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Emperor: The Gods of War [Hardcover]

Conn Iggulden
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 28 2006 Emperor (Book 4)
From the author of the bestselling The Dangerous Book for Boys
 
The year is 53 B.C. Fresh from victory in Gaul, Julius Caesar leads battle-hardened legions across the Rubicon river–threatening Rome herself. Even the master strategist Pompey is caught unprepared by the strike, and forced to abandon his city. The armies of Rome will face each other at last in civil war, led by the two greatest generals ever to walk the seven hills. Thus begins Conn Iggulden’s towering saga of Julius Caesar as he approaches his final destiny—a destiny that will be decided not by legions but by his friend Brutus and an Egyptian queen named Cleopatra, who will bear his only son....

For Caesar, the campaign against Pompey will test his military genius and his appetite for glory to their limits, as the greatest fighting machine the world has ever seen divides against itself in a bloody conflict that will set brother against brother until victory or death. But for Caesar, another kingdom beckons—a world of ancient mysteries and languid sensuality, where a beautiful, bewitching woman waits to snare his heart.

The Gods of War follows Julius Caesar through politics and passion, ruthless ambition and private grief, and into the corruption of power itself. Those he has loved will play a part in his triumphs—as will the jealousy and hatred of his enemies.

From the spectacles of the arena to the whispered lies of conspirators, Conn Iggulden brings to life a world of monumental drama. And at its heart is one extraordinary friendship—marked by fierce loyalty and bitter betrayal, with dark events shrouded in noble ideals.

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From Publishers Weekly

Iggulden (Emporer: The Field of Swords) saves the best for last in the fourth and final novel of his well-received Emperor series, following the life of Julius Caesar. Caesar's story is a familiar one, but Iggulden writes it convincingly as a thriller: the novel begins in 49 B.C., when Caesar and his legions-fresh from their conquests in Gaul and Britain-cross the Rubicon and race toward Rome to confront his enemies. It ends five years later on the Ides of March with his assassination. Along the way, there's a civil war to be fought and won, a romantic encounter with the young Egyptian queen Cleopatra and a triumphant return to Rome where a cowed Senate names him Dictator for Life and Unconquered God. But Caesar's enemies-including his friend Marcus Brutus-plot his assassination for subverting the Republican government. Despite Caesar's larger-than-life historical reputation, Iggulden humanizes his hero and juxtaposes his bloodlust in battle and ruthless ambition in politics with an unexpected tenderness in his personal relations. Taking a rather large dose of literary license, Iggulden strays too far from the historical record, but his expert plotting, supple prose and fast-paced action will keep readers riveted until the end.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Iggulden concludes his magnificent four-part saga of Julius Caesar with a veritable bang. The many fans of the previous three volumes-- The Gates of Rome (2002), The Death of Kings (2003), and The Field of Swords (2005)--will not be disappointed by the cataclysmic final installment in this riveting epic. After tasting the fruits of victory on battlefields in Gaul and Britain, General Julius Caesar crosses the fabled Rubicon, initiating a civil war among rival Roman legions. Matching wits with cunning Roman dictator and military genius Pompey the Great, Caesar grapples for power both within the confines of the city of Rome and in all the far-flung corners of the empire. Realizing martial success alone is not enough to command the respect and loyalty of the cosmopolitan Romans, he becomes a consummate politician, exploiting his relationships with Marcus Brutus, Mark Antony, Octavian, and, of course, Cleopatra. Brimming with military, political, and romantic intrigue, this action-packed epic provides a breathtaking panorama of one of the most exciting episodes in the ancient world and breathes new life into a legendary historical figure. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Corrupted History for No Good Reason. May 9 2013
By MDT
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Iggulden's writing is very entertaining and his weaving of history and fictionalized filling in the blanks are usually very well done. One problem.... check the historical notes at the back of the books. You'll find that, at times, he completely fabricates events and at other times he even deliberately re-writes history to suit his story line. It is a shame because several of these incidences were completely unnecessary. This makes the book fictional NOT historical.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars comic book writing Oct. 15 2008
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
As historical fiction, this is pure comic book writing. The author has taken liberties with the facts to create a version of history that is one dimensional and trite. The bookish Brutus and unathletic Octavian both end up rippling with manly virility, duking it out in mortal combat. Huh? No one familiar with the real story can really be satisfied seeing things so hashed up. Never mind it is historically inaccurate and that neither of them were there in Egypt (Octavian was still a boy, for Pete's sake) it is not true to either of their characters, what character they have left after the author has reinvented them to fit his genre of writing. Other inaccuracies abound. For example, what's Julia still doing around after she died (her death was a factor in the final break between Caesar and Pompey)? The author glosses over these glaring inaccuracies in his historical note at the end, focusing instead on less glaring "literary licenses," implying thereby that he is actually writing historical fiction. If he is capable of writing an historical note at the end then he knows he is not really writing historical fiction and that there are far worse inaccuracies in his book than the ones he mentions. Despite all this he kept me reading, which means it was an entertaining read. Too bad it ultimately fails to satisfy on other grounds.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  58 reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Highlights from Caesar" not as good as Books 2 and 3 April 27 2006
By Scott Schiefelbein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Conn Iggulden admittedly set an ambitious goal for himself in his four volume "Emperor" series, a work of "a-historical historical fiction." Iggulden has acknowledged his numerous departures from the historical record in his books, and he repeatedly recommends Christian Meier's magnificent biography, "Caesar," for those who want a more accurate account.

