Cover Image: The Year of the Snake

The Year of the Snake

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Catching up on my backlog - I sadly ended up dnf’ing this at around the halfway mark. While there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the story, writing or characters, I just wasn’t invested in the book at all and it ultimately felt like a chore to keep reading. I think I’m just not the right reader for the book and that someone else will love it much more than I did!
Was this review helpful?
Get ready for political intrigue... Roman style!

This book was amazing! It was fast paced, and kept my interest the entire way through. The drama, political back and forth, and intertwining stories bring a mystery to the brink of leaving you exhausted by the time its done! This book is book hangover material! Once you start, you will not want to stop reading!
Was this review helpful?
Before this year I hadn’t read many crime-mysteries or many historical novels, this one manages to be both and adds in some romantic drama to boot. A really interesting book in a setting that is very rarely used in popular historical fiction which made for compelling reading.
Was this review helpful?
A delightful book that focuses on early roman history and the many shenanigans of the patricians, plebs, cataphracts and the Emperor. A bewildering array of characters that befuddles you and makes you think about all these characters as part of the story. You learn a lot about the roman history and the different classes and types of people existing during that period and the decadent life styles which they led. A beautiful mystery which holds you in suspense as you try to unravel the mystery till the end of the book. The nocuous and subtle leitmotif of the book on the Bacchantes and the Bacchanalia was the binding piece that holds you in thrall as you try to unravel the mystery. The allusion to the snake and other related information further adds to the aura of the mystery and the lares in the lararium are unable to thwart the death of the master of the household. A riveting mystery that is a good read for knowing a lot about roman history and the colorful people living during that time.
Was this review helpful?
I am a particular fan of historical mysteries, and I found the idea and setting of this one intriguing. Unfortunately the execution wasn't quite as good as the concept. Mostly I feel like it could do with a bit more editing. I do think the authors show promise, and I'd consider giving them another try.
Was this review helpful?
They Year of the Snake is a good period mystery piece that really delves into the history, political climate, and strategic moves of that time. A slave to a free man on a mission to avenge the death of his master/friend and protect his remaining family. It captured my attention and I am interested in reading more from these two authors.
Was this review helpful?
The Year of the Snake by M. J. Trow and Maryanne Coleman is a book that’s different from my usual genre and era that I usually read. Travel back to ancient Rome in this marvelous novel that’s reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s style. 

Senator Gaius Lucius Nerva falls ill after a dinner party and dies a few days later. While it’s deemed to be a natural death, Nerva’s emaciated slave, Calidus, has his doubts. He begins his quest to uncover more about the events of the evening and he finds himself in the unfamiliar realty of Rome’s high society of senators, soldiers, and even the infamous Emperor Nero. This quest is not easy for him as he encounters some of the most ruthless and dangerous people in Rome. 

His hunger for justice for his master perseveres him beyond all of this. I particularly loved the style of writing and the authors’ ability to transport the reader into ancient Rome. The descriptions of characters and scenery are absolutely remarkable.

I would recommend to anyone who appreciates a good whodunnit with sprinkled of humor. 

Thank you to Endeavour Media and NetGalley for providing me an advanced reader’s copy of the novel and a special thank you to M. J. Trow and Maryanne Coleman for crafting a story that was an
Was this review helpful?
A murder mystery set in Ancient Rome. Calidus, a former slave, is convinced that his master Nerva, a Senator, was poisoned when he dies suddenly after attending a dinner party. Calidus's investigation takes him from the dregs of society, where he acquires a sidekick in "witty" pickpocket Piso, to the very top, with Emperor Nero and his mother Agrippina. Matters become more personal when Calidus encounters an old girlfriend, which causes trouble in his marriage. 

This book is so bad, you guys. So bad. I don't even know where to start. Perhaps with how literally every female character spends the majority of her page time worrying about her physical attractiveness as compared to any other women nearby? They're constantly envying whoever's hot and pitying whoever's ugly with not a single other thought in their minds. It culminates in this absolutely thrilling exchange at the climax:
‘You absolute bitch, Julia,’ Poppaea sneered.
‘It takes one to know one, whore!’ Julia snapped.
Ah, great literature. 

