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The Splendor Before the Dark

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Ascending to the throne was only the beginning... Now Margaret George, the author of The Confessions of Young Nero, weaves a web of politics and passion, as ancient Rome's most infamous emperor cements his place in history. With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero Augustus commands the Roman empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural s Ascending to the throne was only the beginning... Now Margaret George, the author of The Confessions of Young Nero, weaves a web of politics and passion, as ancient Rome's most infamous emperor cements his place in history. With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero Augustus commands the Roman empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural splendor. Although he has yet to produce an heir, his power is unquestioned. But in the tenth year of his reign, a terrifying prophecy comes to pass and a fire engulfs Rome, reducing entire swaths of the city to rubble. Rumors of Nero's complicity in the blaze start to sow unrest among the populace--and the politicians... For better or worse, Nero knows that his fate is now tied to Rome's--and he vows to rebuild it as a city that will stun the world. But there are those who find his rampant quest for glory dangerous. Throughout the empire, false friends and spies conspire against him, not understanding what drives him to undertake the impossible. Nero will either survive and be the first in his family to escape the web of betrayals that is the Roman court, or be ensnared and remembered as the last radiance of the greatest dynasty the world had ever known.


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Ascending to the throne was only the beginning... Now Margaret George, the author of The Confessions of Young Nero, weaves a web of politics and passion, as ancient Rome's most infamous emperor cements his place in history. With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero Augustus commands the Roman empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural s Ascending to the throne was only the beginning... Now Margaret George, the author of The Confessions of Young Nero, weaves a web of politics and passion, as ancient Rome's most infamous emperor cements his place in history. With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero Augustus commands the Roman empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural splendor. Although he has yet to produce an heir, his power is unquestioned. But in the tenth year of his reign, a terrifying prophecy comes to pass and a fire engulfs Rome, reducing entire swaths of the city to rubble. Rumors of Nero's complicity in the blaze start to sow unrest among the populace--and the politicians... For better or worse, Nero knows that his fate is now tied to Rome's--and he vows to rebuild it as a city that will stun the world. But there are those who find his rampant quest for glory dangerous. Throughout the empire, false friends and spies conspire against him, not understanding what drives him to undertake the impossible. Nero will either survive and be the first in his family to escape the web of betrayals that is the Roman court, or be ensnared and remembered as the last radiance of the greatest dynasty the world had ever known.

30 review for The Splendor Before the Dark

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    5 stars for the outstanding storytelling by Margaret George! Wow! ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ Historical fiction is one of my favorites, but until the last month, Margaret George, a prolific author in this genre, was new-to-me. No longer because after reading and enjoying The Confessions of Young Nero, part one of this duology, I was prepared to be mesmerized and astounded with the second half of Nero’s story told through George’s impeccable research. I had a history teacher in high school who held a doctorate an 5 stars for the outstanding storytelling by Margaret George! Wow! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Historical fiction is one of my favorites, but until the last month, Margaret George, a prolific author in this genre, was new-to-me. No longer because after reading and enjoying The Confessions of Young Nero, part one of this duology, I was prepared to be mesmerized and astounded with the second half of Nero’s story told through George’s impeccable research. I had a history teacher in high school who held a doctorate and when attending his lectures, it was easy to tell how passionate he was about ancient world history. I remember him sharing what he knew about Nero, and I’d love to be able to tell him I read two books about his life. In The Confessions of Young Nero, he ascends to the throne as emperor of Rome. In The Splendor Before the Dark, we find out everything that follows. Nero’s first years as emperor are defined by his lovely and astute wife, Poppaea, and the cultural and artistic renaissance for which Nero is credited. Everything is off to a grand start, and Rome is in splendor. All that comes to pass when, ten years into Nero’s reign, Rome is set aflame. Large sections of the city are lost. Rumors name Nero as complicit. Nero makes a solemn vow to repair Rome and rebuild bigger and better than it was before. Nonetheless, rumors still spread, and there are many who doubt Nero’s ambitions. It’s hard to know if Nero will survive his time as emperorship. The unsteadiness, unhappiness, and distrust at court is deep. Margaret George’s writing is absolutely superb. We hear from three narrators- Nero, Locusta (an herbal medicine doctor), and Acte (a woman Nero loves). The different voices allow us to pan around and see the whole Nero, both his good and not-so-good qualities. THIS is precisely why we read historical fiction. George’s effort is polished and epic in scope and quality. Nero, just like any other human, was not all good or all bad; but instead a complex leader with fierce strengths and underlying abhorrent and fallible weaknesses. Thank you to Berkley for the invitation to participate on the blog tour, as well as for the physical copy. All opinions are my own. My reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    Janelle

    Many thanks to Berkley Publishing for my free copy of THE SPLENDOR BEFORE THE DARK by Margaret George - all opinions are my own. Margaret George is my favorite historical fiction writer because her novels are meticulously researched and even though her page counts are high, there is never a slow or dull moment in her books. I read the first book in this duology, CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG NERO, and no surprise, it was excellent. When I saw this book was coming out, I jumped at the chance to read it Many thanks to Berkley Publishing for my free copy of THE SPLENDOR BEFORE THE DARK by Margaret George - all opinions are my own. Margaret George is my favorite historical fiction writer because her novels are meticulously researched and even though her page counts are high, there is never a slow or dull moment in her books. I read the first book in this duology, CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG NERO, and no surprise, it was excellent. When I saw this book was coming out, I jumped at the chance to read it before the publication date. The story covers the final four years of the life of Rome’s most infamous emperor, Nero Augustus. Nero has been in power for ten years and knows his fate is tied to Rome. There are many destinies that Nero can face in the specter of politics and power, such as religious unrest, ambitious commanders, rebellious territories, and of course, betrayal by the people closest to him. One notable resentment of his people relates to Nero’s expensive and extravagant plans to rebuild after the Great Fire of Rome destroyed the city. This novel shows several chances for Nero to show courage, fortitude, and strength as a leader and it was fascinating to see what he does with his power. The story is told from multiple perspectives: the voice of Nero; Acte, a servant and former lover; and Locusta, a woman who specializes in herbal medicine and poisons. I love that through these perspectives you both see the light and dark side of Nero. We experience Nero’s naivety, idealism, and artistic side, but also see his darkness and unwillingness to see the dangers that lie ahead. George is an exceptional writer - she writes with authenticity, richness in detail, depth of characters, and vivid imagery - I felt as if I was right there in Rome and now know these historical figures intimately. THE SPLENDOR BEFORE THE DARK is nothing short of brilliant and among my favorites with MEMOIRS OF CLEOPATRA and HELEN OF TROY. I will read anything Margaret George writes not only because her prose is extraordinarily beautiful, but also because she transports me to a time and place I would never be able to go otherwise.