I do not fault Iggulden one iota for deviating from the historical record -- he's writing fiction. The question becomes, how good is the story he tells? Why should we seek out "Emperor" in the face of so many novels about Julius Caesar?

Fortunately, Iggulden had the confidence to break from tradition and give us his own take on Caesar and his times. For those looking for a more "historical historical fiction," you should check out Colleen McCullough's awesome "Masters of Rome" series that starts with "The First Man in Rome." Hers is much more of a "you are there" walk-through of actual history.

Iggulden takes a hand grenade to the historical record to tell a more focused story of friendship, betrayal, love, war, and conquest. Caesar and his childhood friend, Brutus, rise to prominence together in books 1-3, but in Book 4 the relationship is strained. Brutus, perhaps incorrectly, interprets Caesar's use of Mark Antony and Octavian (one day to be Augustus) as insults -- how can Caesar honor anyone before Brutus, who has been there from the beginning and done more to help Caesar than anyone?

This betrayal leads Brutus to join Pompey's forces in the infamous civil war that ends up at the titanic Battle of Pharsalus. Can Brutus' friendship with Caesar survive this betrayal? Can it be revived? Can Brutus look past Caesar's colossal pride and see his childhood friend?

For anyone who hasn't lived under a rock, you know the answers. (Iggulden may deviate from history a bit here or there, but he doesn't completely rewrite it.)

Iggulden writes with the same economy and clarity that he brought to the first three books. But the sheer scope of Book 4 -- the civil war, the death of Pompey, Caesar's time in Egypt, the betrayal by Brutus, Caesar's triumphant return to Rome and his imperial ammbitions, the jockeying for position by Brutus, Octavian and Mark Antony, the birth of Caesar's son by Cleopatra, and the assassination -- make the 380-odd pages of "Gods of War" seem a bit thin. I felt like I was reading Iggulden's "Highlights from Caesar," and that's not good.

Iggulden has written an entertaining series. But he chose to write about one of the defining periods of Western Civilization -- the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Empire. You cannot give the people who shaped these events short shrift, and Iggulden for the most part does. Brutus and Caesar, naturally, receive some development, but Octavian gets only a few choice bits, and Mark Antony and the others might as well not even be in the book.

All in all, I enjoyed books 2 and 3 of this series much more than books 1 and 4. Book 1 was marred by a "hidden identity" gimmick that really didn't quite work, and the magical-mystical elements brought by the healer Cabrera really didn't fit into Iggulden's story. These flaws vanished in Books 2 and 3, and Iggulden rewrote history in a rollicking fashion - his description of the battles to defeat Mithridates and to beat Spartacus were much better than his handling of Pharsalus, which felt cursory. While Iggulden's battle scenes in Alexandria are fun in "Gods of War" are fun, they do not carry the rest of the book.

All in all, a slightly disappointing conclusion to a good series that didn't really strive for greatness-- unlike McCullough's titanic series. I suspect I will be much more upset when I finish Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe series than I was when "Gods of War" reached its conclusion. Perhaps if Iggulden chooses a smaller project next time, I'll enjoy the books more -- it's clear he is a writer of talent and vision.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The end of something good... April 9 2006
By Jason Frost - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I can't tell you how I've waited for each and every 'Emperor' book by Conn. This one was no different! 'The Gods of War' is one of the best books I've read this year! Tying up the loose end of Brutus, Ceaser, the wars, and the chilling ending was just pure enjoyment.

I keep seeing people who don't like this series because it's not accurate... geez!! GET A HISTORY BOOK MORON! If you want a wonderful story about Rome, her citizens, her Generals, her joy and pain, then pick up this book/series!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Readable Garbage May 25 2009
By Ronin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have already read and reviewed the previous 3-books in The Conn's "Emperor" series, which deals with the Roman Republic and uses Caesar and his side-kick Brutus as the main characters. In that single sentence I just identified two of the many things terribly wrong with these books.

Like the previous 3-books in the series, they are all quite readable and are fast page turners. Being a student of this period of history, I found these books absolute historical abominations. There is virtually nothing accurate and the events are entirely misleading, the characters all kinds of wrong, and you just have to wonder why someone would write something like this, or better yet, why anyone would publish it??? Like his Mongol series, I have concluded he knows virtually nothing of these subjects and merely cranked this stuff out to sell books. Ok. I guess I am bitter because I have financially contributed to this fraud.

