In this final installment of the Roman series, Julius Caesar is at the height of his political career. Though he must leave Cleopatra to fulfill his duties in Rome, she remains a powerful force in his life as the mother of his son.

He's beloved by most of his countrymen but there are those who see him as a threat to the democratic values of the republic. Though Caesar does not wish to be crowned king or worshiped as a god, he does want control and that is why his enemies plot an assassination. (E tu, Brutus?)

It is the depiction of the human side of history's famous characters—Cleopatra (spoiled and shallow) traditionalist Cato, Brutus (caught between his manipulative mother and ruthless wife) and Octavius, Caesar's heir, who grows from youth to man searching out Caesar's assassins—that sets this above other histories of Rome.

McCullough's understanding of the empire's history, extraordinary leaders and powerful drama is clearly extensive. This saga explores themes of love, ambition, honor, loyalty, power, vengeance and passion—the stuff that makes life and novels great. She is a grand mistress of the genre. (Nov., 860 pp., $7.99)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin