Crafting a spectacular narrative from the remnants of Ancient Rome, L.J. Trafford brings forth a brutal and bloody, but humorous and sometimes outright hilarious, conclusion to the Four Emperors Series.
Do you know how long it has taken me to find the words to write this review? I was approached by the lovely Jessica from TheBookPublicist a few months ago concerning whether I would be interested in reading and reviewing Vitellius’ Feast by L.J. Trafford, the synopsis drew me right in. If you know me at all, you know that I am an absolute lover of history. I majored it in my undergraduate degree, I did my honours thesis specialising in history – specifically, on the crusades and I’m now a teacher of history; I adore everything historical and this was not any different. Vitellius’ Feast is the concluding novel in Trafford’s Four Emperors Series and honestly, it was magnificent. Trafford’s writing is exceptional; she honestly understands how to create characters that have such depth of personality with real strengths and flaws. There is a brutality, not just with the actual narrative, but with the way in which Trafford writes. Trafford does not have time for the superficial, she writes with passion and does not shy away from depicting the very real ruthlessness, cruelty and arrogance of the characters that she has created (and that who exist in our history).
Before I go any further, the synopsis of Vitellius’ Feast is as follows, and can be found on GoodReads:
AD 69. As this most dramatic year draws to a close, now is the time to choose a definitive side. Whilst Vitellius enjoys the trappings of power around him, machinations are afoot. In the East, Vespasian has his eye on the throne, but he needs help preparing Rome for his plans and, for his teenage son Domitian, protection from Vitellius’ agents. With her characteristic flair, and lashings of skulduggery, sex, brutality, and humour, L. J. Trafford brings her Roman quartet, tracing the Year of the Four Emperors, to a spectacular conclusion
I came into reading this book at a complete disadvantage; I never read the previous three books in the series nor did I have time to before reading and writing this review. As a result, it took me a few chapters to acclimate myself to the vast array of characters, the context and the plot. To be honest, though, it wasn’t an extreme disadvantage as Trafford quickly ensures that the reader knows which characters are which, the context of the story and the overarching plotlines that tie the series together. One thing that stood out to me was Trafford’s writing. When I say to you that her level of sophistication and ability to paint such a powerful picture with her words, I mean it. I’ve already discussed this above, but I honestly feel that I need to emphasise how amazing a writer Trafford is.
In the previous books of the series, Trafford has explored and painted the turbulent, corrupt and ultimate demise of Roman Emperors, Galba and Otho. Vitellius, in this case, is the new Emperor in the wake of Othos’ death, in thanks to the most part of the Germanic Legion – as Vitellius was the commander. The character of Vitellius himself was such an interesting characterisation, especially since it is based on an actual physical historical figure who rule Rome in 69 AD. In this, Vitellius is everything you could ever imagine of an Ancient Roman ruler; cruel, gluttonous, incredibly perverted and, one could say incredibly lazy, despotic ruler. Vitellius is a not-so-distant figure, but he is so disconnected from his people and from his empire that he really does not understand nor observe the impact his actions have. Rather, Trafford explores the ramifications of Vitellius’ schemes, actions and cruelty through its impact on characters. Fundamentally though, Vitellius is nothing more than a puppet, there because of the Germanic Legion and Vitellius himself fares no better when they decide that Vitellius is not the leader that is wanted.
Trafford thus brings to life the depravity of Ancient Rome coupled with its corruption, its cruelty, its military might and it does not paint slaughter, murder and rape with rose-coloured glasses; Trafford writes with an astounding truthfulness in order to showcase the reality of Ancient Rome. It was brutal; there’s no romanticising it. But Ancient Rome brought us many things and Trafford also highlights the connection between the past and the present through her characters and narrative. Depravity and cruelty finds itself a part of all historical era, not only the Ancient ones, and we should understand that the human condition has the ability to do such good for people, for our understanding of the world; but we also have the capability for such evil and atrocity. That is one of the main aspects of our history as a human race that was reminded to me through reading Vitellius’ Feast.
So I hope my ramblings made sense! I would have to give Trafford’s Vitellius’ Feast a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Only because I sometimes found the vastness of the character cast overwhelming, but honestly, this is such a fantastic book and I am going to reading this series as soon as I can get my hands on it! Vitellius’ Feast is set to hit the shelves TOMORROW so, if I was you, start the series and let me know what you think!
That’s it, friends! Until next time, happy reading!
About the Author
L. J. Trafford is the author of the The Four Emperors series. After gaining a degree in Ancient History, Trafford toured across the amphitheatres of Western Europe. A collision with a moped in Rome cut her journey short, as she returned to the UK battered and impressively bruised.
She spent several years working as a tour guide, which ended up being the perfect introduction to writing as her tips relied on the creativity and entertainment of her skill at telling the history of the tour.
Trafford now works in London doing something whizzy with computers, but still finds time to jump back in time to bring tales of Ancient Rome to her readers!