  3. 4 out of 5

    The Lit Bitch

    When I was a kid, I was fascinated by all things Rome. I watched every episode about Rome and the emperors on History channel and my favorites were always on the crazy ones. The ancient world is a fascinating place. People are trying to form a civilized people and state while others are trying to conquer new territories and at the height of it’s power, Rome was the republic that everyone modeled their empires on. One of the emperors that always seemed to capture my interest was Nero and like any m When I was a kid, I was fascinated by all things Rome. I watched every episode about Rome and the emperors on History channel and my favorites were always on the crazy ones. The ancient world is a fascinating place. People are trying to form a civilized people and state while others are trying to conquer new territories and at the height of it’s power, Rome was the republic that everyone modeled their empires on. One of the emperors that always seemed to capture my interest was Nero and like any memorable Roman emperor, he had his own share of crazy. When this book came up for review, I was interested in it for this very reason. One of the things that most intrigued me about this novel was that it seemed to focus on Nero the man, rather than Nero the crazy man. I liked that it seemed to promise more of his life and contributions to the empire rather than just how brutal he could be. This book is part of a series about Nero’s life. The first book focuses on his younger years, while this book focuses on his later years. This book could most certainly stand on its own. I didn’t read the first book and by no means did that diminish the enjoyment of this book. I loved George’s angle with this book. Throughout history Nero is portrayed as this crazy man who murdered his mother and wives, and had multiple lovers (men and women and his mother) and then of course famously burned down Rome and blamed the Christians. But there have been other historians that claim maybe these accusations were complete truth and that’s the vein that George spins her tale. I liked that she took a different approach to Nero than the role that history always casts him as. I thought it made for a compelling read and really made me think and ponder what history tells us and what might actually be misrepresented. This book is a work of fiction, but I think there is enough rooted in history to make it enjoyable for fans of nonfiction as well. In this book I actually found that I was able to enjoy Nero as a character and I loved watching him come alive on the pages. He was very changed by the fire and I loved seeing him emerge as an artist. George did a marvelous job at humanizing an emperor that not many people liked. I loved that about this book. George did a fantastic job with the plot and keeping things moving. The first half and the last were very fast paced, the middle stalled a little but I don’t think that had anything to do with her writing abilities but rather what was happening during that time. This is a gem of a book and I enjoyed reading it more than I expected. I was sad that I missed the first book, only because the story and writing were elegant and engaging. This is superior historical fiction and I think fans of not only the ancient world or Rome, but fans of any historical fiction will not want to miss this one. As a final note, the cover. I actually didn’t care for the Berkley cover shown in this post. There is another by MacMillian that is purple with gold accents and I actually love that cover so much. The Berkley cover says more historical thriller to me rather than historical fiction. If I were buying the book in a store, I would gravitate toward the purple edition rather than the one with the fire on it. I thought the purple added a lot of visual interest and conveyed historical fiction and Rome better than the one with the fire. All in all though, this was an easy 5 star review for me! See my full review here

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I loved the Confessions of Young Nero and now Margaret George (one of my favourite authors) completes Nero's incredible story. Mostly told by Nero himself, this is not Nero as tradition (and Hollywood) would have him and it's a fascinating portrait of what absolute power can do to a young man who'd really much rather race chariots and compose heroic verse. A wonderful, engrossing read. Review to follow shortly on For Winter Nights.

  5. 5 out of 5

    M.K.

    Following The Confessions of Young Nero, Margaret George concludes her tale of Emperor Nero with an insightful and passionate novel of the final four years of Nero’s life. On every dimension – superb writing, feeling immersed in time and place, characters both heroic and human, authenticity, and compelling plot – The Splendor Before the Dark is a winner. Politics and power. Throughout the novel, these two are tangled in an intricate dance where one false step can lead to tragic consequences. Desp Following The Confessions of Young Nero, Margaret George concludes her tale of Emperor Nero with an insightful and passionate novel of the final four years of Nero’s life. On every dimension – superb writing, feeling immersed in time and place, characters both heroic and human, authenticity, and compelling plot – The Splendor Before the Dark is a winner. Politics and power. Throughout the novel, these two are tangled in an intricate dance where one false step can lead to tragic consequences. Despite the warnings of those who know him best, Nero is unaware of, or willfully blind to, the false steps he takes. The people of Rome are fickle. Although Nero understands that “The crowd. They can turn to beasts in an instant,” he remains convinced of his people’s love far beyond the time when popular opinion begins to shift. And with his far-flung empire at relative peace, Nero fails to appreciate the fissures that threaten his leadership and Rome’s stature: religious unrest; rebellious territories; ambitious commanders; betrayals; and resentment of the costly and extravagant rebuilding of Rome. Underlying all this complexity—and making crucial decisions more difficult—are Nero’s conflicting personas: the dutiful emperor, the idealistic artist, and the man who allows his dark side to take over. As the novel gathers momentum and urgency, I found myself wanting to whisper in Nero’s ear, to warn him before he stumbled into further danger; before it was too late. Margaret George tells the story through three voices: the voice of Nero; that of Acte, a woman he has always loved; and that of Locusta, a woman who specializes in herbal medicine and poisons. Through Acte we see the young Nero and his idealist and artistic side, while through Locusta we see Nero’s dark side. The author’s research and interpretation of Nero has such depth that as the novel progressed, I felt I understood Nero on an intimate level. Here’s Locusta reflecting on Nero: “If, all those years ago when the prospect of being emperor was a poison mushroom away, did he have any comprehension of what was waiting on the other side? … Now he had entered fully into another kind of bondage, with no deliverance as long as he lived. Emperors did not retire into private life, like philosophers. There was only one retirement for an emperor—the grave. And if he is lucky, a natural descent into it at an advanced age.” Near the end of the novel, Nero broods on what has happened: “There is none so blind as he who will not see.” The Splendor Before the Dark is historical fiction at its most powerful. Highly recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    This author and I are just not compatible. I should have known better than to try this book since I didn’t manage to get through the author’s first book about Nero. Unfortunately, I just don’t enjoy her writing style and the same factors that bothered me in the first book still bothered me. The first person narration leads to a lot of telling rather than showing. The author obviously did a lot of research, but the mix of extensive physical descriptions and imagined feelings and conversations did This author and I are just not compatible. I should have known better than to try this book since I didn’t manage to get through the author’s first book about Nero. Unfortunately, I just don’t enjoy her writing style and the same factors that bothered me in the first book still bothered me. The first person narration leads to a lot of telling rather than showing. The author obviously did a lot of research, but the mix of extensive physical descriptions and imagined feelings and conversations didn’t work for me. I was also not pleased with the complete reimagining of Nero’s character and behavior. Here we have Nero as noble real estate developer. At least now I know not to attempt this author again. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kristen McQuinn

