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Saturday, October 23, 2010

THE ASTRONOMER and EMPIRE: Mini-reviews

THE ASTRONOMER by Lawrence Goldstone

This cerebral thriller plunges the reader into a treacherous world of strife in France on the eve of the brutal Wars of Religion. Amaury de Faverges, illegitimate son of the duke of Savoy, secretly yearns to learn more about scientific theories forbidden by the Church; when a beloved classmate of his is murdered, Amaury takes the dead boy's place to foil a heretical plot that could challenge the foundation of the Church. A taut, suspenseful and erudite look at the 16th century's struggle to reconcile science with faith, The Astronomer is a refreshing departure into the turmoil of an era at odds with itself. (I purchased this book. For my longer review, see here).

EMPIRE by Steven Saylor

In his sequel to the NYT bestseller Roma, Steven Saylor returns to depicting the fortunes and tragedies of his fictional Pinarius family, this time during the notorious reigns of the emperors. Mr. Saylor’s keen sense of detail and breadth of knowledge are on ample display, as is his ability to weave centuries of history into entertaining narrative. Because Saylor mines such a richly documented time in Rome’s history, Empire has some intense set-pieces, such as the horrific mass execution of Christians under Nero. Yet precisely because so much of interest occurs, at times Saylor’s fictional characters do not engage as much as their historical counterparts. Nevertheless, Empire is a magnificent feat of storytelling. (The publisher sent this book to me for review.)

3 comments:

Avid_Reader said...

The Astronomer sounds good. I'll be adding it to my wish list.

I plan to read Saylor's Empire, too, but first have to read Roma.

W. C. Whitcomb said...

This novel is even better than the first (Roma) Steven has learned to be more careful in establishing new names and finding ways to help the reader navigate the (multi-named) Roman Aristocracy. (gens) Pinaria is an historical family that traces its roots to the foundation of Rome. The last recorded Pinaria was Lucius Pinarius of whom Steven has made his central character to start off Empire. A moving and exciting read!

Laurel Corona said...

I reviewed The Astronomer for HNS. It presents such a vivid world, and the last 100 pages are not to be read at bedtime if you have to accomplish anything the next day. A real page turner!