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EMPEROR

THE FIELD OF SWORDS

Less psychologically sophisticated than the granddaddy of all Roman historical fiction, Robert Graves’s I, Claudius, but a...

Gaius Julius Caesar is back in the third of Iggulden’s projected tetralogy (Emperor: The Death of Kings, 2004, etc.), and he’s kicking Gallic butt and taking unpronounceable names.

It’s midpoint in the first century b.c. Having ranged widely throughout the eastern stretches of the Roman Empire, having put down slave revolts and attempted coups, having come and seen and conquered much of the known world, Caesar is still far from Rome, where fellow triumvirs Pompey and Crassus are enjoying Falernian wine and the other delicacies of the capital. Caesar has work to do, though, before he can join in the fun: when this installment opens, he’s in Spain among men who, unaccountably, bear modern Spanish names, but soon he’s in the field battling rebellious Romans and then off to the north to attend to successive swarms of Germanic and Celtic warriors, all with points of their own to prove. Iggulden has read Caesar’s Gallic Warscarefully, and most of the particulars here are supported, or at least hinted at, by the soon-to-be capo, who had the uncommon virtue of self-criticism and a good eye for detail. Where Iggulden really shines, though, is in putting flesh on historical bones and reading between the lines, providing, along the way, motives for old Brutus to be ticked off, not least of them a few costly tactical errors: “Brutus looked over the heads of his men, his heart pounding with anger. If he survived the retreat, he swore Julius would pay for the destruction of the Tenth.” Brutus holds his anger in check, however, and he and his fellow soldiers have many a merry day slaughtering everything they see; think of the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan, and you’ll have a good idea of the tenor of Iggulden’s expertly rendered—and unfailingly exciting—battles.

Less psychologically sophisticated than the granddaddy of all Roman historical fiction, Robert Graves’s I, Claudius, but a pleasure for those for whom the words “alea jacta est” mean something.

Pub Date: March 8, 2005

ISBN: 0-385-33663-2

Page Count: 467

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2005

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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