    My Blog | My Twitter This book picked up right where the previous book in Margaret George’s Nero series (duology would be a better term) left off. Jumping right into the thick of things, Nero has just learned about the fire sweeping through Rome. He rushes back, determined to do anything he can to stop it. He was in the middle of the efforts to stop the Great Fire, though later he would fall victim to rumors that he started the fire himself to make room for his Golden House, or, infamously, that My Blog | My Twitter This book picked up right where the previous book in Margaret George’s Nero series (duology would be a better term) left off. Jumping right into the thick of things, Nero has just learned about the fire sweeping through Rome. He rushes back, determined to do anything he can to stop it. He was in the middle of the efforts to stop the Great Fire, though later he would fall victim to rumors that he started the fire himself to make room for his Golden House, or, infamously, that he was fiddling about the fall of Troy as Rome burned. Nero’s troubles didn’t end with the last smoke of the fire. He had to deal with fossilized senators from old families who were scandalized that he wanted to do things in new ways. Hey, kind of like the fossilized old farts in the senate today! How much things remain the same… Nero wanted to introduce arts and theatre and culture to Rome, and Rome, especially the patrician Romans, wanted nothing to do with it. He also had to deal with numerous revolts, uprisings, and betrayals during his reign. Nero changed from an idealistic young boy to a somewhat paranoid man because of the betrayals he had suffered in his short life. He thought that betrayal, when it inevitably came, would come from within his family or possibly the senate, but he never saw it coming from the provinces or his Praetorian Guard. And certainly not from some of those he trusted most. I really loved this book, at least as much as the first Nero book Ms George wrote. Here, we truly get to see Nero as he most likely really was - a sensitive, thoughtful man who wanted to make sweeping changes to a centuries-old system and instead got destroyed in the politics of it. He was first and foremost an artist and musician, loving nothing more than to write and perform poetry and music. I took years and years of Latin from high school through grad school; I’ve read Tacitus and his comments about Nero. I never thought they seemed very realistic. The outstanding research that went into this book and its predecessor really highlights how misunderstood Nero has become to history. He wasn’t insane, cruel, or in love with persecuting Christians. He was flawed, yes, maybe a bit childish and naive for the ruler of the known world. Likely he was a bit narcissistic, or at least he came across that way somewhat, but not in a malignant way *coughtrumpcough* nor in an entirely self-centered way, if that makes sense. His narcissism, such as it was, seemed to be derived purely from being a child of luxury and privilege and not knowing anything else. Sometimes while reading this, I felt a little embarrassed for him, as I think I was meant to, because, like others in the room with Nero, I wanted to tell him to stop, or ask him, “Don’t you know you can’t do that/say that here to these people?” He was so idealistic that he was really clueless about a lot of things, and it made him a target in a variety of ways. As with all her other books, Margaret George has some absolutely lovely prose in this one as well. When speaking of the gods and religion, Nero has many things to say that were intriguing and well crafted. When one senator accused him of being an atheist, Nero replied that, in practical terms, he is because "since we cannot know [the gods’] thoughts, it is best to admit that and proceed in the dark, unlike ignorant people who think they know and make stupid interpretations." Later, regarding the Christians who he ordered executed for their alleged role in the fire, Nero said, “In some ways they are to be envied…. Having something so precious that it overrides all else in your life, even your life itself.” As an atheist myself, I don’t feel this way about religion, but I do understand the sentiment. I hold many things in higher regard than my own life. Nero felt this way about his art, and came to realize he felt that way about Rome itself. Combining thoughts on religion with philosophy, another of Nero’s favorite pastimes, is a terrific scene that comes just after he competes in his first chariot race. Nero’s wife Poppaea berates him for racing, an act that a charioteer (i.e., a slave) would do, not a patrician, and she was afraid for him for many reasons. She told him he was acting like a child: “You are no longer a child. Or are you? You behave like one.” “If I behave like one, it is because deep inside the child is still there.” … “Childhood is a phase of life, to be put aside as one grows up.” “No, it should be cherished, because it is the truest part of ourselves, the part that came into being first. ...It is when we are our childhood selves that we are closest to the gods.” This one reminded me to cherish my daughter’s childhood and to get more in touch with my own inner child. When Nero is on stage or talking about the arts, his true love, is when his real personality comes through. Nero and an actor are discussing the destruction of many of the theatres in the fire and how to rebuild so that plays can be put on again. Nero says, “Yes, people need that. Especially after such sorrow. It helps them to know that life goes on.” “Oddly enough, tragedies are a remedy for that. They put our own sorrows in context, the context of being human. Suffering is woven into all existence.” “Oh my,” [says Nero,] “perhaps you are in the wrong profession, and belong with the philosophers.” “Actors bring philosophy to people in a form they can understand,” [the actor] said. I love this exchange so hard because it encompasses so much of what the humanities as a whole stand for. If you’ve known me for any length of time at all, you will have been subject to one of my epic soapbox rants about the vital role the humanities play in modern society and how it is stupid and short-sighted to cut such programs from schools. The humanities teach us literally the human experience, how people experience the world around them. We may have all kinds of cool technology now, but someone had to think it up in the first place, and think about how it impacts human life and experience. Just...don’t get me started. But I loved this scene for a lot of reasons. Overall, I think this was just about a perfect novel. I just loved the deep research that clearly went into it, and the discovery of a man who is so different than how he is often portrayed in history. I think Margaret George has uncovered a more realistic version of Nero than anyone else and I adore the way she handles him and the multitude of myths and scandals that surround him.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Meg - A Bookish Affair

