Monday, April 24, 2017

Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King

*Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King is available Tuesday, April 25th!*

Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome
Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Crystal King. Touchstone, 2017. 416 pages.

I am always up for some ancient historical fiction, and Feast of Sorrow fit that niche perfectly. If you enjoy vivid descriptions of food and the fine nuances of Roman decorum, then this is the the book for you.

In brief, Feast of Sorrow tells the story of Thrasius, a young slave sold into the hands of Marcus Gavius Apicius, a man whose main goal is to one day become the gastronomic advisor to Caesar. Thrasius is a talented cook who impressed Apicius, and thus Apicius sees him as the key to helping him attain his ultimate goal. 

The first thing that I would like to mention about Feast of Sorrow is how incredibly impressed I was with the historical accuracy in which King constructed Ancient Rome. I've been studying Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome for my entire undergrad career, so it's sometimes frustrating to see authors completely misrepresent these societies. I was endlessly impressed with the some of the details and tidbits she added into every corner of the story that conveyed great historical accuracy. Of course, this book is still fiction so there are many artistic liberties, but I absolutely expect that and am no less impressed.

One of the best parts of this book is the food descriptions. I wanted to eat all of the food, which was thoroughly and vibrantly described. There was so much variety and I loved how much research King obviously went to in order to create such intricate descriptions of the food. It's always surprising to see some of the types of foods the Ancients ate, ranging from delicious to downright unappetizing (in my opinion). The food was also especially fun for me because I have this other book called The Classical Cookbook by Andrew Dalby that has adapted a vast array of Classical foods into slightly more modern recipes--there are also recipes from Apicius, so I had fun looking them up in that book.

This book is told in the first person narrative by our cook, Thrasius. Although Thrasius was a strong narrator and I enjoyed hearing this story from his point of view, I felt like there was too much telling and not even showing. Thrasius is much more of a passive character in this manner, and there are many instances in which I almost forgot that Thrasius was telling the story as his narrative would delve into a complete description or telling of a particular dinner party of Apicius or Apicius' interactions with another person.

Feast of Sorrow is not exactly a fast-paced book, and it certainly dragged in quite a few places. I didn't mind the somewhat leisurely pace of the novel for the most part, but there was certain time periods or scenes that just went on for far too long, and I desperately wanted the story to move on. Each chapter also usually indicates a time jump, which helped to move the story forward. Thrasius' romantic relationship, however, moved too quickly for my taste. I felt that that was one relationship that just didn't quite fit in as well as the rest. Don't get me wrong, I thought they were a great match and their love was beautiful, but the pacing just didn't match up with the rest of the book as well as it could have.

Just about every character was wonderfully developed and held a distinct, interesting personality. Apicius was someone that you want to love and hate; he's intense and not the most sensitive person, but I also wanted to pity him at times because of how badly he simply wanted to achieve his goals, despite the horrid ways he occasionally pulled this off. Thrasius is a gentle man as well, but he also learns to be someone who does not always just roll over for others to walk over. There are also the characters of Passia, Apicata (Apicius' daughter), Aelia (Apicius' wife), and Sotas, all of which were also developed extremely well. My only complaint would be with Apicata, whose daughterly affection for Thrasius seemed slightly out of place at times.

I found the master-slave relationship a little odd at times, as well. The development of understanding between the Apicius and Thrasius grew at a steady pace, but I just felt that the closeness of Thrasius and Apicius' family was a bit too heavy at times. I also found King a little too sympathetic to the upper classes, which I didn't quite think fit into the story or accurately depicted the period. Of course it wasn't easy for the nobles, but I definitely think it wasn't quite as hard as the slaves.

Overall, I have given Feast of Sorrow four stars! This was an extremely well-written and developed novel of Ancient Rome, and I would absolutely recommend it to pretty much anyone.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm always happy to find out about a new historical fiction novel! This one sounds fantastic :) Wonderful review! Thank you for sharing your thoughts :D

    Brittany @ Brittany's Book Rambles