by Crystal King
Published on April 25, 2017 by Touchstone
Genres: Adult, Historical
Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.
On a blistering day in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, a young chef, Thrasius, is acquired for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denarii. His purchaser is the infamous gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, wealthy beyond measure, obsessed with a taste for fine meals from exotic places, and a singular ambition: to serve as culinary advisor to Caesar, an honor that will cement his legacy as Rome's leading epicure.
Apicius rightfully believes that Thrasius is the key to his culinary success, and with Thrasius’s help he soon becomes known for his lavish parties and fantastic meals. Thrasius finds a family in Apicius’s household, his daughter Apicata, his wife Aelia, and her handmaiden, Passia whom Thrasius quickly falls in love with. But as Apicius draws closer to his ultimate goal, his reckless disregard for any who might get in his way takes a dangerous turn that threatens his young family and places his entire household at the mercy of the most powerful forces in Rome.
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I’m conflicted. This book was left me both wanting more and not at the same time. I’m a huge fan of historical dramas and Feast of Sorrow reminded me of those, but I tend to like watching them versus reading.
Imagine Rome sprawling before you across a table, all the intricate little details from daily life wrapped in political intrigue and a society darker than you might expect.
Well, I don’t know, this is Rome we’re talking about.
King creates a sensory exploration of this ancient culture through food but Feast of Sorrow branches well beyond that to the inner workings of those feasting. I’m not much of a food person so I’m glad that the story didn’t revolve solely around what meal is being planned for so-and-so and how it was prepared, and so on. One of the many draws for me for this book was the fact that the scene is set, the table made, and the people run the show, their lives offering an insight into history that, while a fictional book, prove that the author really dove into the research to present such an amazing narrative.
I think one of the many strengths of this book is how King makes this society so accessible to modern readers. While set thousands of years in the past, there are still similarities with human ambition, deceit, scheming, gossip, elements that will captivate fans of history and drama alike. Honestly, I would love to see this as a television series, like HBO’s Rome as well as other historical dramas such as Marco Polo on Netflix.
Honestly, there are far too many characters to speak of but let’s just say that King knows how to create a story meant to intrigue and delight. This isn’t necessarily an entirely happy story but it’s expertly written and perfect for fans of food, drama, and history.