    "The Splendor Before the Dark" is the second book in Margaret George's duology about Roman Emperor Nero. It also is one of my most eagerly anticipated releases for 2018. I loved the first book and couldn't wait to dive into this one. It was well worth the wait and as this book shows, there is a good reason that Nero's name is still so well known out of all of the other Roman emperors. Although this book can definitely work as a standalone, I suggest you go back and read "The Confessions of Young "The Splendor Before the Dark" is the second book in Margaret George's duology about Roman Emperor Nero. It also is one of my most eagerly anticipated releases for 2018. I loved the first book and couldn't wait to dive into this one. It was well worth the wait and as this book shows, there is a good reason that Nero's name is still so well known out of all of the other Roman emperors. Although this book can definitely work as a standalone, I suggest you go back and read "The Confessions of Young Nero." It is a great book and why would you deprive yourself of such a good read? It will allow you to greater appreciate the heights Nero reaches in "The Splendor Before the Dark." This book covers the last four years in Nero's life. Although he has already been in power for awhile, this book provides a few opportunities for Nero to show his mettle to his people. One of those that I found most interesting is the Great Fire of Rome. Rome is basically destroyed and it is up to Nero to rebuild. He comes up with a bold plan to remake Rome to an even greater city than it was before. I really liked seeing his new plans and how he sells everyone around him on his huge plans, which make a mark for centuries to come. Margaret George is on my must read list always. In her books, you always know that she is going to give you great characters and rich detail to lend to fantastic world building. This book is no different and makes for a satisfying conclusion for the duology. I can't wait to read what she comes up with next!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    It is now December in 2018. I have not been able to push myself to read this interpretation of Nero. It seems very false to me. There is little balance. And I don’t care for her style in these two Nero books. She has always been a favorite author of mine and I love the amount of research she does. But somehow, she no longer seems to sound like she is writing for adults in these Nero books, especially the second book. It reads like a book written for teenagers. I managed to get through the great It is now December in 2018. I have not been able to push myself to read this interpretation of Nero. It seems very false to me. There is little balance. And I don’t care for her style in these two Nero books. She has always been a favorite author of mine and I love the amount of research she does. But somehow, she no longer seems to sound like she is writing for adults in these Nero books, especially the second book. It reads like a book written for teenagers. I managed to get through the great fire and how courageous Nero was and sympathetic towards his people. Of course, Rome had fires all the time and yet the buildings seemed to be constructed repeatedly into fire traps, always worse for people the higher the floors were. Nero never seemed to do much about it until the really big fire that burned close to his own properties. I do not understand how George could make up such scenarios for Nero trying to help during the fire and what his thoughts were. How would she know any of this? I understand she is allowed to take liberties in a novel, but there is a limit to that so as to keep a historical novel somewhat historical. This is not like her other historical novels where there seems to be a lot of research to back up what happens. I have read several of her books and loved them. It is somewhat shocking to me that I can’t seem to force myself to read this one when I have waited many years, since Cleopatra, for her to write it. It is also shocking to me how many people seem to love this book. I wonder how many of these admirers have read any of her other books? It took me many months to get through her Cleopatra, not because it was boring, but because there was so much detail on every page and so much to digest. It was not an easy read like this one. There were many words on every page and about 800 pages to absorb. I loved it. I loved Mary, Queen of Scott’s and Elizabeth as well. They all seemed somewhat scholarly as well as being extremely entertaining. But this? I will probably try again at another time. But I have many other books to read that I am enjoying. I usually am sorry when I force myself to finish a book I don’t like. It usually isn’t worth it. I really wanted to like this book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    M.K.

    What an amazing novel. More thoughts to follow.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Overmoyer

    Thanks to the publisher & NetGalley for the chance to read this book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Crystal King

    The Splendor Before the Dark is the second of two novels that George wrote about Nero's life. While this novel can certainly stand on its own, I definitely recommend you read the first, The Confessions of Young Nero. George is a master when it comes to delivering complex nuanced characters, inviting us into their inner lives in a way that will leave its mark on your own memory and life. There are several schools of thought about Nero and how horrible he might have been in life, but many modern h The Splendor Before the Dark is the second of two novels that George wrote about Nero's life. While this novel can certainly stand on its own, I definitely recommend you read the first, The Confessions of Young Nero. George is a master when it comes to delivering complex nuanced characters, inviting us into their inner lives in a way that will leave its mark on your own memory and life. There are several schools of thought about Nero and how horrible he might have been in life, but many modern historians think that some of these portrayals weren't, in fact, accurate. George takes this view and portrays Nero as a naive, creative artist who was not terribly suited to be emperor because his love for art and beauty were rather misplaced. My description is rather simplistic--George layers so much history and beauty into her story that I cannot do it justice. I had visited the remains of Nero's Golden House in Rome a few months ago, so much of her descriptions of Nero's sumptuous palace was fresh in my mind. In short, this is a fascinating, page-turning story about one of the most infamous people in history. I loved this book and predict that you will too. Thanks NetGalley and Berkley, for the early read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Angie Pfeiffer-Senft

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. History enjoys repeating itself. We may have advanced technologically, but we still mimic the same winning (or losing) attributes of our ancestors. There was gossip, and assassination plots, and Olympic games. Granted, the likes of Facebook and Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat have amplified the directness of things like gossip, delivering them with such speed and efficiency. Think how many plans could have been foiled if history (particularly focusing on the Roman Empire today) had this technol History enjoys repeating itself. We may have advanced technologically, but we still mimic the same winning (or losing) attributes of our ancestors. There was gossip, and assassination plots, and Olympic games. Granted, the likes of Facebook and Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat have amplified the directness of things like gossip, delivering them with such speed and efficiency. Think how many plans could have been foiled if history (particularly focusing on the Roman Empire today) had this technology available. For a culture so set in their ways, any new idea seemed like a direct snub to the gods. Would a forward-thinking emperor be the doom of Rome? Or would he pave the road in gold for the future? Nero is twenty-six years old, and has reigned as emperor of Rome for nine years. While the climb has not been easy, it seems our young emperor is making a name for himself, in positive ways, as well as negative. Nero had openly admitted (as well as performed) his affinity for the arts; poetry, cithara playing, and the controversy-causing chariot racing. Nero was in Antium, having recited his narrative of the fall of Troy. A breathless courier interrupts Nero’s reverie with an urgent message: Rome is burning. Without any hesitation, Nero decides to go home and help extinguish the fire. The blaze is uncontrollable as if it has a mind of its own driven by the wind. It jumps from one house to the next, inconsiderate of the livelihood of business and families it takes. The streets were bombarded with citizens fleeing. In the chaos, Nero witnessed a few people throwing torches into homes. Deliberate arson. The arsonists met their fiery end with unstable buildings collapsing on them, rendering them innocent in the real world, with hopes of justice in the underworld. Naturally, with any disaster comes rumors. The fire was an accident. The fire was a result of arson. The emperor sat and played his cithara while Rome burned. The emperor set fire to Rome. The gods were punishing them. Of course the farther away one was, the more egregious the rumor. Nero set up several stations for the citizens; first aid, food and water, and most important (and equally devastating) was the missing people/ news board. The emperor himself even posted a list of people he would like found, and was overjoyed when most of the people were located. When discussing the building of Rome: “How can we afford it?” An astute and painful question. “We will afford it because we have no choice.” Nero sees the needs of his people, they need (understandably!) a place to live- and they need to start right away. He wants to include and recreate what they had, but also build a bigger and better Rome for the future. Rome will be like a phoenix taking flight from the ashes. While seeing the emperor out and about gave the public much needed encouragement, while having the opposite effect on Nero. He saw nothing but devastation, lost, and years of hard work, which ultimately led to his futuristic architectural designs as well as his own demise. Will Rome accept the major changes the emperor will lay at their doorstep, and advance to a forward thinking culture? Or will they revert to the old ways, and put faith in a Sibylline prophecy: “Last of the sons of Aeneas, a mother-slayer, shall govern, And that after that, Rome by the strife of her people shall perish.” “The Splendor Before The Dark” is the continuation of “The Confessions of Young Nero” (a book I reviewed last year). This is the final installment in the Nero series- and to be honest, I’m not sure you could glean any more information if you tried. While I try my best not to spoil a book, sometimes my thoughts get ahead of me. Because this book isn’t out until November of this year, here’s your fair warning. “The Splendor Before The Dark” is definitely your historical fiction genre. This particular genre is one of those hidden gems that can either be hit or miss- I feel like there is no in between. This book definitely leans more towards the dry side of history, it’s engaging, but you are hit with fact after fact, and it gets a bit monotonous and repetitive. It’s unusual for me to say that too because I’m one of those readers that enjoys being inundated with descriptions. This more or less felt like a reading assignment in history class- I guess I would’ve liked more fiction with my history is what I’m trying to say. Nero was an emperor ahead of his time, in my opinion. We have an architectural genius, whose designs at times defied what was possible. He was scorned for it, having too exotic of taste. I truly believe Nero would have fared well in today’s society. People would come far and wide to witness the spectacles he created, instead of questioning his motives for building them. We’ve heard about emperor’s ruling with an iron fist, or being at war their entire reign, but reading this book puts Nero in a spotlight all on his own. Here we have a ruler trying to be three people at once; the ruler, the artist, and the man with dark, carnal desires. It’s unproductive when you are unable to be yourself, but to separate yourself and put on a face for each occasion sounds exhausting. I will give him this, Nero thought about the people. It may not have come across as that, but he was concerned about his citizen’s well-being. On the flip side, he also cared what they thought about him. He wanted to be on stage reciting poetry, and playing music, and racing chariots. All in all, people are just as mean now as they were back then. At least in ancient times, someone had the audacity to come at you with a knife instead of bullying behind the comforts of a computer. This book gives you a lot of information to take in. And with uncommon names and places, (and with having chemo brain) a lot was lost on me. I did take initiative and watch a few BBC documentaries which were actually extremely helpful. “The Splendor Before The Dark” by Margaret George is available for pre-order. The scheduled publishing date is currently November 6th, so be sure to look out for it on bookshelves! I was chosen by Netgalley to receive an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review. Given that fact, it has not altered my opinion on the book at all.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Magic History

