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Colossus: The Four Emperors (Volume 2) by…
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Colossus: The Four Emperors (Volume 2)

by David Blixt

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Colossus: The Four Emperors is the second novel in David Blixt's Colossus series. The series is set in ancient Rome and Judea during the mid-1st century AD, at a time of immense political and religious change. Whereas the first novel in the series, Colossus: Stone and Steel, is principally set in Judea and features Hebrew protagonists, this novel takes place primarily in Rome and focuses on Romans characters. While a war is being waged in Judea under the generalship of Vespasian, Rome itself is embroiled in political unrest first under emperor Nero and then, following his death, when various opposing factions fight for political supremacy in what becomes known as the Year of the Four Emperors.

One of the things I enjoy most about David Blixt's novels is that they are chock full of rich historical detail. Combined with his eloquent and engaging prose, this detail allows Blixt to bring his subjects vividly to life. Colossus: The Four Emperors is no exception. The customs, beliefs and politics of Rome in the 1st century are seamlessly integrated into the narrative, giving the reader a real feel for the time period. The Year of the Four Emperors was a fascinating time in Roman history, and I enjoyed Blixt's interpretation of it, which showcases the political and military posturing that helped to define the period. While I'm generally not a fan of extensive battle sequences in novels, Blixt's are engaging and, as a result, I was never tempted to skim them. Another strength of this novel is its characters, who come right from the pages of history. Sabinus, the central character in the novel, is well-drawn and I appreciated his sense of honour and duty, and his devotion to his family. Sabinus' upstanding character and his approach to life contrasts greatly with those of the emperor Nero and the men of his inner circle. While I was familiar with Nero's reputation prior to reading this novel, I wasn't aware of the lengths to which he would go to shame or rid himself of his rivals and enemies, or of the activities he would permit and encourage in the name of entertainment (some of Nero's 'entertainments' prove to be rather disturbing). His immediate successors offered little improvement.

Although this novel is the second in a series, some of the events of this story take place at the same time as those of the first book, the only difference being the perspective from which the story is told (Book One: the Judeans, Book Two: the Romans). While Colossus: The Four Emperors can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, I recommend starting with the first book of the series as it gives important background to some of the sub-plots and secondary characters featured in this book. The series' third novel, Colossus: Wail of the Fallen, which will be published later this year, returns the story to ancient Judea and focuses on the fall of Jerusalem -- I'm looking forward to reading it, and revisiting the central characters of the first novel.

Highly recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction set in ancient Rome.

Source: I received a copy of this book as part of David Blixt's virtual book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review. ( )
  Melissa_J | Jan 16, 2016 |
This novel was absolutely enthralling! Once you pick it up, it's hard to put down! Not really a sequel to Book 1 in the series, this was more a telling the progression of events from the Roman side except for our following a mother and daughter, both Jewish slaves in a wealthy household in Rome. The novel follows events in Rome and the progress of the Jewish War from the Roman perspective [mainly those soon-to-be emperor Vespasian and son Titus]. First phase of the war is going well for them, especially with the help of the turncoat Jewish general, Josephus. Nero is becoming more and more demented. I could accept the graphic nature of the sexual orgy at a lake near his Golden House, in the context in which it was presented here. Upon Nero's suicide the country enters a period of chaos and civil war. The main character is a very sympathetic Titus Flavius Sabinus, nephew to Vespasian, the decent, upright Stoic. Upset after a prophecy of the Oracle at Delphi to which he had been summoned personally, he ruminates on the meaning of her cryptic words as pertaining to the whole situation and to he himself. That year plays itself out in horror and blood, with Vespasian left standing. Ironically, he has not advanced himself for supreme power.

I liked all the Flavians, even Domitian. Author speculated very logically why he turned out as horrible as he did: childhood neglect and a year as hostage to Nero in Greece that gave the final evil twist to his personality. Other more minor characters were well drawn, especially Spiros, Nero's boy-wife. His meeting with Clemens brought out Clemens's selfless side. I also liked Sabinus's rumination on what is a good death: one that you sacrifice yourself for something higher than yourself. His son, Clemens, will never forget that conversation. I wouldn't be surprised if the young man will use it as a guiding star for his own life. A small, poignant episode made an impression on me: a son kills his father by mistake in night battle; one is for Vetellius, one for Vespasian. The final horrific stand at the Temple of Jupiter between Vetellian and Flavian forces and civilian sympathizers was outstanding. Blixt put us right in the middle of that tumultuous period with his vivid writing style.

I can hardly wait for the continuation of the story!! Highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | May 8, 2015 |
The book was written fairly well, but the story was not one that engaged me. I do not like books that require a listing of characters with descriptions at the beginning or maps so that I can follow the story; this book had both. ( )
  eheinlen | Jan 8, 2014 |
I do love me an ancient Rome tale and this is one for the ages. David Blixt knows how to set the stage and draw his reader into the world he is creating. In this case it's the world of the Roman Empire in the time of Nero. We all know Nero; he was a little.....crazy. That left those living in his orbit in fear of saying or doing the wrong thing because he held the power of life and death over them. It's also a tale of the conflict of the advent of Christianity into the world and the revolt of Judea and its monotheism against Rome and its many gods. The Jews in Rome are often the scapegoats for anything that goes wrong. It was a time ripe for change. The rich and powerful are running things with little regard for the poor and the enslaved and the Empire is starting to crack.

This is the second book of four yet it is not a sequel per se, it's more of a bookend for lack of a better word. It tells the story of the Judean revolt from Rome's point of view through the eyes of a Roman citizen, Titus Flavius Sabinus. He's related to the general Nero places in charge of the Judean campaign so he hopes to rise as well. But it's not his fate. In fact he learns from the Oracle at Delphi that he will remain lost to history which devastates him. He does what he can to fight his fate but....

I cannot tell you how engaging this book is. It's not a quick read by any stretch but once you get into it, you will find it hard to pull yourself back out. There is a large cast of characters and with any Roman epic the names can sometimes get confusing but once you get it sorted and you adjust to the rhythm of the book you will not want to leave Ancient Rome. David Blixt is brilliant at setting scenes and creating characters that stay with you even long after you have finished. The smallest of details are finessed from the whitening of a tunic by a slave to the horrifying description of the aged Oracle at Delphi.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book and I cannot wait for the next two volumes in this detailed and well researched epic covering one of my favorite periods in history. It's one of those books that just pulls you in and doesn't let you go. ( )
  BrokenTeepee | Oct 22, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 061578318X, Paperback)

Rome under Nero is a dangerous place. His cruel artistic whims border on madness, and any man who dares rise too high has his wings clipped, with fatal results. For one family, Nero's whims mean either promotion or destruction. While his uncle Vespasian goes off to put down a rebellion in Judea, Titus Flavius Sabinus struggles to walk the perilous line between success and notoriety as he climbs Rome's ladder. When Nero is impaled on his own artistry, the whole world is thrown into chaos and Sabinus must navigate shifting allegiances and murderous alliances as his family tries to survive the year of the Four Emperors. The second novel in the Colossus series.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:50 -0400)

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