Saturday, 3 June 2017

Review: Deposed by David Barbaree

Deposed by David Barbaree (2017)
Twenty7  480 pages

A.D 68. A deposed emperor lies in a prison cell, betrayed and newly blinded by those who were sworn to protect him. He is now crippled and deprived from power, left completely on the edge of despair with a frightened young slave named Marcus as his only companion. Ten years later and it is Emperor Vespasian who wears the purple. Things may have settled since the civil war but Vespasian’s son Titus is plagued with worry about plots to murder his father. Gruesome atrocities and mysterious disappearances are ripe throughout Rome; it is a city full of falsehoods and intrigues with the fear of rebellion lurking beneath the surface. Furthermore, a man who used to be emperor still lives – a blind man who everyone believes to be dead. His name is Nero and he seeks revenge against those who wronged him. 

Ancient Rome is a fascinating historical period and in my opinion it’s not any easy task to write a convincing novel set during this time. Deposed however manages just that. It is undoubtedly a superb novel that deals with just a short period in Rome’s vast history and creates a story full of mystery and suspense. David Barbaree takes both the facts and the missing details from this period and moulds them in to something that feels convincing and simultaneously entertaining. It’s original and gripping – I was amazed that this is the work of a debut author.

Deposed is a complex piece of work yet it is cleverly done; it moves back and forth between the years and follows different characters who gradually come together as the story moves forward. It’s written in a mix of first and second person which along with the vast number of characters did confuse me a little in the beginning, but it comes together nicely after the first few chapters. Plus, there is a list of all the characters and their positions in the back pages of the book which was helpful. This is a dense piece of historical fiction but it really works – it’s full of subplots, it has a vast set of diverse characters, and its timeline weaves back and forth over a period of ten years. A novel this complex could very easily become a sea of confusion but David Barbaree makes it work. I don’t know how he did it but he really pulled it out of the bag and managed to write a stunningly intricate novel.

Each character has their own unique voice which allows them to hold a chapter on their own without it falling flat. We follow characters that are based off historical figures and completely fictional characters but all of them drive the story. Everything in this book felt real; the beautiful palaces, the crowded streets, the temples, and the prisons all belong to a world that existed long ago but they are brought to life within the pages of this book. The entire tone of the story is dark and melancholy; the intrigues and conspiracies that run throughout create a menacing feel that hangs over the story, giving it the weight that is so difficult to achieve in historical novels.

Deposed is fantastic debut and although it works wonderfully on its own, there is a hint that a sequel may follow in the future. David Barbaree is a new author worth looking out for and I highly recommend you check this one out if you’re a lover of historical fiction.

Overall rating: 4 stars

My copy of Deposed was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.


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