    Margaret George, a master at historical fiction, completes her two book series about Nero with the magnificent The Splendor Before the Dark. The first book, The Confessions of Young Nero, takes us through Nero’s life as a child and a young emperor(he became emperor at 16). This book takes up where the first left off, during the great fire of Rome. We’ve all heard that Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but these books take the stance that Nero was horrified by the tragedy and worked to stop the flam Margaret George, a master at historical fiction, completes her two book series about Nero with the magnificent The Splendor Before the Dark. The first book, The Confessions of Young Nero, takes us through Nero’s life as a child and a young emperor(he became emperor at 16). This book takes up where the first left off, during the great fire of Rome. We’ve all heard that Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but these books take the stance that Nero was horrified by the tragedy and worked to stop the flames. The Splendor Before the Dark shows how Nero changed the final years of his short life, after the fire and before he apparently kills himself. He is a shown as a creative and artistic genius, two thousand years ahead of his time with some of his projects. George paints him as a bit of a naive artist, unaware of the shifting political winds in the large nation he governs. First and foremost, he loves art and theater, at the expense, especially of military endeavors. He loves and loses his wife Poppaea, only to marry once more. And there are two other women in Nero’s life: the young slave Acte, who begins as Nero’s young lover and grows into an accomplished businesswoman, and Locusta, a poisoner employed by Nero’s family and ultimately him. Acte, Locusta, and Nero himself take turns narrating the book. I did not know a great deal about Nero before reading these books, but, as usual with Margaret George, I learned a great deal. It’s an interpretation of course. Nero has been portrayed as a monster over the centuries. But George manages to even portray his murder of his mother sympathetically. In these, she is seen as the monster Nero must at all costs escape. The book also recounts Nero’s efforts at chariot racing, and building his extravagant and beautiful “Golden House”, a mansion inside a park in the middle of Rome. What’s remarkable about the book, however, is the illustration of Nero’s attempts at self-awareness. As a young child, he had to struggle to stay alive, and as emperor, he struggles to remain in control. And, in this passage, he tries to see inside himself. There had been too much, too fast — the widening plot, the death of Seneca, and now the revelations of Lucan. His accusations rang in my mind. He had called me stupid, blind. Perhaps he was right. How could I not have known? But. . .I had sensed something amiss. Yes. I recalled now the cutting remarks of these conspirators about the Golden House, about the rebuilding of Rome, about people cursing whoever had started the Fire, about the Circus Maximus race being “fixed.” But a ruler who took umbrage at every little remark would soon become so suspicious and touchy that he would degenerate into what they had called me — a tyrant. But perhaps a ruler who did not take umbrage readily was soon a dead one, oblivious to danger around him even as the knives flashed. Ultimately, Nero fails. But his valiant attempts at living a life filled with love, beauty and excitement make a long and interesting story. Thanks to Net Galley for a prepublication copy of The Splendor Before the Dark. It will be published November 6. Grade:A

  15. 5 out of 5

    Megan Jones

    With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero Augustus commands the Roman Empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural splendour. Although he has yet to produce an heir, his power is absolute. But in the tenth year of his reign, a terrifying prophecy comes to pass and a fire engulfs Rome, reducing entire swaths of the city to rubble. Rumours of Nero's complicity in the blaze start to sow unrest among the populace - and the politicians. For better or worse, Nero kn With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero Augustus commands the Roman Empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural splendour. Although he has yet to produce an heir, his power is absolute. But in the tenth year of his reign, a terrifying prophecy comes to pass and a fire engulfs Rome, reducing entire swaths of the city to rubble. Rumours of Nero's complicity in the blaze start to sow unrest among the populace - and the politicians. For better or worse, Nero knows that his fate is now tied to Rome's - and he vows to rebuild it as a city that will stun the world. But there are those who find his rampant quest for glory dangerous. Throughout the empire, false friends and spies conspire against him, not understanding what drives him to undertake the impossible. This is George’s second and final instalment in her Nero series and I eagerly anticipated the final chapter of his life. We begin where ‘The Confessions of Young Nero’ left off, with the great fire of Rome and George takes us through to Nero’s death. I have to be honest and say I think this was a boring read. There is not a lot of action and not many intense moments, everything trundles along at a nice pace, with no real danger anywhere to be seen, I was greatly disappointed. I still enjoyed the read but I was not gripped by it and thought it was too long for what actually happens. What I loved about the first book was George’s sympathetic portrayal of Nero, ironic really because that is one of my dislikes for this book. I thought George was a bit too sympathetic with her characterisation of Nero and he lost power for me. I enjoyed reading about the other sides to Nero, the artistic side, the thinking side and loving, caring side, but in my opinion there needed to be more of a balance with his role as emperor. The consequences of the fire are very much ignored and George progresses to other aspects of his life, this felt like a great shame. I am fascinated by the sympathetic side of Nero and think George has plausible arguments for her reasoning but there needed to be more on the Christians for example, the heavier aspects of his rule were ignored too much for me. ‘Emperor Nero’ is another enjoyable historical fiction read from George. I enjoyed getting stuck into a length read, I just enjoyed the first instalment better. George’s characterisation is excellent and once again I loved following a fascinating array of characters but this was too long, too boring and too sympathetic a portrayal for me to love.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Lindsay

