The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
The third part of Harris's trilogy based on the life of Cicero, Dictator, like its predecessors, is told from the point of view of Tiro, the orator's secretary. The book deals with the events surrounding the seizure of power by Julius Caesar, his assassination and the subsequent power struggle between the forces of the Senate and those of Marc Anthony, Lepidus and Octavia. It chronicles Cicero's vain attempts to preserve the republic, a struggle which ultimately cost him his life.
Meticulously researched, eminently readable and hugely enjoyable, Dictator is a first-class piece of historical fiction. The ambition, vanity, cruelty, jealousy and spite which motivates so many of these power-hungry individuals is immediately recognizable; as are their weaknesses, compromises and the occasional moments of lucidity and courage.
Harris's gift is to make political life in Ancient Rome entirely accessible to the contemporary reader so that one entirely forgets one is reading about a conflict that happened over two thousand years ago. It is as if someone had come across the abandoned ruin of a magnificent theatre, flung a switch and suddenly the whole edifice had come to life, with all the brutality and poetry of which for so long we had only heard rumours.