This is written like a political thriller. You meet all sorts of people racing across the vast Roman empire delivering secret and coded messages of great import, and sometimes those messengers are killed because other messengers don't want that message received. Meanwhile, back in the Capitol, Julius Caesar doesn't know whom to trust besides his doctor Antistius, his centurion Silius, and the absent centurion hero Publius Sextus. All of Rome is whispering, it seems, and despite his best efforts, the common people are starting to view Caesar as a ruler bent on becoming a tyrant - but how could they think that when he's done nothing but protect and defend them, and wants none of their power?
Me, personally, I didn't see how a political thriller can be all that thrilling when we know the outcome. It's like writing a novel about the race against time to stop the assassination of Lincoln, Kennedy, anybody - but the outcome will always be the same (unless you have a TARDIS and a hubrical sense of god-hood). The focus of this book seemed so much on messages getting delivered and defenses secured AGAINST the conspiracy, that I started to get bored about halfway through. We've been watching these separate messengers race across Rome for over 100 pages now, are they ever going to make it to the Capitol? I mean it's been 5 days and they're still running...
But then... something changed. I had started to care about certain messengers, and as the clock ticked down towards March 15th, I started to hope their sacrifices would be worth it. Even though I knew it couldn't happen any way but how history said it must. Also, I wasn't often confused by anyone's identity - especially given that just about everyone had 2 or 3 names to go by, it was usually pretty clear!
And as far as Shakespearean references, I felt really keyed in on the play during certain scenes (like the conspirators discussions, the death of Caesar, and in the aftermath), and some characters took on a new shade - what are Brutus and Cassius's motivations for wanting Caesar dead? Is the recent war with Pompey still hanging over their heads? Do they want a republic free from "tyranny"? Or do they just want what he has - the love of the people and the respect of the army? What part did Antony play in this conspiracy? Had he been informed? Why didn't he tell Caesar? Was the crown incident at Lupercalia really a conspiratorial ruse to oust Caesar in the popular opinion? Did Antony know that?
Like Caesar, you stop knowing whom to trust in Rome, and wish for those loyal to him to make it to his side before it's too late.
THIS IS OUR FIRST GIVEAWAY, Y'ALL!!
BEWARE THE IDES OF FREE STUFF!!!
Comment below with your favorite Shakespearean conspiracy theory, and you can win my gently used copy of this book. You have until next Saturday, March 24 at 11:59pm to post your theory - the winner will be chosen randomly and announced in the Miscellany on the 25th.
North American readers only, please, I'm sorry that I can't afford international shipping.
Now I'm off to the newest informal Folger holiday: The Ides of March-aritas. Best holiday ever? Probably.
- Reading level: Ages 18 and up
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Europa Editions (February 23, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1933372990
- ISBN-13: 978-1933372990