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Hello, my name is Valorie. I have a Master's Degree in History and a license to teach-- I have been both university professor and public school teacher. Currently, I am a middle school social studies teacher. I love horror movies and spooky things. Every day is Halloween. I am also a passionate book blogger.

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Book Review: 23:27 by H.L. Roberts

Monday, March 9, 2009

Book Review: Imperium (Cicero Series, #1) by Robert Harris

Title: Imperium
Series: Cicero Series
Book Number: 1
Author: Robert Harris
Genre: Fiction - History
Finished: March 9, 2009

You know Cicero? Yes, Cicero, the Roman statesman who is known by us today as the guy who talked and talked and did a lot of stuff with law. And oh yeah, talked. You probably had to read something by him in high school or college, so you likely have pretty bad and boring memories related to the name Marcus Tullius Cicero. So when I read that Imperium by Robert Harris was about Cicero, I gave an internal groan. A premature assumption of boredom that turned out to be totally wrong. Imperium is a great book. It's that simple. The story is told through the narrative of Cicero's ex-slave Tiro. Tiro takes us through Cicero's life up to the events leading into his Consulship. What Harris writes is based on truth and has some evidence to support the basics. The events Cicero finds himself a part of are quite full of power plays, intrigue, and political corruption. But to set the background, we first meet Cicero as a student of philosophy with a humble farmer background and a sharp mind and wit that has the unfortunate result of offending many of the wrong men. After his study of philosophy, we move with Cicero into his political career, where he climbs up the ladder of the state, gaining office as he becomes a champion of the people.

The first half of the book involves Cicero taking on the case of Verres, a corrupt Sicilian governor who has friends in all the right places. Cicero's way with words and luck with evidence, attributed to his cleverness, leads to a resounding victory against all odds and popularity beyond words. But not all is good with Cicero at this pointâ-- prosecuting Verres puts Cicero at odds with the aristocratic foundation of the Republic. After Verres comes the grand general Pompey (the guy Caesar chased out of Rome when he crossed the Rubicon much later) and his rivalry with Crassus. Cicero gives his support to Pompey and makes a powerful enemy of Crassus, who soon engages in vote buying at a high scale to pack the government in his favor. The plan is to arrange the government so that Crassus and Caesar will have an open door to increasing their own power. Pretty clever Crassus. Naturally, Cicero finds out about the plot and exposes them before the Senate, winning a victory for Consul at the youngest age allowed.

You have a lot of big names: Pompey, Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, Piso, Metelleus. Since Imperium is about Cicero and his dealings, these characters are supportive in nature only and come and go as the story requires. This is just as well because there are volumes written about Caesar by everyone and their grandmother. It was quite amusing to see Caesar portrayed as a horny, shady, power hungry youngster and nothing more. Oh, I respect Caesar and am quite enamored with him as most are, but the turn of character was great. Usually, Cicero is the annoying old man who won’t shut up and Caesar is the charming hero. In Imperium Cicero was the hero and a quite charming one at that. What about the politics and history? Was it dry and full of historical detail? Historical yes, but dry it was definitely not. I don't think that this is a book for your Roman novice, though. For anyone not familiar with the various political offices, names, social classes, and Republican standards, the book may be difficult to grasp. I feel that my background in Roman history helped me a lot in reading through the book as a fluid novel rather than a pause and continue that requires a bit of Google searching to understand completely.

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