    Ascending the throne was only the beginning for Nero. THE SPLENDOR BEFORE THE DARK picks up right after 2017's THE CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG EMPEROR, beginning with the Great Fire of Rome. Margaret George is at the height of her game. Her passion and meticulous research shine in this sequel to THE CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG EMPEROR (Berkley, 2017), in which she set out to recast the tyrannical, hedonistic ruler of Rome as the truly naive boy he was (having ascended the throne at age sixteen at his Ascending the throne was only the beginning for Nero. THE SPLENDOR BEFORE THE DARK picks up right after 2017's THE CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG EMPEROR, beginning with the Great Fire of Rome. Margaret George is at the height of her game. Her passion and meticulous research shine in this sequel to THE CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG EMPEROR (Berkley, 2017), in which she set out to recast the tyrannical, hedonistic ruler of Rome as the truly naive boy he was (having ascended the throne at age sixteen at his mother's sheer force of will). Margaret--and Nero--won me over then and THE SPLENDOR BEFORE THE DARK (Berkley November 6, 2018) captured me just as much, maybe more. After just ten years in power, Nero faces his biggest test: the Great Fire of Rome. Flames lick at wooden buildings, entire swaths of the city are reduced to rubble, monuments desecrated. And people are talking--did Nero start the fire himself? Was there another arsonist? Did Nero do anything to prevent it? Aside from that, Nero is surrounded by false friends, spies, and those who conspire against him. He's trying his best to be a just ruler, compassionate, and loyal, yet he falls in disarray time and time again. Still, I had such a soft spot for Nero and was silently cheering him on. From chariot races to the Grecian Olympics, art and music, THE SPLENDOR BEFORE THE DARK has so much to offer just about every reader. There's love and mayhem, death and destruction, luxury and intrigue, and of course, the 'insidious effects of power,' as Diana Gabaldon says. Told from the POV of three main characters--Locusta (an herbal medicine doctor), Acte (a woman who has stolen Nero's heart), and (largely) Nero himself , I was in awe. Margaret George has outdone herself and her passion for the subject matter truly shines. There were a few instances in which I skimmed over names and some details (those old Roman names are sort of challenging to keep track of/pronounce) and there were opportunities in which I wanted to know more physical descriptions of the characters , but aside from that, I found THE SPLENDOR BEFORE THE DARK to be a gorgeous historical fiction read. For all my reviews, including author interviews, please see: www.leslielindsay.com Special thanks to Berkley/Random House for this review copy. All thoughts are my own.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Viviane Crystal

    Passion takes precedence over politics, at least initially, in Margaret George’s brilliant follow-up novel to The Confessions of Young Nero. The story begins with the infamous fire that destroyed almost all of Rome, a fire Nero helps to put out. He helps dig out victims and console those who lost everything. However, the rumors then begin that Nero himself set the fires. He does nothing until he realizes that unless he finds a scapegoat his reign will end. And so the Christians become the easy t Passion takes precedence over politics, at least initially, in Margaret George’s brilliant follow-up novel to The Confessions of Young Nero. The story begins with the infamous fire that destroyed almost all of Rome, a fire Nero helps to put out. He helps dig out victims and console those who lost everything. However, the rumors then begin that Nero himself set the fires. He does nothing until he realizes that unless he finds a scapegoat his reign will end. And so the Christians become the easy targets because their teachings are used as evidence of their guilt. Nero after staging the massacre of the Christians for public viewing sets about rebuilding Rome. He intends to have Rome display glory and stunning, exotic views that will be admired forever! He attempts to wow his audience with his poetry, his athleticism in the chariot games, his artistic and architectural designs, and all of this (and more) are gorgeously depicted by the author. The effect on the reader is spellbinding. Not only is the history of Nero’s world explored but it also envelops the reader into the culture and beauty of the gods and former Roman and Greek emperors. Then deceit and tragedy enter Nero’s world, beginning with an absolutely huge defection on the part of both Senators and Nero’s own military guard. The plans for assassination are discovered and the plotters are condemned! But the moral and emotional devastation on Nero is piteous to follow. His pure intentions to create a beautiful cultured world within Rome are totally misconstrued and that shatters him. He will never trust again! The loss of his wife lead him to abandon Rome for a year while he travels to Greece where he will participate in the Olympics of the time. Finally, Nero’s demise follows the mysterious prophecy that began his adult life. Words cannot possibly convey the depth of how much is covered in this stunningly beautiful and skilled novel. Forget what you thought you knew about Nero and enjoy this comprehensive, complex journey into the world of one of the most notable Emperors in Roman history! Well-written, engaging, well-researched and highly recommended historical fiction!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    Firstly, thank you to NetGalley and Berkley/Penguin Random House for the ARC. Secondly, this review will contain minor spoilers (although they aren't really spoilers if you're already familiar with the historical story of Nero). The Splendor Before the Dark is the second half of Margaret George's fictional account of the emperor Nero, and this one was even better than the first one. It chronicles the last four years of Nero's reign, starting with the fire in Rome and ending with his death. I never Firstly, thank you to NetGalley and Berkley/Penguin Random House for the ARC. Secondly, this review will contain minor spoilers (although they aren't really spoilers if you're already familiar with the historical story of Nero). The Splendor Before the Dark is the second half of Margaret George's fictional account of the emperor Nero, and this one was even better than the first one. It chronicles the last four years of Nero's reign, starting with the fire in Rome and ending with his death. I never once felt that this novel dragged at any point, or had a lull, or lost my attention even for a moment. I was entranced the entire time. I especially love how George did such a fantastic job of humanizing Nero, who has unfortunately gone down in history as being the emperor who fiddled while Rome burned. The reality, as presented in this novel, could not have been further from the truth, and it was intriguing to be given such an in-depth glimpse at what theoretically could have actually happened rather than the smear-campaign that was launched against him afterwards. It seems like such a shame that Nero thus far has been remembered for being one of the worst emperors in Rome, when in actuality it seems that he was one of the most forward-thinking, ingenious, and creative emperors Rome ever had. George did a wonderful job showing how Nero was changed by the fire, and I was cheering him along as he finally grew into himself as an artist and allowed himself to do the things he wanted to do regardless of the opinions of others. I like to imagine that this is how Nero actually was, a sympathetic and talented artist who genuinely wanted the best for his people, rather than the Nero that history has presented. The ending was especially fitting and gave a good amount of finality and closure. Overall this was a fantastic read, and I would recommend it to anyone (and while this could be read as a stand-alone, I would definitely also recommend reading the first book first!). Margaret George can always be relied on for the best historical fiction around.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Whit

