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The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George

A Book Review

Summary

“The Confessions of Young Nero” by Margaret George is an adult historical fiction about the infamous Roman emperor Nero. But more importantly, it’s a gripping tale of political intrigue, personal betrayal, and a young man struggling to find peace within himself.

Thrust into power by his cruelly cunning mother at a young age, Nero is forced to navigate the dangers of his path in life, all the while feeling like an outsider in the power-hungry world he was born into. As accurate to history as it could possibly be, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel.

Nero

I must admit that I knew very little about this infamous Roman emperor, or even Ancient Rome itself, before reading this novel. History paints Nero as a wildly inappropriate tyrant. However, Margaret George paints him in a much kinder, and more fascinating light. In many ways Nero was far ahead of his time, and he was revered by the common people for his generosity and fondness of the arts, which were deemed far beneath a person of his status by the aristocrats. He is a fascinatingly complex character, and even refers to there being three versions of himself throughout the novel. The reader comes to understand and empathize with all three Nero’s by the end, despite the dark shadow history has thrown over him.

Agrippina

However, I would have to concede that the most intriguing character by far, to me at least, is Nero’s mother. Agrippina was painted as a cold and callous person, and some of the actions she takes certainly give credibility to that description. But what fascinated me the most was her sheer cunning, worthy of praise in my opinion. Agrippina was the puppet master behind the strings. She orchestrated and controlled an impressively large amount of political events, all to further her own power and importance. She worked her way from exile to empress, and she didn’t stop there. I was constantly left impressed by her subtle manipulation and cunning.

Other Characters

“The Confessions of Young Nero” has an overwhelmingly large cast of characters. Due to the importance of family trees and ancestry in this work, there were numerous names dropped rather frequently, and I found it difficult to keep up with them at times. I got characters confused or forgot ancestors altogether quite a lot; however, I think my lack of prior knowledge had a large part to play in that.

But, there are several interesting characters that stand out from the mix, and we are even given some chapters from their points of view when the time calls for it. The two characters that come to my mind are Acte and Locusta. It would be difficult for me to explain their importance to the story without giving spoilers (although, can you really spoil historical events?). But both of these characters bring very strong female presences to the novel, albeit in very different ways.

Setting

Being an accurate historical fiction, this book’s setting is very much Ancient Rome. The author took no liberties with the locations the events of the novel occurred in, and I felt almost as if I had been transported through time. Margaret George paints stunning pictures of scenery that plop you right at the fancy formal dinner couches in the imperial palace, or the flower gardens of aristocrats personal villa’s.

The abundance of locations this novel takes place in could easily have been overwhelming to the reader (much like the names), but the author’s use of modern names for places instead of their traditional Latin names helps stave it off. However, without a prior knowledge of the cities of the ancient empire, it still can be slightly confusing. I found myself looking up a map once or twice, just to better understand the layout of the cities and countrysides they were visiting.

Conclusion

I was very impressed by this novel, and Margaret George’s ability to recount history in such an interesting and entertaining way. Above all else, “The Confessions of Young Nero” reads like the story of a boy thrown into power, and his inner struggles to accept it, thrive in it, and maintain it. It held my interest from the dark, scarring opening right until the shocking end. I will most certainly be picking up the sequel to read the conclusion of Nero’s intriguing tale.

Star Rating

4.25 out of 5 stars

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Published by Alivia Haven

Aspiring author, avid reader.

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