Customer Reviews for

Empire (Rome Series #2)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

What a fabulous sequel to Roma!

As a lifelong studier of the Classics and Classical History, I found this book a wonderful read. I would highly recommend it.

posted by ktbmurphy on December 13, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Fun Fictional Intro to the Roman Empire

"Empire" is Steven Saylor's highly anticipated follow up to his centuries-spanning historical fiction saga, "Roma". Both books trace the ancestral evolution of the Pinarii family as they bear witness to the foundation and growth of Rome and its Empire. "Roma" covered th...
"Empire" is Steven Saylor's highly anticipated follow up to his centuries-spanning historical fiction saga, "Roma". Both books trace the ancestral evolution of the Pinarii family as they bear witness to the foundation and growth of Rome and its Empire. "Roma" covered the earliest foundations of Rome through the civil wars, while "Empire" picks up at the end of the reign of Augustus in 14 A.D. through the reign of Hadrian in 141.

Each of four chapters tells a discrete and self-contained story set during key moments in the real or mythological history of Rome involving both fictional and non-fictional characters and events.

Saylor uses the Pinarii like stepping stones across a stream of time; each stone provides just enough footing to propel the reader onto the next rock of time. The chapters place a different Pinarii generation under the spotlight and provide enough drama to fill an entire book in itself.

The biggest frustration with "Empire" is the vastly inconsistent development of Saylor's primary characters. The Pinarii are like castles made with wet sand. Just as they gain a bit of definition, substance and depth, they either fall apart or are washed away. It's almost as if in trying to hit all events in a given era, none are enough of a focus to allow time for the solid development of members of the Pinarii clan. I felt very little emotional pull towards the members of the family, neither particularly liking nor disliking any of them. This void of raw human drama significantly reduces the cohesion of each generational chapter and no amount of historical activity is able to overcome that vacuum.

The strongest character in the book is Emperor Nero whom Saylor paints as a subdued version of any Nathan Lane character. Nero ranges from sadistic to dramatic to regal to shockingly out-of-touch-with-reality. Though his end is predictably tragic, Nero and his era are the most interestingly interpreted.

Saylor's dialogue often feels stilted, unnatural, and boring when used to provide historical background, whereas his integration of history and fiction works well while events are actually taking place.

Saylor doesn't go for the Hollywood endings when it comes to the Pinarii, and I enjoy his sense of tragedy. Without giving too much away, the Pinarii clan is admirably (yet naively) staunch in their loyalty to their Emperors and friends, and it's enjoyable to be spectator to the historical train-wreck of such an amazingly varied group of personalities and events. And while there's already a lot going on in this 600-page novel, cameo appearances of Rome's' historical luminaries like Suetonius, Apollodorus, Dio, Sejanus and many others make for nice surprises.

"Empire" is a fun, light-weight introduction to Ancient Roman history. The writing style is smooth and simple, and Saylor hits on most of the major themes and incidents in each of the respective time periods. For those looking for a consumable introduction to and exploration of Roman history, "Empire" is a good starting point.

posted by JGolomb on August 9, 2010

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  • Posted June 29, 2012

    Any time an author starts to revisit his own plots, you know he'

    Any time an author starts to revisit his own plots, you know he's in trouble. Add to that the singularly awful mistake of using 'disrespect' as a verb and a tome that drags itself along like a Victor Mature Roman epic with historical reality and gruesome ritual deaths edited in by the ghost of Ed Wood and you've got a good idea of where this book is going.

    Sadly, it is not a worthy successor to "Roma" at all.

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  • Posted January 4, 2011

    Disappointing follow up to Roma

    To me, Roma is such an intrigueing and suspenseful novel, but Empire drags on with excessive description. I hate to write such a negative review, but the despairagy between the two books is such a let down. The characters of the later Pinari generations seem so weak-minded and self-serving. I didn't know Roman history could get even more dark, violent and perverse than the eras described in the first novel. Hopefully, if there are more books in this series, Saylor can return to the energy and excitement of Roma.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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