of Rome and The Death of Kings, have been thoroughly enjoyable reads in which Iggulden tells the story of the rise of Julius Caesar. As with all the books in this series Iggulden has to cover quite a bit of historical ground the end of Caesar’s posting in Spain, his election to consul, his conquest of Gaul, and ends with the line, "As the sun rose, the veteran legions of Gaul crossed the Rubicon and marched on Rome."
I honestly do not know what to say about this book. While Iggulden’s prose is enjoyable, it is his characters which really make the book worth reading. He has a knack for telling the reader everything they need to know about a character in one scene without making the character feel like a sketch or a cliché. It is because of this, more than any other factor, that Iggulden has become one of my favorite authors, so much so that I have dispatched one of my
minions friends to Britain to fetch me Wolf of the Plains, the first book of his new series about Genghis Khan. (Of course he, my minion friend, will tell you he went back because it was his mom’s birthday, and we should allow him to cling to this thin fiction, but we all know the truth. Okay, back to semi-serious stuff.) The only room for improvement that I see is in how Iggulden constructs his narrative. Between some chapters there will be significant jumps in time and there is nothing to indicate these shifts except for a throw away line early in the chapter, which can, at times, be disorienting. In the end this is only a minor quibble which does not detract from my enjoyment of the book.
The best way I know how to recommend this book is to tell you that I read the almost 600 pages in about a week and once I was done I immediately went to the bookstore to pick up the final volume in the series, The Gods of War. (Sadly they did not have it yet somehow I still managed to spend over $40 at the bookstore.)
When I read the following quote I thought it would make the perfect tageline for a movie trailer:
“From this day, all tribal disputes are ended. Let no Gaul kill one of his people when we shall need every sword against the enemy. When there is dissent, use my name,” Cigento said softly, “Tell them Vercingetorix calls them to arms.”
Too bad Vercingetorix looses in the end.