Fortune’s Favorites covers Roman life during the 14 year period from 83 BC to 69 BC.
The first 18 pages of this 804 page tome are a synopsis of events that occurred in books 1 and 2. So if you prefer to skip those books and jump in at the rise of Julius Caesar, this is the book with which to do so.
So far, I have found Fortunes Favorites to be the most exasperating and exciting of the series. Exasperating because Colleen McCullough is a stickler for detail and after unfathomable quantities of research, she excels in schooling the reader on every facet of Roman life: politics, war, customs of home life and relationships, the court system, and religion. Did you know there were priests and a Pontifex Maximus (comparable to the Pope) prior to Christianity?
The intensity of detail becomes overwhelming predominantly in descriptions of military battles. Rome was always involved in some kind of conflict. If it wasn’t involving control of adjacent territories, it was civil war and internal uprisings. In many ways, it was like the wild-wild west of American lore. But instead of lone renegades like Jesse James and Butch Cassidy, Rome’s villains formed armies of thousands and threatened the very well-being of the nation which frequently resulted in military action.
It is easy to become war weary reading this series, but don’t give up! You’ll be happy to meet a wonderfully colorful cast of characters.
Lucius Cornelius Sulla – He paid a heavy price for his fame and power. In his final years as dictator of Rome, Colleen writes, “vindication at last. And yet the disappointments of his age and his ugliness and his approaching death curdled his joy with the sourest sadness, destroying pleasure, exacerbated pain. How late, how bitter, how warped was this victory….. ” (Pg. 162) and “And he had thought while he itched and tore himself to raw and bloody tatters of being an old and ugly and disappointed man given the world’s most wonderful toy to play with: Rome. It’s men and women, dogs and cats, slaves and freedmen, lowly and knights and nobles. All his cherished resentments, all his grudges grown cold and dark, he detailed meticulously in the midst of his pain. And took exquisite comfort from shaping his revenge.” (Pg. 178) He went from hero to monster – decapitating all his enemies in the Roman government and having their heads attached to spears and displayed on the Forum wall. Indeed he took revenge.
Pompey (formally called Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus) or Pompey the Great to his admirers and Kid Butcher to his enemies. He was a young arrogant soldier who wins the hearts of the Roman public with his daring military victories and then expects his just rewards. His simply written, raw, uncouth correspondence to the Senate and their flabbergasted reaction is immensely entertaining.
The gay King Nicomedes and Queen Oradaltis of Bithynia – Both fell in love with Julius Caesar when he came to plead for a fleet of war ships, causing rumors to fly that Julius was also gay… a cultural issue just as controversial then as it is today.
Spartacus – The untamable escaped gladiator who terrorizes Rome with his army of misfit followers and his woman Aluso. Aluso reminds me of Tina Turner in her role as Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome – wild and sexy.
And of course, Julius Caesar – He’s a direct descendant of the Gods… the golden boy and future emperor of Rome… strong, intelligent, handsome, and wise beyond his years. If you didn’t know this was “loosely” based on fact, you would swear he was a fictional character, too good to be true.
Fortunes Favorites is adventure and drama to the max. Thankfully, the next book is called Caesar’s Women, so perhaps it will be a little more love, a little less war. The writing techniques and style are not the best, but regardless, the series is addictive – like a good soap opera or high drama TV series. Once you start, you can’t stop.
Rated 4.5 Stars.
I use a rating scale of 1 to 5. Books rated 1, I seldom finish. Books rated 2, I usually finish but would never recommend to anyone. 5 is the highest rating.