The October Horse by Colleen McCullough Treats A Difficult Period In A Most Readable Way In her new book about the men who were instrumental in establishing the Rome of the Emperors, Colleen McCullough tells the story of a famous love affair and a man whose sheer ability could lead to only one end -- assassination. As The October Horse begins, Gaius Julius Caesar is at the height of his stupendous career. When he becomes embroiled in a civil war between Egypts King Ptolemy and Queen Cleopatra, he finds himself torn between the fascinations of a remarkable woman and his duty as a Roman. Though he must leave Cleopatra, she remains a force in his life as a lover and as the mother of his only son, who can never inherit Caesars Roman mantle, and therefore cannot solve his fathers greatest dilemma -- who will be Caesars Roman heir? A hero to all of Rome except to those among his colleagues who see his dictatorial powers as threats to the democratic system they prize so highly, Caesar is determined not to be worshiped as a god or crowned king, but his unique situa tion conspires to make it seem otherwise. Swearing to bring him down, Caesars enemies masquerade as friends and loyal supporters while they plot to destroy him. Among them are his cousin and Master of the Horse, Mark Antony, feral and avaricious, priapic and impulsive; Gaius Trebonius, the nobody, who owes him everything; Gaius Cassius, eaten by jealousy; and the two Brutuses, his cousin Decimus, and Marcus, the son of his mistress Servilia, sad victim of his mother and of his uncle Cato, whose daughter he marries. All are in Caesars debt, all have been raised to high positions, all are outraged by Caesars autocracy. Caesar must die, they decide, for only when he is dead will Rome return to her old ways, her old republican self. With her extraordinary knowledge of Roman history, Colleen McCul ough brings Caesar to life as no one has ever done before and surrounds him with an enormous and vivid cast of historical characters, characters like Cleopatra who call to us from beyond the centuries, for McCulloughs genius is to make them live again without losing any of the grandeur that was Rome. Packed with battles on land and sea, with intrigue, love affairs, and murders, the novel moves with amazing speed toward the assassination itself, and then into the ever more complex and dangerous consequences of that act, in which the very fate of Rome is at stake. The October Horse is about one of the worlds pivotal eras, relating as it does events that have continued to echo even into our own times. At the time I bought this it was thought it would be the last of the Masters of Rome series. After some initial skepticism (how could the follow-up to the stupendous Caesar measure up?) I stepped through and re-read the entire series and continued on to this one. To be greatly and pleasantly surprised. Once Caesar departs the mortal coil (in an unforgettable murder scene), October Horse necessarily loses some narrative momentum; given the historical context (the effective death of the Roman Republic and the schisms among the Roman nobleman class). Its hard to imagine any fiction writer making that particular period memorable and linear in narrative. Nevertheless, its abundantly obvious that Mark Antony was really the first De Facto Roman emperor - at least in terms of being a true despot foreshadowing the utter decadence of Tiberius, Caligula and Nero. By the time Antony assumed the consulship, the Republic was thoroughly dead. It took merely a competent tyrant like Octavian to maneuver Antony into his inevitable destruction. And a mere 19-year-old as senior consul (as Octavian was)? Clearly, the Republic was no more. This book has many tremendous passages. Marcus Cato comes into his own here, as McCullogh invests some space in developing his character and quite plausibly illustrates why Cato wound up having a strong following. Catos own departure from Macedonia after Pharsalus and his March of the Ten Thousand is probably the best passage in this very strong book. McCullough has a stunning gift for dialogue which keeps things moving even in the sections where armies are moving all over the place, as it were. Her dialogue is compulsively readable and continuously reinforces the qualities of her characters. But the character of Caesar remains transcendent. If he was even half of what McCul ough conjectures in the Masters of Rome series, which he dominates throughout most of the six books and over 5000 pages, then he must really have been something. She makes his presence on every page of compelling interest, and his murder scene is a real burner. A great character to build a series around, and after hes gone, its hard not to see anything further as an anticlimax. The character of Octavian is rather sweet and sympathetic at first, especially in his idolization of Caesar, but makes a rather rapid transformation to a budding tyrant with a gift for both propaganda and for compiling enemies lists. All in all, this is a strikingly strong book given that its the sixth of a very strong series. After starting with the fabulous First Man in Rome many years ago, it is a delight for me to say that you wont be disappointed with this one. Maybe not on the level of the Patrick OBrian Aubrey -Maturin series, but not far short and the whole Masters of Rome series is a real treat if youre desperate for some reading matter. For More 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price: The October Horse by Colleen McCullough - 5 Star Customer Reviews and Lowest Price!