I’ve read all of Robert Harris’ books, after catching on to Fatherland somewhat later than most. Imperium is somewhat different to his other novels, which are generally set in an historical setting, and may feature actual historical figures, but are fictitious, mainly murder mystery thrillers, but always clever, entertaining and in-depth. Imperium features an actual historical figure and details event that did take place, along with some guesses to fill in the blanks.

It’s not that I didn’t like the book, I did, but not as much as his previous works. I think this came down to Marcus Cicero, the main character. He has some redeeming and admirable features, but ultimately he’s a politician in a time when anything went. He changes his morals, his position in debates and what he is willing to compromise on a whim as long as it gets him closer to his goal: to become a consul of Rome.

As such, you’re left with a character you have no wish to empathise with, striving for a goal you don’t care about and can’t get behind, unlike most of Harris’ other novels where the main characters are good and a striving to uncover the truth or justice. I like Rome, it fascinates me, and I stuck at it, but it wasn’t the sort of novel I was eager to get back to (unlike Airborn, which I couldn’t put down).

Worth a look if you like historical fiction, Rome or politics, otherwise you might want to avoid.

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Reviewed: 8th August 2007