Book Review – The Exiled by David Barbaree – Historical Fiction

Here’s the blurb:

“A.D. 79. Parthia is gripped by civil war. One king vying for the throne, desperate for help, welcomes an alliance from an unlikely source: a man claiming to be Nero, the dethroned Roman emperor.

Meanwhile, young Gaius wishes he could spend his summer on the Bay of Naples amongst his books. Instead Pliny, the famous admiral, has sent him to befriend the nephew of Ulpius, the mysterious blind senator from Spain. A man Pliny does not trust.

But when a Parthian hostage is nearly killed, days before Parthian emissaries are expected, and as rumours of the False Nero entering the land reaches Rome, Gaius and Pliny race to learn how these events are connected.

As the political intrigue comes to a head, something happens that only the mysterious clairvoyant Sibyl could have foreseen: Mount Vesuvius erupts, and black ash fills the sky . . .”

It was always going to be a big task to produce a novel quite as good as Deposed (which was excellent and fully worthy of five stars.)

The Exiled does a good job of trying to be as good as the first book, but somehow, and despite, or perhaps because of, the sheer amount of political intrigue going on, it does not match up to the sheer audacity of Deposed. Indeed, for quite a large swathe of the book, I was wondering if it was a standalone novel and not at all related to Deposed. But, I pressed on, hopeful that it would improve.
And it did. From about 50% the book picks up and the seemingly disparate events begin to fall into place, and the careful plotting and planning of the book begin to reveal themselves.
While some of the characters remain underdeveloped, and some of the chapters feel ‘too thin,’ it can’t be denied that the story is both clever and solidly told, and the ending is unexpected.
I hope that this series continues.
Thank you for my review copy Netgalley.

The Exiled was released on 27th June 2019 and is available from here;

Book Review – Deposed by David Barbaree (historical fiction) Highly Recommended

Here’s the blurb;

“More gripping than Game of Thrones and more ruthless than House of Cards – this a stunning new thriller of power, treachery and revenge

In a darkened cell, a brutally deposed dictator lies crippled – deprived of his power, his freedom – and his eyes.

On the edge of utter despair, his only companion is the young boy who brings him his meagre rations, a mere child who fears his own shadow. But to one who has held and lost the highest power, one thing alone is crystal clear: even emperors were mere children once.

Ten years later, the new ruler’s son watches uneasily over his father’s empire. Wherever he looks rebellion is festering, and those closest to him have turned traitor once before.

To this city in crisis comes a hugely wealthy senator from the very edge of the empire, a young and angry ward at his heels. He is witty but inscrutable, generous with his time and money to a leader in desperate need of a friend – and he wears a bandage over his blinded eyes.

The fallen emperor’s name is Nero.”

Wow, what a stunning debut novel.

I’ve never read any Roman themed novels before the last few weeks, but it would seem that they are both very popular and really rather numerous (I think this is now my sixth or seventh). That said, the books that I’ve read have, more of less, dealt with similar time periods and events. In the case of this novel, I’ve not long since read The Young Nero by Elizabeth George which follows Nero through his younger years and this novel seemed quite a perfect follow up.

This novel, however, is far more wickedly complicated and an absolute delight to read. It has a fast pace and is a very easy read. A note for future readers – do take account of the chapter headings – the novel moves through many different points of views and through two different time periods, as well as occasionally going backward in that time period. It sounds complicated, but it’s a brilliant way of unravelling the events of the novel.

I think it would be fair to say it’s a fairly simple story told in a complicated way – it’s about intrigue in the Roman Government during the AD 60’s-70’s – but it is also so much more than that because of the multiple point of views. This allows the author to decipher events as others see them, with all their attendant prejudices, worries and fears. It is, it must be said, as complex as the House of Cards and as much fun. The portrayal of the corrupt nature of the Roman Government is done very well – I garnered much more from this novel about events in Rome and the wider Roman Empire than I did The Young Nero.

The two timelines, interwoven throughout the novel, eventually offer explanations to the events taking place in the later timeline and while some may find the storyline a little far-fetched, I found it to be told in such a believable way that I had no problem allowing the author to take me down a slightly unconventional route.

My only slight gripe is that I’d assumed this was a standalone novel, and clearly it isn’t, which means I’ll have to keep my eye out for the next novel because I am incredibly keen to read more about Barbaree’s reimagining of Ancient Rome and his Deposed Nero.

And you can buy it here (and should) from May 4th 2017;