The world is a confused mess in the 7th century. Rome has crumbled and there are no Caesars notorious enough to write about, nor has Europe coalesced around monarchs worth chronicling. Yet that’s the setting Richard Blake has chosen for a series of tales introduced by “Conspiracies of Rome,” a novel focusing on Aelric, a comely youth who hopes to bring ancient learning back to his native England. Suffice to say, he’s quickly seduced by events and people he encounters in what remains of the ancient capital, a city torn by religious and political conflict.
Informed by Blake’s impressive scholarship, “Conspiracies of Rome” is alternatively fascinating and dull. Aelric is a charismatic if unfocused protagonist capable of all manners of behavior, but then he’s nineteen in this story and narrating the tale from the perspective of considerable age. So we know he survives.
The question is whether to follow him into subsequent volumes and it’s a toss-up. Blake writes confidently but doesn’t always do a good job explaining the complex forces competing for power in the crumbling empire. Fortunately, the final chapters of “Conspiracies of Rome” are spirited and include surprises enough to make looking into the next episode plausible.
- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton; 1 edition (1 April 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0340951125
- ISBN-13: 978-0340951125
- Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 24 x 3.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 662 g
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