I remember an old thread where people were discussing books that they've recently read, so I thought I'd kick one up about a smashingly good series that I've been happily diving through the past few days.
Author Conn Iggulden recently finished his Emperor series, which is a quartet of books that follow the life of Julius Caeser. This isn't, however, your usual jaunt into history. Even as a history buff myself, I find reading text-books and laborious essays about history both boring and non-educational.
But Iggulden seems to see in history what few others do: That below it all, there are stories there of immense action, intrigue, suspense, and romance. Ones that rival even the greatest tales today.
The Emperor series focuses on the life of Gaius Julius Caeser and his dear friend Brutus. Although Iggulden follows history resolutely, he also adds in fictional characters and situations and fills out Julius's life as an epic of mass proportion, hiding a bunk-load of historical fact beneath beautiful fiction. The battles are fun and swashbuckling -- Julius and Brutus are so good at their craft, for example, that they often find themselves betting over the number of bodies they'll fell before the battle's end, or tossing playful insults at their opponents. This is stuff you might normally associate with pirates, but better. There's magic, too -- a magician befriends Julius Caeser and helps lead him on his path to greatness, concealing his wonderful and mystical gift all the while.
Take heed: These books are not for the faint of heart. There is violence abound and both heavily detailed accounts of heterosexual and homosexual romance. Realize, though, that these were the ways of the society back then. Meanwhile, Iggulden brings to life characters we never knew existed and characters we've learned about all through school, and gives them a true life beyond their text-book explanations.
If you love history, pick up these books. If you love action, pick up these books. If you're into pirates, magic, knights, or any form of fantasy, then get these books. I can't imagine that you'll be disappointed!
The Emperor series, by Conn Iggulden
Emperor: Gates of Rome
Emperor: Death of Kings
Emperor: Field of Swords
Emperor: Gods of War
(and if you like these, he's two books into a series written in the same manner about the great and horrible Ghengis Khan!)