Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Review: Colossus - The Four Emperors by David Blixt


Rome under Nero is a dangerous place. His cruel artistic whims border on madness, and any man who dares rise too high has his wings clipped, with fatal results.

For one family, Nero means either promotion or destruction. While his uncle Vespasian goes off to put down a rebellion in Judea, Titus Flavius Sabinus struggles to walk the perilous line between success and notoriety as he climbs Rome's ladder. When Nero is impaled on his own artistry, the whole world is thrown into chaos and Sabinus must navigate shifting allegiances and murderous alliances as his family tries to survive the year of the Four Emperors.

The second novel in the Colossus series.

Sordelet Ink | April 7, 2013 | 406 pages

My Review

Colossus: The Four Emperors is the second novel in David Blixt's Colossus series.   The series is set in ancient Rome and Judea during the mid-1st century AD, at a time of immense political and religious change.  Whereas the first novel in the series, Colossus: Stone and Steel, is principally set in Judea and features Hebrew protagonists, this novel takes place primarily in Rome and focuses on Romans characters.  While a war is being waged in Judea under the generalship of Vespasian, Rome itself is embroiled in political unrest first under emperor Nero and then, following his death, when various opposing factions fight for political supremacy in what becomes known as the Year of the Four Emperors. 

One of the things I enjoy most about David Blixt's novels is that they are chock full of rich historical detail.  Combined with his eloquent and engaging prose, this detail allows Blixt to bring his subjects vividly to life.  Colossus: The Four Emperors is no exception.  The customs, beliefs and politics of Rome in the 1st century are seamlessly integrated into the narrative, giving the reader a real feel for the time period.  The Year of the Four Emperors was a fascinating time in Roman history, and I enjoyed Blixt's interpretation of it, which showcases the political and military posturing that helped to define the period.  While I'm generally not a fan of extensive battle sequences in novels, Blixt's are engaging and, as a result, I was never tempted to skim them.  Another strength of this novel is its characters, who come right from the pages of history.  Sabinus, the central character in the novel, is well-drawn and I appreciated his sense of honour and duty, and his devotion to his family.  Sabinus' upstanding character and his approach to life contrasts greatly with those of the emperor Nero and the men of his inner circle.  While I was familiar with Nero's reputation prior to reading this novel, I wasn't aware of the lengths to which he would go to shame or rid himself of his rivals and enemies, or of the activities he would permit and encourage in the name of entertainment (some of Nero's 'entertainments' prove to be rather disturbing).  His immediate successors offered little improvement. 

Although this novel is the second in a series, some of the events of this story take place at the same time as those of the first book, the only difference being the perspective from which the story is told (Book One: the Judeans, Book Two: the Romans).  While Colossus: The Four Emperors can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, I recommend starting with the first book of the series as it gives important background to some of the sub-plots and secondary characters featured in this book.  The series' third novel, Colossus: Wail of the Fallen, which will be published later this year, returns the story to ancient Judea and focuses on the fall of Jerusalem -- I'm looking forward to reading it, and revisiting the central characters of the first novel. 

Highly recommended to readers who enjoy historical fiction set in ancient Rome. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Source: I received a copy of this book as part of David Blixt's virtual book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Colossus The Four Emperors is currently on tour!  Click here to check out the tour schedule...and be sure to check back here tomorrow for my interview with David Blixt. 

About the Author

Author and playwright David Blixt's work is consistently described as "intricate," "taut," and "breathtaking." A writer of Historical Fiction, his novels span the early Roman Empire (the COLOSSUS series, his play EVE OF IDES) to early Renaissance Italy (the STAR-CROSS'D series, including THE MASTER OF VERONA, VOICE OF THE FALCONER, and FORTUNE'S FOOL) up through the Elizabethan era (his delightful espionage comedy HER MAJESTY'S WILL, starring Will Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe as inept spies). His novels combine a love of the theatre with a deep respect for the quirks and passions of history. As the Historical Novel Society said, "Be prepared to burn the midnight oil. It's well worth it." Living in Chicago with his wife and two children, David describes himself as "actor, author, father, husband. In reverse order."

 For more about David and his novels, visit

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