Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Book Review: THE GATES OF HELL - Michael Livingston

Michael Livingston
TOR / A Tom Doherty Associates Book
Historical Fiction / Fantasy

After reading the first book in this new series, THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN, I couldn't wait for more. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait. And with relish, dug right in!

The dust jacket says: Alexandria has fallen, and with it the great kingdom of Egypt. Cleopatra is dead. Her children are paraded through the streets in chains wrought of their mother's golden treasures, and within a year all but one of them will be dead. Only her young daughter, Cleopatra Selene, survives to continue her quest for vengeance against Rome and its emperor, Augustus Caesar.
To show his strength, Augustus Caesar will go to war against the Cantabrians in northern Spain, and it isn't long before he calls on Juba of Numidia, his adopted half-brother and the man whom Selene has been made to marry -- but whom she has grown to love. The young couple journey to the Cantabrian frontier, where they learn that Caesar wants Juba so he can use the Trident of Poseidon to destroy his enemies. Perfidy and treachery abound. Juba's love of Selene will cost him dearly in the epic fight, and the choices made may change the very fabric of the known world.

THE GATES OF HELL takes place two and a half years after THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN. Characters are reintroduced nicely. Juba --Octavian's step brother, who was once meant to rule Numidia before Rome seized it, is married to the young Cleopatra Selene. With Cleopatra and Antony dead, Selene was destined to rule as queen of Egypt, but again, Rome interfered with her fate, as well.

There are at least four collected Shards. Pieces of Heaven that splintered when God died. Each holds its own mystical power. Only the select few can even touch, much less, wield the power contained in the black crystals. Juba and Selene are headstrong about seeking revenge against Octavian (who know calls himself Augustus). They are intent on destroying Rome. And with the Shards, they know they have the power to accomplish anything.

The Ark of the Covenant is safe (for the time being). Caesarion (son of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra) and his wife Hannah have the Biblical relic hidden. Vorenus and Pullo know that the Ark needs to be moved to a better location. Transporting the powerful ark will not be simple, if anything doing so could prove very dangerous.

Augustus wants to move against the Cantabrian, to bring even more to Rome! The barbarians have more than arrows and steal on their side. They too possess one of the Shards. The battle, with Juba at the frontline, is nothing shy of destructive.

Tiberius, the stepson of Augustus, knows that Selene stole from Rome. He is determined to figure out what she took. He will stop at nothing until he has all he wants. And what he wants is to rule in Augustus' place!

Can one man bring peace to the world What if that one man is wanted dead by so many because of his aspirations? Or will the revelation of an evil truth ignite a new war where wielding the Shards brings death, destruction, and literally opens the gates of hell? THE GATES OF HELL was impossible to put down. Livingston uses a host of complex characters, each some kind of bizarre mix on family trees, and somehow manages to make the reading simple, and concise. The tale his told at a heart-pounding pace. The action is constant, and the suspense always building. Always. I love the characters, and the dialogue, both informative, and witty! Folks, do yourself a favor. Add Michael Livingston to your to-be-read list of authors. He's going to be around for a while. Jump on his bandwagon now, ahead of the game!

Phillip Tomasso

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