A.D. 448. The Roman Empire is crumbling.The Emperor is weak. Countless Romans live under the rule of barbarian kings. Politicians scheme and ambitious generals vie for power.Then from the depths of Germany arises an even darker threat: Attila, King of the Huns, gathering his hordes and determined to crush Rome once and for all.In a time of danger and deception, where everyA.D. 448. The Roman Empire is crumbling.The Emperor is weak. Countless Romans live under the rule of barbarian kings. Politicians scheme and ambitious generals vie for power.Then from the depths of Germany arises an even darker threat: Attila, King of the Huns, gathering his hordes and determined to crush Rome once and for all.In a time of danger and deception, where every smile conceals betrayal and every sleeve a dagger, three young people hold onto the dream that Rome can be made great once more. But as their fates collide, they find themselves forced to survive in a world more deadly than any of them could ever have imagined.What can they possibly do to save the Empire, or themselves, from destruction?...
|Title||:||At the Ruin of the World|
|Number of Pages||:||464 Pages|
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At the Ruin of the World Reviews
A disappointment and not quite what I thought it would be: continuation of the author's previous book, The Lion and the Lamb . This novel was set in southern Gaul, a century or so after the other took place. This one was a look into the meltdown of the Western Roman Empire through the stories of two families: one, a patrician brother and sister and the other, a young man whose family had fallen upon hard times and into poverty. Various barbarian tribes are controlling parts of Gaul; Rome is a shadow of its former self. The story is how these two families content with the situation. I really had not much sympathy for the male characters. The sister aroused my pity, forced into a loveless marriage with a cruel man. Battle scenes were a pale shadow of what I've read in other Roman fiction; Catalaunian Plains especially could have been more exciting. It was after all a pivotal moment in history: the stopping of Attila in his conquests. The novel ended abruptly; I don't know if the author plans a sequel or not. Ends were left hanging.
The Lion and the Lamb was one of my very favourite novels of last year and John Henry Clay has done it again with At the Ruin of the World (what a great title). Firmly routed in history, this is a compelling and addictive account of the demise of Rome's Western Empire, focusing in particular on one family that was influential in the battlefield and in politics. An excellent, wonderfully-written novel.
More History than FictionThis book had real potential. It is set in the Later Roman Empire between the years of 448 and 457 AD, and leads us faithfully through those uncertain times in the Western Empire: from the scourge of the Huns to the sack of Rome, through various barbarians rebellions and all the politics in between. The story is told via three point-of-view characters: brother and sister, Ecdicius and Attica, who are the offspring of a famous military leader (with all the privilege and expectation that brings with it), and Arvandus, the son of an Equestrian family that has fallen into poverty.The large scale history and politics of this period are covered extremely well - we are lead through each invasion, rebellion, and political machination in a thorough and effortless manner - but the characters' stories failed to be developed in a satisfying way. We skimmed the details of their lives almost as an after thought to the history, rather than delving into their depths. It did not help that to begin with I found both Ecdicius and Arvandus unsympathetic (they made stupid mistakes, based on arrogance and pride). Attica was a more likeable character and my favourite of the three - she reminded me very much of Kate Quinn's Sabina from her Empress of Rome series - but her story line (based around her arranged marriage) relegated her to a more passive role and lacked dramatic tension. The ending was also very abrupt. I suspect another book is coming that continues the tale? But no mention is made of it at the end of this one. I would recommend 'At the Ruin of the World' to those people who love this period of history, or wish to explore it more, but for those who prefer a more character-driven novel it had potential, but failed to deliver.
It took a while before it dawned on me that this wasn't quite what I'd thought, hoped, it was. A continuation of the first - 'The Lion and The Lamb.' It is set in the same historical period, a bit later maybe and in southern France and Italy, rather than Britannia. Other than that, I’m struggling to see what he wanted to do with this. Of course, a look at the final phase(s) of the Roman Empire, but it really doesn’t come over enough. Doesn’t hit hard enough. There is a sense of the mental struggle there must have been, seeing their whole lives, pasts, presents and futures, being swept away by ‘barbarians.’ That sense of surety in society continuing forever how it had been being called into question. However, by going in so ‘close' to just a few families, it just seems like they’re the only ones having problems, while things go on, somewhere else, around them. I can well imagine that what I got out of it, I brought with me, by knowing something of what went on and drawing some conclusions, others might not.It's an interesting period. A very interesting period and whilst the book is nicely written and in many ways does touch on a lot of the elements that made the time interesting, I finished and found myself missing something, wanting more. Apart from the final few chapters, it really didn't reach out and grab me as I thought it should or would, if it had continued with the characters from his first book.More world-class reviews on Speesh Reads
