The Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden

I’ve always enjoyed reading about Roman history and wanted a (slight) change of scene from all the SFF I’ve been reading over the last few years. These have been on my radar for a good few years now so decided to finally give them a shot.

Set during the end of the Roman Republic, we start off with Gaius Julius Caesar as a youth with his best friend Marcus. Gaius is the son of a Roman Senator while Marcus is a kind of adopted son to his father as well. What follows is a slightly rambling account of his early years as Gaius comes under the patronage of Marius as he competes with Sulla and Marcus makes a name for himself in the legions.

The author makes a note at the end for the choices he made to tell a good story. I can see why he chose some of them but others baffle me. If Marcus really is that Marcus Brutus then I really confused why he would make them as brothers and the same age, rather than the more father/son age dynamic they really had. I also wish he had gone more in depth with Marius and Sulla as they were the main drivers of the plot in the book but we had hardly anything from their POV. I think it would have been better to leave them out all together than just include the few paragraphs they had.

Though the pacing was a bit all over the place I still did enjoy the read. There was a bit of info dumping but nothing too major as the author seemed to really be trying to get us to understand the two main protagonists. I think he did well enough though there was a definite modern sensibility to them that I doubt was really there. There is also another POV from a slave girl that seemed a bit superfluous but I think it was there to show the other side of Roman society. I’m not sure that succeeded.

Not the best book I’ve ever read, and nothing compared to McCullough’s Masters of Rome series, but it flowed at a good pace and I’ll continue on to the next book. It was a debut and hopefully with there being more of a record of these later years the author won’t be making as many strange historical changes.

3 stars

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