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The splendor before the dark : a novel of the Emperor Nero
2018
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Summary
Ascending to the throne was only the beginning... Now Margaret George, the author of The Confessions of Young Nero , weaves a web of politics and passion, as ancient Rome's most infamous emperor cements his place in history. <br> <br> With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero Augustus commands the Roman empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural splendor. Although he has yet to produce an heir, his power is unquestioned.<br> <br> But in the tenth year of his reign, a terrifying prophecy comes to pass and a fire engulfs Rome, reducing entire swaths of the city to rubble. Rumors of Nero's complicity in the blaze start to sow unrest among the populace--and the politicians...<br> <br> For better or worse, Nero knows that his fate is now tied to Rome's--and he vows to rebuild it as a city that will stun the world. But there are those who find his rampant quest for glory dangerous. Throughout the empire, false friends and spies conspire against him, not understanding what drives him to undertake the impossible.<br> <br> Nero will either survive and be the first in his family to escape the web of betrayals that is the Roman court, or be ensnared and remembered as the last radiance of the greatest dynasty the world had ever known.
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  Booklist Review

*Starred Review* You had the courage to be openly yourself . . . to be an artist in spite of ridicule and opposition, says one woman to Emperor Nero, simultaneously describing his charismatic appeal and tragic flaw. Covering his tumultuous last four years, George's invigorating sequel to The Confessions of Young Nero (2017) opens in AD 64 with Rome's Great Fire. Although he wasn't there when it started, and assists refugees afterward, rumors imply otherwise. His architectural designs for rebuilding the city are dazzling but drain the treasury. Despite his political naïveté and other faults, Nero's narrative voice never fails to captivate because of his full-throated appreciation for art and life in general. He cherishes his inner circle, including his beloved wife, Poppaea, while others betray him. He achieves his dream of competitive chariot racing, and Greece's scenic wonders are gloriously brought into view as he brings a large entourage there for an extended tour of the sacred games, to the Senate's dismay. Although Nero acknowledges the competing aspects of his complicated nature, he fails to balance them. George's nuanced, well-researched character study depicts his candid inner self and how the performance of his short life played out on the Roman Empire's vast stage. It succeeds admirably in persuading readers to reconsider their impressions of the infamous Nero.--Sarah Johnson Copyright 2018 Booklist
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