Emperor: The Blood of Gods by Con Iggulden

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Historical Fiction

By Eleanor Fitzsimons

Ten years after the publication of the first book in his Emperor series, Emperor: The Gates of Rome (2003) and eight years after the fourth instalment appeared, bestselling author Conn Iggulden has completed the cycle with a much anticipated fifth book called Emperor: The Blood of Gods. This new episode opens with a vivid description of the bloody assassination of Emperor Julius Caesar, Iggulden’s main protagonist in earlier instalments and a man he has brought vividly to life. It is to the author’s great credit that this book does not suffer from the early loss of such a dominant figure. What follows is a compelling tale of bloody retribution, shrewd political manoeuvring and epic combat.

Hailed as heroes, Caesar’s twenty-three assassins, led by the traitorous general Marcus Brutus set about mapping out the future of an empire under their control. Few dare oppose them but those who do prove to be powerful enemies. The most prominent of these men is Caesar’s adopted son and chosen heir, seventeen-year-old Gaius Octavian, the man who will one day become Augustus Caesar. The young man forms an alliance of convenience with his old rival, master orator Marc Antony, once a staunch ally of the murdered emperor. Together they turn public opinion in their favour and raise an avenging army to march into battle in Caesar’s memory in a bid to restore Rome to its former glory. But victory is by no means certain, and they meet fierce resistance from Brutus and his followers.

Iggulden is a prolific writer and attributes his storytelling gene in large part to his Irish mother and seanchaí great-grandfather. In the gaps between his Emperor books he completed a five book series on Genghis Khan and his grandson, Kublai Khan; he travelled extensively throughout Mongolia in order to immerse himself in their alien world. He has also written a number of children’s book and collaborated with his brother Hal in the compilation of the hugely popular The Dangerous Book for Boys.

Earlier this year Iggulden announced a move to Penguin and a new series of historical novels based on the War of the Roses; the first of these, Stormbird will be published in October 2013. While we can all look forward to this new series and probably many more, fans of Iggulden’s forays into earlier history will be delighted to discover that his pleasure in returning to ancient Rome is palpable on every page of Emperor: The Blood of Gods.

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