    Thank you to @Berkley and @NetGalley for providing me with a physical copy in exchange for my honest review. I do not recall spending a lot of time learning about the Roman empire during my school days. If anyone asked me then the name of one emperor I would have looked lost and confused. UNTIL NOW! What I love the most about historical fiction is the ability to actually learn something. I now can name an emperor of the Roman empire and I actually know his story if I end up becoming engaged in a Thank you to @Berkley and @NetGalley for providing me with a physical copy in exchange for my honest review. I do not recall spending a lot of time learning about the Roman empire during my school days. If anyone asked me then the name of one emperor I would have looked lost and confused. UNTIL NOW! What I love the most about historical fiction is the ability to actually learn something. I now can name an emperor of the Roman empire and I actually know his story if I end up becoming engaged in a conversation about him. Nero Augustus started his reign during tragic circumstances. He was the last emperor during the Julio-Claudia dynasty and became the heir and successor of his great-uncle Claudius. It goes down hill when history shows that he also killed his mother and decided to kill Christians during the Roman fire because of the Armageddon reference in the Bible. (Crazy, huh?) THE SPLENDOR BEFORE THE DARK is the 2nd novel behind The Confessions of Young Nero written by the same author, Margaret George. I found this followup to be written beautifully. It begins with the fire and escalates from there. Nero tried his best to repair Rome. He showed courage when faced with betrayal and religious unrest. The reader sees a young man trying his best to be a leader during a time of tremendous pressure. The story is told from 3 perspectives: Nero, Acte (his former lover) and Locusta (a woman who is known for herbal medicine). The reader experiences what each of these characters experience and are forced to see the good and the bad in Nero because of these perspectives. I thought that THE SPLENDOR BEFORE THE DARK was brilliant. It’s a little long, but I enjoyed what Margaret George brought to the story and loved how she didn’t leave anything behind. She was transparent and kept the story flowing. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in all things Rome.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Victoria Colotta

    My Highly Caffeinated Thought: An epic read filled with drama, intense relationships, and all best of what Roman history has to give. THE SPLENDOR BEFORE DARK is historical fiction at its finest. George expertly transports her readers in time while opening up a world of love, betrayal, and the need for power to her readers. There are so many things I love about this book as well as the series. However, the one which stands out the most is the writing. The eloquence, the flow, and the effortless d My Highly Caffeinated Thought: An epic read filled with drama, intense relationships, and all best of what Roman history has to give. THE SPLENDOR BEFORE DARK is historical fiction at its finest. George expertly transports her readers in time while opening up a world of love, betrayal, and the need for power to her readers. There are so many things I love about this book as well as the series. However, the one which stands out the most is the writing. The eloquence, the flow, and the effortless depiction of an ancient civilization make this book so good. I loved the way I was able to experience life through Nero's and a few of the other characters' eyes. This made the story so much more real. I know this is a book set in ancient Rome, but there was an intensely modern feel to it. The way the characters interacted and spoke was intrinsically steeped in history, but the was that something which transcends into the present. Hands down...this is a book not to be missed. CONFESSIONS OF YOUNG NERO was good, but this book is amazing. Reviewer Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Highly Caffeinated Rating of… ☕ ☕ ☕ ☕ ☕ ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦ Follow the Highly Caffeinated Victoria Colotta: Website | Facebook | Twitter @vcolotta | Instagram | Goodreads ✦ ✦ ✦ ✦

  21. 5 out of 5

    Deirdre Metcalf

    Thank you to Netgalley for providing an early copy of this book. This book was such a great read! The Splendor Before the Dark is the second book in a series but it can also be read by itself. This centers around the last few years of Roman Emperor Nero's life. The book starts off with a bang as Rome is engulfed by a great fire. The entire city is being destroyed and Nero rushes to help the people. He tries to help put out the fire only to later be accused of starting it himself. As the book cont Thank you to Netgalley for providing an early copy of this book. This book was such a great read! The Splendor Before the Dark is the second book in a series but it can also be read by itself. This centers around the last few years of Roman Emperor Nero's life. The book starts off with a bang as Rome is engulfed by a great fire. The entire city is being destroyed and Nero rushes to help the people. He tries to help put out the fire only to later be accused of starting it himself. As the book continues, Nero faces opposition and betrayal. You see him as he desires to make changes and do things in new ways. He wanted to create a cultural city full of art and theater. However, the leaders of Rome are stuck in the old ways and fight him every step of the way. I really loved Nero's character. He is so complex. He is an innovative thinker and an artist. He is sensitive but also can be very dark. This book also has a constant theme of politics and power. Nero hangs in the balance as his life is constantly threatened by people conspiring against him. We get to see how Nero changed in his last years due to the any betrayals he faced. Overall, this book is a wonderful fast read centered around one of the most captivating and notorious historical figures. This is the best in historical fiction and I highly recommend it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carol Palmer

    In “The Confessions of a Young Nero”, Margaret George introduces the reader to a Nero that is not at all like that portrayed in other books and taught in history classes. He’s a young man who enjoys partaking in sport and artistic endeavors. His mother’s ambition makes him the emperor of Rome. This book continues Nero’s story and starts with the famous burning of Rome. While Nero helps in organizing fire brigades, rumors start that Nero set the fire so that he could play the cithara while Rome bu In “The Confessions of a Young Nero”, Margaret George introduces the reader to a Nero that is not at all like that portrayed in other books and taught in history classes. He’s a young man who enjoys partaking in sport and artistic endeavors. His mother’s ambition makes him the emperor of Rome. This book continues Nero’s story and starts with the famous burning of Rome. While Nero helps in organizing fire brigades, rumors start that Nero set the fire so that he could play the cithara while Rome burned around him. This is just one of many rumors that is spread by Nero’s enemies. The rumor mill remains unchecked while Nero goes to Greece for a year to compete in the Olympics. His absence also gives strength to his enemies. After reading these two books, I believe the Nero and the Roman Empire would have been better off if Nero had just been left to be a rich, young man who followed his artistic and athletic whims and not emperor of the Rome. I received an advanced copy of this book as part of Penguin’s First to Read program.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Megan W. (pnwbookworm)