After dragging myself through this author's other books, I had to check out on this one after 70-pages. I picked it back up a few months later. The civil war with Pompey is entertaining to read. I just don't get why a guy who makes his living off of history shows history absolutely zero respect.

The only reason I am bothering with this review is that too many others are singing the praise of these books, and it is really unjustified. Conn's brief apologies for his historical liberties, which he pitifully and understatedly does in every book, are not accepted and do not address the majority of the issues; many of which he seems completely unaware of. Invest your money elsewhere, this author is "historical" fiction at its worst.
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A better finale March 1 2006
By ilmk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Iggulden completes his series and this time there's not too much complaint about historical inaccuracy (though perhaps about historical characterisation). To get it all going, Julius leaps over the Rubicon, captures Corfinium without bloodshed, and traipses into Rome with consummate ease. It was going to be interesting to see how he forced the character of Brutus back onto his true historical destiny and Iggulden manages it in a single episode of childish pique as our silvered-armoured sidekick goes from outstanding general and best friend to outstanding general and worst enemy in the space of a single night simply because he feels Julius favours Mark Anthony over him. Julius, himself, doesn't seem too bothered as he laps up the adoration of the Roman crowd and spends most of his time trying to father a child before getting cuckolded and storming off to Pharsalus to hunt down his previous friend who has chucked his lot in with the aging and increasingly befuddled Pompey (who spends much of the first half grumbling about intestinal issues and managing to let Caesar out manoeuvre him) and the self-exiled Senate, caustically represented by Cicero.

In the meantime Brutus has a new aristocratic friend, Seneca and we move past page 200 into the battle for Roman supremacy at Pharsalus which takes the next hundred pages or so and ends Part One. It is during this battle that Iggulden shows why the glaring inconsistencies in plot and characterisation that so define all these novels can be swept aside through sheer brilliance of action. The battle for Pharsalus and control of Rome is executed with pathos, crisp dialogue and gladiator-esque vibrancy. Brutus' fight to a standstill, Octavius' handling of the intended decimation of the Third, Pompey's agonised futile stand and Julius' military brilliance are all painted in an exhilarating manner until the final ignominious end on the shores of Alexandria. The only item that grates slightly is Brutus' volte-face and his near-cowardice when faced with faced with dishonourable death or naked legionary hatred as Julius exercises a clemency that leaves a festering wound on his soul.

Iggulden sweeps us on to the penultimate action of Julius' life as he has a dishevelled Cleopatra tumbling from her infamous carpet in a manner less reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor and more of Asterix and Cleopatra before falling for her wiles, capturing Ptolemy, razing the Alexandria library to the ground in a rooftop escape and finally securing the throne for his new love and begetting a male heir.

We move swiftly to Julius' denouement back in Rome where Iggulden has Servilia as the architect of his downfall. Focusing on the two main events, his thrice refusal of a crown and his murder, Iggulden cannot resist the impulse to use the infamous Shakespeare quote which never happened historically. At least he didn't go so far as so say, `Et tu, Brute?' choosing to give a direct English translation of Julius' last words and leaving the conspirators with far more glory than any other author as they enter the Roman forum with the saving blood of the republic on their hands rather than the results of a heinous crime. Still, he does hint he might subject the story of Mark Anthony, Octavian and Cleopatra to the historical mangle in future years.

The character of Brutus is the only minor historical complaint. Brutus is historically is recognised as the epitome of republicanism, second only to Cato. History tells us that his participation in the murder of Caesar is an unwilling act of a man for whom Rome and republic is everything whereas Iggulden has him behaving like the historical Mark Anthony - wild, impetuous, a charismatic leader of men - which results in the problem that his actions in the novels come across as whimsical and petulant most of the time. He is constantly bleating and bemoaning the fact that he isn't number one, something that is outlined starkly in his feverish diatribe to Julius mid-novel.

In stark contrast, having got past the farcical upbringing of Octavian in the previous novels, we see a character that perfectly explains his future destiny as Augustus and matches his historical personage perfectly.

The quartet of novels are extremely well written stories, Iggulden demonstrating a remarkable capacity to capture his reader's attention and imagination, his ability ensuring he has produced a story that, as the quote on the front jacket claims "the great events and breathtaking brutality of the times are brought lavishly to life." It is this great capacity to tell a story that rescues a historically awful series punctuated with inane characterisation at times. So, buy it, because it is compelling, but there are other series out there that tell the story of the fall of the Roman Republic in a more historically satisfying way (Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series being the best).

It'll be interesting to see what Iggulden comes up with next.
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it March 3 2014
By James Cornell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Iggulden is a fantastic writer. Could not put it down. I read all his Rome series and had to buy his Khan series as well.
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