History books can be ones that present the reader with a set of facts, with little or no narrative. They can be overly academic and not an attractive read for a Sunday afternoon. This one is different, very different.

Tom Holland has a knack of providing us with sound academic research in riveting story form and his energetic and enthusiastic style makes it a ‘cannot put it down’ read. His books (he has written others like this) move along at a good pace, keeping the pot boiling, not allowing our interest to wane.

We’ve all heard of the Rubicon, but what was its significance in the blood-soaked end of the republic? Why did Caesar decide to invade Rome itself, the capital of the greatest superpower the world had known? Was it a Rome that had overstretched itself and fallen into decadence, heralding the rise of kingships again? If so, why did he think it was his job to rescue it? What was his real motive and what were the risks?

Tom Holland’s take on this final chapter in Rome’s history is both gripping and entertaining. He brings to life many characters we heard of in our classroom history lessons and gives them a clarity of personality that even endears some of them to us. Not all was blood-letting and scandal.

The final decades of the empire becomes an epic drama in Holland’s hands, holding all our attention and our interest until the very last page.
Here, he introduces not merely the names of the main players but their characters and backgrounds; the plotting and the murder; the role of the army and the Senate.

If you’re a lover of tragedy and world-changing power-struggles this will provide you with many hours of entertainment. If you think history books are boring, you’re wrong on this one!

This review was first published on the author’s Facebook page on 28th February 2021.

This front cover just screams Roman history

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