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NERO by Conn Iggulden

I'm not sure this book should be called 'Nero', as the young Lucius as he was known, is a secondary character. For me this seemed like Conn Iggulden going back to doing what he did so well with his Caesar and Ghengis books, and that is taking a character from their very beginnings and telling their story in full.

This book then, is more of Agripinna, Nero's mother, rather than the future emperor himself. I have read countless novels based on this era, and I have to admit I was indifferent coming to this one. What would another book on Rome's classical era bring? Surely there would be nothing covered here that Manda Scott, Simon Scarrow or Robert Fabbri etc haven't already done to death.

But, it is a Conn Iggulden book. Written with the staple authoritative, clean prose that never veers from the characters' thoughts. I learnt about Nero's father (I won't try and spell his name here) and that he was a charioteer and raced for the Greens. I learned that Nero spent part of his childhood living in the slums of Rome, when his father was killed and his uncle sent his mother to prison.

Iggulden draws you into Rome, its brutality and its glory, and brings it back to life with such seemless ease. Agripinna's story is fascinating. She survived so much, with nothing but a family name and her own wits and beauty. Hers is a story that deserves to be told. I note other reviews on Goodreads stating the book has a rather abrupt ending. And that is true enough. We leave Agripinna on the shores of Britannia, Emperor Claudius having just proposed. The wild isles of Britain are still to be conquered, but I feel the meat of this tale will take place far away from the white cliffs of England, and in the melting pot that was Rome in its pomp. I can't wait to see what happens next!


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