Roma by Steven Saylor

Roma by Steven Saylor(Cover picture courtesy of Liberia Estudio en Escarlata.)

Spanning a thousand years, and following the shifting fortunes of two families though the ages, this is the epic saga of Rome, the city and its people.


Weaving history, legend, and new archaeological discoveries into a spellbinding narrative, critically acclaimed novelist Steven Saylor gives new life to the drama of the city’s first thousand years — from the founding of the city by the ill-fated twins Romulus and Remus, through Rome’s astonishing ascent to become the capitol of the most powerful empire in history. Roma recounts the tragedy of the hero-traitor Coriolanus, the capture of the city by the Gauls, the invasion of Hannibal, the bitter political struggles of the patricians and plebeians, and the ultimate death of Rome’s republic with the triumph, and assassination, of Julius Caesar.


Witnessing this history, and sometimes playing key roles, are the descendents of two of Rome’s first families, the Potitius and Pinarius clans:  One is the confidant of Romulus. One is born a slave and tempts a Vestal virgin to break her vows. One becomes a mass murderer. And one becomes the heir of Julius Caesar. Linking the generations is a mysterious talisman as ancient as the city itself.


Epic in every sense of the word, Roma is a panoramic historical saga and Saylor’s finest achievement to date.

When I first started Roma I’ll admit I did have my doubts because of Steven Saylor’s telling rather than showing style of writing.  However, I got into the swing of things and actually began enjoying his pared-down style that reads almost like a more intimate nonfiction work about the lives of two ancient Roman clans.

One of the most obvious strengths of Steven Saylor’s writing is the historical accuracy of the novel.  He does change some events around and speculate about some things but where there was information available he stuck to the facts.  I like how he doesn’t play the origins of ancient Rome straight (i.e. with gods and such) but rather offers up some explanations for how the heck such fantastical stories about Rome’s founding came about.  It makes sense and it’s quite possible that some of these things actually happened in a similar way and that’s why I really loved how Steven Saylor stayed true to the history.

His characters are amazing.  Every single one has a different perspective and a very unique voice.  They all live in turbulent times in Rome’s history so of course their lives are fascinating but it’s how they deal with the changing times that really stands out.  Some of the earlier Pinarii are quite snobby about their patrician status; later when the family is poor that’s not really the case.  Of course some of the ideas presented by characters will seem utterly absurd to modern readers but they really capture the prevailing attitudes of the time.

I can’t in all honesty call the plot fast-paced but it was very interesting.  I mean, how could Roman history not be interesting?  We get to see the events surrounding the first sack of Rome, the rise of Julius Caesar, the Second Punic War, etc.  All of the major events during the Republic period of ancient Rome are here in the novel or at least are alluded to because the characters are still dealing with the aftereffects of said events.  It’s a fascinating look at Roman history and although there was more telling than showing I still thoroughly enjoyed Roma.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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The Week Ahead (#5)

Last week saw my stats go down in general, but at least my comments have remained consistent.  Outside of blogging I’ve been contemplating a new blogging business venture to help pay for my book habit and I’m actually pretty excited about launching it in the fall.  I’ll announce my plan closer to the date, but I think you guys will like it better than my proposed donating option.  Anyway…what am I doing this week besides dropping cryptic clues to torture you?

Monday

  • An article called ‘Writing Pitfalls: Dialogue’.  This article is the first in a planned ten part series designed to help authors with their writing, whether they’re just starting out or already have a few books under their belts.

Tuesday

Keeper of the King's Secrets by Michelle Diener

  • A review of Keeper of the King’s Secrets by Michelle Diener.  This is the sequel to the first book, In a Treacherous Court and I’m very excited to see how Michelle Diener’s writing has improved.

 

Wednesday

Roma by Steven Saylor

  • A review of Roma by Steven Saylor.  I was rather reluctant to start reading Roma but I’m about halfway through it at the time of writing this and so far it’s pretty good.  Sometimes there’s more showing than telling but Steven Saylor is a good storyteller.

 

Thursday

Evermore by Alyson Noel

  • A review of Evermore by Alyson Noel.  I’ve heard so much about this one and it’s been on my TBR pile for so long that I finally gave in and started reading it.  What have I got to lose?

 

 

Friday

  • Book Blast: 1066: What Fates Impose by G. K. Holloway
  • Book Blast: Destruction by Sharon Bayliss

Saturday

  • Discussion: Beta Reading.  If you’re a book blogger or author have you ever been a beta reader?  If so, how was it?  If not, would you ever consider being a beta reader?