Recent Reads: Rubicon

Not a review, this, but certainly a plug. For the post-Red Sun series which I’ve been planning (“Project D”) I’m drawing quite a bit on Roman influences – if not aesthetically, then certainly on some of the cultural elements. How much of this makes it through to the final book remains to be seen, but I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading on Roman history particularly concerning the end of the Republic, which brings me on to Tom Holland’s outstanding Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic.

I’ll not shit about: this is an outstanding book. Holland creates an exceptional narrative that connects major figures at the end of the Roman Republic, from Caesar to to Cicero to Sulla. The drama of the political arena is famous, but Holland’s account gives a sensational splash of colour and some clever context, but importantly for me gives a sense of meaning and purpose to such immense, world-changing acts. It isn’t a dry history, either – this is a living, breathing creature, full of depth and nuance. Though I won’t go into much more detail (I don’t really have the time to review it thoroughly) one particularly wonderful/gruesome/ironic aside concerns the demise of Manius Aquillius, the Governor of Pontus, at the hands of Mithridates, by having molten gold poured down his throat. Worth a google, that.

More thorough reviews here and here.

Share this Story

About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.


  1. Sounds worth a read. Added.

    Now that you’ve looked at the republic, are you going to move on to the empire? If so, have you read The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius? You should – either way.


  2. I’m always tempted to try out these roman “history” novels. This one sounds quite good. Have you tried watching shows like “rome” and possibly “spartacus:blood and sand”? Be warned it takes a few episodes for Spartacus to become watchable (and many still hate the OTT style)

    I’m also liking the tease for the next project. I guess you can’t tell us too much until the current series is complete though. Hopefully at some point we’ll get a post on making the transition. I’ve heard from other authors that publishers (and sometimes the author themselves) can be very reluctant to leave the fantasy world they have created for fear of losing the existing audience. I know there’s authors who do create multiple worlds but the majority nowadays stick to one, or have to change their name when writing a different book. I guess you’re not changing genre which I imagine is even trickier.

  3. Hi Eric – thanks for the tip. Yes, I’m looking at the empire, too; I’ve a decent biog of Caesar on the reading list, as will as some of Cicero’s writings on the Republic. I’ll add TTC to the list!

    Hi Neil – HBO’s Rome, I though, was brilliant, even though it fiddled with history slightly. Not seen Spartacus.

    I might make a post or two in future, but not until nearing the time. I can’t wait to try something new – getting itchy feet with the current setting. I’m looking at it as a chance to build a new audience, and I would quite like to draw a firm line under the Red Sun books. But yes, still very much fantasy, but no Weird for a while…