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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Book Review: Confessions of a Young Nero (Nero #1) by Margaret George

Confessions of a Young Nero (Nero #1)
by Margaret George
March 7, 2017
522 pages
The New York Times bestselling and legendary author of Helen of Troy and Elizabeth I now turns her gaze on Emperor Nero, one of the most notorious and misunderstood figures in history.

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.

With impeccable research and captivating prose, The Confessions of Young Nero is the story of a boy’s ruthless ascension to the throne. Detailing his journey from innocent youth to infamous ruler, it is an epic tale of the lengths to which man will go in the ultimate quest for power and survival.

This was my first foray into the historical crafting of Margaret George. The critically acclaimed author sets her current release in ancient Rome with young Nero as our protagonist. My knowledge of ancient Rome was mainly related to its art, but rather limited in terms of its leadership and politics. I was aware of the more legendary and salacious tales such as the depravity of Caligula and the ‘fiddling’ of Nero, however, was unaware of the finer details.

Confessions is an education in all things Roman. I found myself constantly fact-checking as much of its content is too wild to be believed. I found, however, that true history can be stranger than pure fiction. Nero proves to be a formidable subject for riveting history. What George does best, perhaps, is allows her readers to sympathize with a ruler who has been historically maligned. The reader’s journey begins with Nero as merely more than a toddler being victimized by his uncle Caligula. From there, Nero, initially a dreamer and poet, must learn to fight for his survival in a real game of thrones where those closest are often times posing the biggest threat.

I absolutely recommend this book for fans of historical fiction. It’s fascinating and riveting. It is, however, hella long with no detail left unexplored. It has consumed much of my winter reading calendar. It requires careful reading and a true love of knowledge.

Four sheep

Bianca Greenwood

About the Author:
Margaret George specializes in epic fictional biographies of historical figures, taking pains to make them as factually accurate as possible without compromising the drama. Her THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HENRY VIII had its 30th anniversary this past September, and continues to be popular. ABC-TV based its 1999 Emmy-nominated “Cleopatra” miniseries on her THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA. All of her books have been bestsellers, with twenty-one foreign translations.

Margaret’s father was in the Foreign Service and so she lived overseas for her early life, in such different places as tropical Taiwan, desert Israel, and cold war Berlin, all of which were great training for a novelist to be. She started writing ‘books’ about the same time as she could write at all, mainly for her own entertainment. It was a diversion she never outgrew. Her published works are: THE AUTOBIOGAPHY OF HENRY VIII, MARY QUEEN OF SCOTLAND AND THE ISLES, THE MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA, MARY CALLED MAGDALENE, HELEN OF TROY, ELIZABETH I, and an illustrated children’s book, LUCILLE LOST. Her newest one, THE CONFESSIONS OF YOUNG NERO, is coming out in March 2017.

Margaret lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and Washington DC, and has a sextagenarian tortoise as a pet.

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