Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Review for The City War by Sam Starbuck

Senator Marcus Brutus has spent his life serving Rome, but it’s difficult to be a patriot when the Republic, barely recovered from a civil war, is under threat by its own leader. Brutus’s one retreat is his country home, where he steals a few precious days now and then with Cassius, his brother-in-law and fellow soldier—and the one he loves above all others. But the sickness at the heart of Rome is spreading, and even Brutus’s nights with Cassius can’t erase the knowledge that Gaius Julius Caesar is slowly becoming a tyrant.

Cassius fears both Caesar’s intentions and Brutus’s interest in Tiresias, the villa’s newest servant. Tiresias claims to be the orphaned son of a minor noble, but his secrets run deeper, and only Brutus knows them all. Cassius, intent on protecting the Republic and his claim to Brutus, proposes a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. After all, if Brutus—loved and respected by all—supports it, it’s not murder, just politics.

Now Brutus must return to Rome and choose: not only between Cassius and Tiresias, but between preserving the fragile status quo of Rome and killing a man who would be Emperor.


Sam Starbuck has made history fun in this steamy interpretation of the downfall of Julius Caesar.  With its insightful look into characters we only know by name he succeeds in drawing us into this world and feeling compassion for those put into an untenable position.

Where before we found Brutus a bloodthirsty traitor, we now see a conflicted soul.  Conflicted as to his ongoing relationship with Cassius as well as being drawn into the assassination plot.  We end up feeling sympathetic towards him and relish any moments of happiness he can find.  He tries to be an honorable man but gets drawn into a plan that he finds lacks honor.

His relationship with Cassius is one that remains hidden from the public but gets the tacit okay from their wives.  The encounters are playful yet sexy and you can sense all the weight of the world being lifted off him at these moments.  Considering how happy he makes Brutus I wish Cassius came off as more likable.  He gave the impression of being a jealous child constantly prodding at Brutus to do the bloody deed he's too weak to do.  That's why it was nice that Brutus was able to draw comfort from the "transgender" Tiresias.  Tiresias gives unwavering support to Brutus at a time when he's doubting everything and everyone.  Considering the important part she/he plays in Brutus' life I wish we'd had more insight into the character.

The City War perfectly blends historical and emotional facets into an entertaining and satisfying history lesson.  The many names dispersed throughout the story does become a bit overwhelming at times but the vivid and realistic imagery fully immerses the reader into this brief glimpse into Roman life.  Sam Starbuck has created an emotional and thought provoking story and I'm greatly intrigued by what he'll create for us readers next.

My rating for this is a B.

*I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

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