As ever, Colleen McCullough captures the very flavor of an ancient culture. Anyone interested in the lives and events of the Roman Empire should be fascinated, as I was, with this and all her novels of that world-changing city-state. The sense of adventure is a constant in her telling of history and the characters have distinct personalities. Just when you start feeling a familiarity with one, their response or actions in a given circumstance will sharply demonstrate how different the thinking and mores were. This is one of the most thoroughly enjoyable historical novels I have ever read. For readers who agree with me, I also heartily recommend "First Man in Rome."
If you are truly a fan of vampire fiction, as opposed to vampire romance novels, do NOT miss Robin McKinley's "Sunshine." I enjoyed this book from first line to last.
In this genre, most new vampire books - especially vampire series - are simply a version of Harlequin-style romances in which the word "vampire" has been substituted for the word "earl," or "pirate," or "plantation owner." They tend to be a set of more or less explicit sex scenes loosely connected by predictable plot line and sometimes rather ghastly attempts at humor.
"Sunshine" actually has something new to say about vampires and their relationship with the human race. The world of "Sunshine" is original and contains a consistent internal culture. Delightfully, it is not obvious in the first paragraphs, and the unfolding of it was a pleasure. There is a plot, there are characters and character development, there is conflict, and there is a marvelous amount of tension.
It is the best new vampire book I've read since Laurel Hamilton's first few novels.
I can only hope Ms. McKinley writes more!
"Conspirata" is the story of Cicero during and after his Roman consulship. It was a period of intrigues and power plays, with patricians and plebes struggling for dominion. Winding though all the plots is the crafty and subtle hand of Julius Caesar, carefully building towards replacing the government of the Republic with his autocratic rule. In these times, courts were influenced not merely by facts in a case, but by the legal representatives oratatorical skill, dignitas and authoritas. Cicero is portrayed as complex character of faults and honor. He overcomes humble ancestry with superior ability and a genius for oratory. This is, in my opinion, an excellent and consistently fascinating novel.
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