Review: The Gates of Rome

The Gates of Rome
The Gates of Rome by Conn Iggulden
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In my mind, I’ve renamed this book The Fast and The Furious: Chariots on Fire. Okay, so this book plotwise is nothing like The Fast and The Furious movies, but the point remains that this is a guy’s book. I’m not opposed to the idea of violence in books, but there is no escaping it in this one. This book consists mostly of grisly battle after gristly battle. At one point, I had to put the book down because of a fairly graphic amputation scene. I have never put a book down before. Not even bad ones. Then again, you could see it as a testament to the author’s writing ability that it evoked such a visceral reaction. Unfortunately, putting the book down is not a reaction you want to strive for from your readers.

That’s far from my only issue with the book. A major issue other astute reviewers have pointed out is the lack of historical accuracy, to the point of making Marcus Brutus over a decade older for “drama.” It’s the complete opposite of what the Borgias did in season 1 with Micheletto, and it didn’t work about just as well. Not to mention, at the time Marcus Brutus signed his full name at the end of the book, you could practically hear the “dun dun dunnnn.” The book is full of modern sensibilities, despite the time period. One practically expects Marcus to bust out an AK-47 on the “savages.”

Another way you can tell this is a man’s book is the near complete lack of homosexuality. This takes place in Ancient Rome, I expect a gay person or two. More than that, I expect other people not to care about said gay person. That’s one of the areas where Mistress of Rome excelled and this book failed. Homosexuality does not arise until the last quarter of the book, and then only twice. The first time Marcus is accused of saving a boy only so he could bang him later, and the other time, the antagonist is being hit on by one of his soldiers and then contemplates how he could get rid of said solider. Iggulden would have been much better off leaving out the homosexuality altogether, rather than pointing a modern, derogatory tone on it.

I read this book because I had picked up the author’s later book on Genghis Khan for a song. I’m hoping that one is not going to disappoint as much. I’m willing to give him a little bit of wiggle room since this was his first book, and everyone knows writers can get better with practice.

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