It's such a pleasure to see a book set in the 450sAD; this is a fascinating period of history and one which deserves far more attention from novelists than it gets. Apart from a couple of slips (Arvandus's father would not be called Patroclus, he just would not; it's a name for a slave or freedman, not a dispossessed equestrian - unless you're implying that he sold himself into slavery to survive, which doesn't seem to be the case), John Henry Clay has done a fantastic job of recreating the era, the more so for the patchiness of evidence and how different late antiquity is from what we usually think of as the classical period.He also has a lively, engaging writing style, which keeps you turning the pages, eager to find out what happens next. And I like the depth of his characterisation. Sidonius Apollinaris is a sweetheart (I really want to learn more about the real one now), and Arvandus an intriguing mixture: reckless, warm, quick-thinking, clever, chippy, ambitious, manipulative and insecure. Similarly, while Ecidicius is kind of a meathead, it would be hard not to like his straightforwardness, ready emotion and sense of honour. And I love his proud, intelligent Theodoric II, king of the Visigoths.With all that in mind, how could I have given it two stars? Quite simply, all those layers of characterisation fall away when it comes to Ecdicius's sister Attica and her husband, her first cousin (once removed) Magnus Felix. Attica is reasonable enough; her character (brave, pretty, kind, outspoken, determined) is very generic, but likeable and sympathetic for all that. I like that she channels her ambition through the men in her life (very realistic and not usually seen in historical fiction), and that her plot strand is about negotiating an arranged marriage. Felix, on the other hand -- Felix is pale, with hunched shoulders and receding hair (at age 19!), cold, snobbish, humourless, possessive, controlling, physically awkward and bad in bed, with no interests other than gaining honours and titles. There are a couple of flashes of vulnerability (his longing for a child; the fact that he tries so hard to control because he is incredibly afraid - though of what and why is never explored), but we never once see him having a positive relationship with anyone, or behaving in a pleasant and likeable fashion. (he has one moment of happiness - when Aetius's murder might lead to his own family's advancement.) Felix also takes pleasure in beating his slaves even when they've done nothing, and sets out to ruin Arvandus, both for having the presumption to mix with his social betters, and flirting with Attica. To an extent I can see how an arrogant, privileged aristocrat, who's been raised since birth to believe in his rights and his superiority, would behave like that, but Felix is so unremittingly terrible that he doesn't seem real. He's a plot device rather than a person - you come to suspect that he's like that just to give Attica a storyline (which is really unfortunate), and to set in motion the events which lead to Arvandus serving at Theodoric II's court. You wind up doing what the author doesn't want, and scouring the text for anything which could possibly make Felix a complex, sympathetic human being. (it's the worse because Magnus Felix was a real person! He was a friend of Sidonius Apollinaris, and encouraged him to publish his poetry. We don't know anything about what his marriage to Attica - who wasn't really Ecidicius's sister - was like, but by the same token there's also nothing to suggest it was like this.)That tendency to treat his characters as plot devices, to push and pull them so they do what's needed for the story, crops up throughout the book; I can't believe that Ecdicius would be sent home in disgrace for being (literally) sickened by the aftermath of battle, and we never see how the lingering trauma from that battle is resolved. I can't believe that Attica would never have met Felix before he comes courting, when he's her cousin (Roman families were unbelievably close-knit) and a schoolfriend of her brother. (even though Ecdicius hates him, their uncle Ferreolus would have insisted on inviting him to the house.) Why does Felix tell her on their first meeting that he wants a wife who will support his career instead of weaving all day, and then force Attica to spend her time weaving once they're married? Having prayed and prayed not to have to bear Felix's child, how does Attica feel when she does become pregnant? Why does Attica maintain she has no grounds to divorce Felix, when her brother has seen him beating her? Why do Sidonius and Papianilla fall in love, except that history tells us they do? If the characters are real, they should react to what happens, they should behave in certain ways; but more often than not we get a set course of events rather than feelings.The book frustrated me so much because it's really good in a lot of ways, because I can see so much potential in Clay's writing. (I kind of want a sequel - Wikipedia says all of these people go on to really big things - but also not, because of the terrible comeuppance undoubtedly awaiting Felix.) I'll still read his other books, but I hope he'll do more to treat his characters as complex and realistic people (especially when you're attributing a personality to a real human being!!) in future.
The final years of the Western Roman Empire are a fascinating period: a world that has lasted for centuries suddenly begins to crumble as the landscape shifts in a kind of cultural earthquake. Out of a few biographical fragments sifted from the disintegrating record, John Henry Clay has built a compelling narrative full of complex, multi-faceted characters struggling to hold their place as all the assumptions on which they have come to depend are swept away.It is the story of Ecdicius, son of Avitus, one of the last Western emperors, his sister, Attica and his friend, Arvandus, minister at the court of the Gothic king Theodoric. In an ingenious piece of storytelling Clay winds the narratives of these characters together against a backdrop of murderous generals, imperial pretenders and barbarian kings, all of whom hover greedily over the decaying body of the empire.This is proper historical fiction, not the fetishistic battle-porn into which novels set in the world of Ancient Roman can sometimes descend. The focus is on the characters, not the hardware, and, in particular, the interaction between individuals and the great sweep of history. As with all the best historical fiction, the fact that we know it is going to end badly for characters whose hopes and dreams we have come to share, only makes the tale all the more poignant. Rich in historical detail, populated by flawed but recognisably human characters, At The Ruin Of The World is an immensely enjoyable novel.
This is a well written book with some interesting historical facts but it is not an epic as one is lead to believe from the cover. There is no building up of the story, it just ambles along nicely with just an exciting narrative of one battle and has rather a disappointing conclusion.
This book had real potential but for me never fully reached it. The battle scenes didn't quite convince me that they were equal to events that changed history that they sort to portray.