Review: The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston + GIVEAWAY
Published by Tor Books on November 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Alternative History
Julius Caesar is dead, assassinated on the senate floor, and the glory that is Rome has been torn in two. Octavian, Caesar's ambitious great-nephew and adopted son, vies with Marc Antony and Cleopatra for control of Caesar's legacy. As civil war rages from Rome to Alexandria, and vast armies and navies battle for supremacy, a secret conflict may shape the course of history.
Juba, Numidian prince and adopted brother of Octavian, has embarked on a ruthless quest for the Shards of Heaven, lost treasures said to possess the very power of the gods-or the one God. Driven by vengeance, Juba has already attained the fabled Trident of Poseidon, which may also be the staff once wielded by Moses. Now he will stop at nothing to obtain the other Shards, even if it means burning the entire world to the ground.
Caught up in these cataclysmic events, and the hunt for the Shards, are a pair of exiled Roman legionnaires, a Greek librarian of uncertain loyalties, assassins, spies, slaves . . . and the ten-year-old daughter of Cleopatra herself.
Michael Livingston's The Shards of Heaven reveals the hidden magic behind the history we know, and commences a war greater than any mere mortal battle.
Don’t miss the GIVEAWAY at the end of the review. Open to US/Canada
The Shards of Heaven is a captivating story, that presents some alternative theories for how and why some events in history may have unfolded as they did. Following Julius Caesar’s death, there is a struggle for power between Cleopatra, Marc Antony and his young son and his adoptive sons. Cleopatra is seen as outsider by many and so there is civil war. This story and time period has so much going for it in terms of story! Who doesn’t love delving into the political machinations of war and succession challenges?
I loved how the speculative aspect was woven into the story in such a way, that it just felt natural. It takes real events and adds just a dash of something fantastical that helps explain well known stories revolving around gods and religion. Things like how Moses parts the red sea. I feel like I have to fess up, history was never my subject. I am really, embarrassingly, under informed on so many things. But, that also means that when I read a book like this, I have no idea what will happen, which can be fun. Honestly, I think even if I did, I would not have cared. The characters came alive and I found the entire situation fascinating.
Livingston drew me in immediately. I don’t know that I would consider the first half of this book fast reading, but also keep in mind, I was a poor history student, so this was all new to me. I suspect someone with a more respectable knowledge of the era would likely read quicker. But, I was fascinated. I know this was far from a history book, but the events and characters are accurate, Livingston just provides different motivations and causes for certain events. It’s the behind the scenes look at a fantastic alternative to the reasons history happened as it did. I want to add a comment here, that I truly feel like if I had read stories like this when I was in school, I would likely have viewed history in a completely different light. I never approached history as stories, more as brute force memorization of facts. If I could go back and change that I would, but at least I have learned in my later years to not focus on “test material” but instead to try and understand what was happening and why.
Following Ceasar’s death, instead of power going to his son, as one might expect, Octavian, Ceasar’s adoptive son and nephew, claims power. Prince Juba, the son of the defeated Numidian ruler as well as Ceasar’s other adoptive son, is by Octavian’s side. I loved the relationship between these two (I won’t comment too much about it, let you read and find out). This part of the plot was so fascinating to me. And Juba, he is a character that at times I feel like I shouldn’t love, but I also couldn’t help it. I loved any part of the book that featured Juba. He has discovered the existence of powerful artifacts, called the Shards of Heaven and is quietly on a quest to acquire them in order to aid him in exacting vengeance for his father and the land of Numidia. While he stands by Octavian’s side in public, in private he has his own missions and goals.
I loved Selene, the young daughter of Cleopatra and Marc Antony. Selene is just 10 years old, but is incredibly spirited and curious. She has a thirst for knowledge that anyone who loves to read should appreciate. She also pushes the gender boundaries as much as she can as she tries to seize any opportunity that might be afforded to her brother. Her curious and spirited nature also entangles her in the plot, giving the reader someone to really root for. OK, you can root for other characters as well, but I have to confess to having a real soft spot for Selene.
The Shards of Heaven is a historical fantasy with a tinge of Indiana Jones adventure and Dan Brown’s secret conspiracy theories. It is a story that is comes to life and engages the reader from front to back, providing some exciting alternative explanations for stories that we all know.
Review originally posted on The Speculative Herald
Be sure to return on December 2 for a review with Michael Livingston!