    This stunning tale of the Emperor Nero concludes Margaret Georges Duology about the Emperors life and places us firmly in the realm of ancient Rome. Whether you are a fan of historical fiction or not you will be sucked into this epic tale. The writing pulls you in, the setting keeps you firmly in the books grasp and the characters will compel you to keep reading. They are both heroic and at the same time flawed in the way that all humans are, keeping the authenticity of the story intact. The sto This stunning tale of the Emperor Nero concludes Margaret Georges Duology about the Emperors life and places us firmly in the realm of ancient Rome. Whether you are a fan of historical fiction or not you will be sucked into this epic tale. The writing pulls you in, the setting keeps you firmly in the books grasp and the characters will compel you to keep reading. They are both heroic and at the same time flawed in the way that all humans are, keeping the authenticity of the story intact. The story begins with the Great Fire of Rome and we find ourselves thrust right into the action. Nero himself was blamed for the fire and that had long reaching consequences for his reign. What really brought this book to life is George’s portrayal of Nero. She really brings him to life in a way that you can really see the man that he might have been. I loved this book and I definitely recommend it. Though I would suggest reading the first book in the duology before this one.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Wagner

    *I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This novel, a follow-up of The Confessions of Young Nero, chronicles the last four years of Emperor Nero's life and reign. Primarily told from Nero's perspective, there are a few chapters narrated by those close to the emperor. This allows the reader into Nero's head, but it also frustrated me to no end, but I couldn't get a good sense of how others considered Nero. Clearly, many of his advisers disliked certain aspects of his behavior and some *I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This novel, a follow-up of The Confessions of Young Nero, chronicles the last four years of Emperor Nero's life and reign. Primarily told from Nero's perspective, there are a few chapters narrated by those close to the emperor. This allows the reader into Nero's head, but it also frustrated me to no end, but I couldn't get a good sense of how others considered Nero. Clearly, many of his advisers disliked certain aspects of his behavior and some of the stories recounted in this book chilled even me (like the one about Sporus). As the end neared, I both did and didn't feel bad for Nero. He ends in a bad way, but he also ignored pleas from others earlier on to follow a different path, so I did feel he brought things upon himself in a way. Overall, a good read and a very detailed imagining of Nero's life and world.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Donna Pingry

    Very interesting. I couldn't walk away. Part of me kept checking back to see if this was the same Nero I've read about so often. The Nero that was raised by a monster and taught how to be one himself. An emperor whose mother killed and schemed her son's way to the throne. A mother who later was murdered by the same son. Nero, who blamed Christians for the burning of Rome and caused them to die the most gruesome deaths. This book leaves me terrible confused. Yes, his contemporaries loved him. Hit Very interesting. I couldn't walk away. Part of me kept checking back to see if this was the same Nero I've read about so often. The Nero that was raised by a monster and taught how to be one himself. An emperor whose mother killed and schemed her son's way to the throne. A mother who later was murdered by the same son. Nero, who blamed Christians for the burning of Rome and caused them to die the most gruesome deaths. This book leaves me terrible confused. Yes, his contemporaries loved him. Hitler was loved too. Was Nero a nut or a confused mother's boy? History has yet to give a definitive answer to that. I wish I had read the authors first book. Solid, believable characters, well written.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kate Eminhizer

    I received an advanced reading copy of this title via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Margaret George once again provides us with a comprehensive yet easy to absorb biography of one of history's great enigmas. George succeeds brilliantly with giving Nero a place in modern historical fiction. Her prose is effective in its ability to manipulate the reader through the emotional turmoil of Nero while also providing intense descriptions of events that overpower the reader's ability to res I received an advanced reading copy of this title via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Margaret George once again provides us with a comprehensive yet easy to absorb biography of one of history's great enigmas. George succeeds brilliantly with giving Nero a place in modern historical fiction. Her prose is effective in its ability to manipulate the reader through the emotional turmoil of Nero while also providing intense descriptions of events that overpower the reader's ability to resist. The first half of the book is fast paced and riveting. There is a distinct falling off of the intensity of the story after the mid-way point. This is not due to any fault on George's part but reflects the lack of sources available on the later life of Nero. Overall the book provides wonderful insight on Nero and should not be passed over.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    This is a lengthy novel about a man we mostly dismiss- and it's well worth your time. I remember little about Nero from school (and I'm not sure we actually were taught all that much) so this well researched book was both educational and entertaining for me. I missed the first book, which evidently covers up to this period, the last four years of his life. I regret not because I missed anything in this read but because George is a wonderful writer. She has humanized a man we know mostly as a meg This is a lengthy novel about a man we mostly dismiss- and it's well worth your time. I remember little about Nero from school (and I'm not sure we actually were taught all that much) so this well researched book was both educational and entertaining for me. I missed the first book, which evidently covers up to this period, the last four years of his life. I regret not because I missed anything in this read but because George is a wonderful writer. She has humanized a man we know mostly as a megalomaniac. There are lessons we should learn from the politics of Rome. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ArC. Highly recommend for fans of historical fiction and/or those who would like to know more about Nero and Rome.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    Thanks first of all to Goodreads for the ARC. I learned a lot about Nero from this extremely well researched book, and my uninformed opinion of him changed drastically. There are many myths about Nero that are false. The book begins with the fire which burned Rome down. Nero didn't fiddle during that time. After that, Nero, a poet and athlete as well as ruler of the Empire, was in power for only a few years before his political enemies found a way to destroy him. As I read, I kept getting bogged Thanks first of all to Goodreads for the ARC. I learned a lot about Nero from this extremely well researched book, and my uninformed opinion of him changed drastically. There are many myths about Nero that are false. The book begins with the fire which burned Rome down. Nero didn't fiddle during that time. After that, Nero, a poet and athlete as well as ruler of the Empire, was in power for only a few years before his political enemies found a way to destroy him. As I read, I kept getting bogged down with keeping straight the many characters with long Roman names. Also, while the descriptions of the surroundings are lush and vibrant, I felt they were overdone and impeded the progress of the plot. This book is massive and sweeping in scope. I would recommend it for folks who enjoy reading about and learning about The Roman Empire.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Annarella

    I like to read historical fiction set in Ancient Rome and this one was so good! I like how it describes Nero, not the usual crazy and blood thirsty monster, and the well researched background. It's a pleasant read, entertaining and enjoyable. The book is well written and I was hooked since the first pages. Many thanks to Berkley and Edelweiss for this ARC

  30. 4 out of 5

    Raquel

    Thanks to Penguin's First to Read program for giving me the opportunity to read this book before the release date. This book was well written and a great conclusion to The Confessions of Young Nero.

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