By: Margaret George
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Berkley Books
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I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): Built on the backs of those who fell before it, Julius Caesar's imperial dynasty is only as strong as the next person who seeks to control it. In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman or child.
As a boy, Nero's royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son's inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: it is better to be cruel than dead.
While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his own mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina's machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero's determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become, an Emperor who became legendary.
The cover is a great historical fiction cover. I was definitely drawn in, even though I had no idea who Nero was. The summary however was a bit iffy for me. I don’t know anything about Roman history and have never had any interest in it. I ended up accepting this book for review because I’ve been in a bit of a book rut and wanted to try something drastically different from what I’ve been reading lately. Also, I had heard good things about George and if I could find another historical fiction author who I like that would be a plus!
What I thought
Even though I knew nothing about Nero going into this story, George’s writing drew me in.
Confessions of Young Nero starts when Nero is four years old. His father has been recently killed and his mother exiled by his Uncle Caligula, the Emperor. The story follows Nero on his own journey to become emperor of Rome. This is part 1 of his story, so it doesn’t follow his entire life, but I imagine that part 2 will follow him to his eventual death.
After reading this book, I found myself curious about the real Nero and not just the historical fiction version. Which, I guess would mean that George did her job! Unfortunately, it seems that after a bit of research that George fluffed Nero up a little bit. From what I’ve read, he was a terrible person. The historical sites and facts that I read pretty much gave him no redeeming qualities. While I understand that that would make for a difficult book to read, I would’ve thought that he would’ve come off a little more unlikeable in the story.
George portrays Nero as a victim of his family and misfortune. Someone who really has no choice but to become the terrible person that he becomes. While he does have a lot of hardships (I mean… his own Uncle tries to murder him and his mother murders the only father figures that he has ever had) I don’t find that that excuses him from being judged as a terrible person.
At times, the book felt a bit long. Nero doesn’t become emperor until almost halfway through the book. His childhood is a bit drawn out and seems to drag a little, but overall is still interesting. Once he becomes emperor, things move a little quicker but the amount of descriptions is still overwhelming. I think this book could’ve been significantly shorter if some of the descriptions had been cut out. Granted, I know that a lot of historical fiction novels use lengthy descriptions, it just seemed a bit tedious.
By: Margaret George