The writing in general is a mess. Characterization is incoherent, with problems arising and disappearing without logic; actions have no reasonable consequences (my particular favorite was when Calidus breaks into a senator's house at night, violently threatens him, tells him who he is, and then... nothing. The senator apparently never reports this or retaliates in any way); the point of view can't decide if it's omniscient or third person limited; and everything is obvious and dumb and unfunny. Another favorite example of mine: The other was Fabius Quintus, and he was a hard man to find. Calidus knew exactly where he was. They couldn't even wait one sentence to directly contradict themselves? 

The plot timeline is awkwardly stretched and squashed, presumably because the authors wanted to include real historical events that had to take place on specific dates, but it does violent damage to the mystery. For example, we're told that Calidus is devoting so much time to his investigation that his infant daughter has almost forgotten who he is, and yet eight months after Nerva's death he hasn't interviewed more than two people. Even when he does get around to speaking to others, he's still only asking them basic matters like where they sat and what they spoke about at the fatal dinner party, nearly a year after it happened. Who would remember details like that? And who cares? It's hard to believe Calidus is so devoted to his master's memory, as we're repeatedly told he is, when he see him doing so little and so slowly.

Another thing that bothered me was that the characters constantly make modern allusions, from Robert Frost ("Well, it’s late. And I have miles to go before I sleep.") to Baskin Robins ("The Augusta is not exactly the flavour of the month at the moment.") to government security (‘You misunderstand me, sir,’ Calidus said. ‘I merely wanted a guest list for the meal in question.’ / ‘Classified,’ Gellius snorted. ‘I’m a senator, for Jupiter’s sake; I can’t go around giving out that sort of information.’). Which I suppose could be fun, if the authors were deliberately trying for an anachronistic postmodern feel, but here it just flops. It's particularly striking because they otherwise seem so eager to show off their research credentials! Among the many Latin terms they namedrop without explanation are "subigaculum" and "Falernian"; those respectively are a sort of loincloth and a particularly famous kind of wine, but if you don't come to the book with that knowledge in hand, the authors aren't going to help you.

Anyway, this is an awful book – terrible writing, uninteresting characters, incoherent plot – with no redeeming characteristics, and I hope to save anyone from wasting time on it.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2458172935
Was this review helpful?
We enter the world of Nero’s Rome with all the horror and uncertainty of life and death with the mood of the Emperor. 
Senator Gaius Lucius Nerva has died with his slave Calidus at his side. Calidus is certain its murder and is determined to find the culprit. Calidus is freed upon Nerva’s death and enters the life’s of the Senators who attended the last party with Nerva. This brings him close to Nero and his mother and his life is in the balance.
This is a book that gives you a good flavour of Rome and the absolute power the Emperor had combined with a very complex mystery. 
I was given an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Set in Rome in the time of Nero and his mother Agrippina.  The story covers Agrippina's murder and the setting free of Calidus upon the murder of his master.  Calidus is seeking the murderer of his master.  An old friend of his turns up and suggests that the two murders have been commited by the same person - Nero.  If the friend is right will Calidus spend his life trying to take out Nero?

A well paced, interesting book with lots of history that really brings Ancient Rome to life.
Was this review helpful?
I was totally immersed in this book and truly felt like I was back in early Rome. The writing was very well executed and the story, I thought, was inventive. I look forward to more by these authors. I received a copy from NetGalley and the publisher and this is my honest opinion.
Was this review helpful?
I do enjoy reading historical fiction and Ancient Rome is always a fascinating period of time to set a book, particularly a murder mystery.  Having enjoyed listening to the Lindsey Davis’ ‘Falco’ series on the radio for years, also set in Ancient Rome, I had high hopes for this story.
There were all the elements of a great mystery:  the mysterious death of a notable Roman Senator, the upstanding former slave who wants justice for his dead master, the nobles who saw him last and really don’t want to be troubled by this freedman and don’t forget the salacious Nero, the most notorious Roman emperor.
The descriptions of the city were brilliant, I certainly felt like I could have been walking the streets and sitting in the arena whilst I was reading. There were a few wonderfully described scenes involving gladiators, a hunt with wolves and Nero’s triumphant entrance with elephants.
I liked Caldius the freedman but didn’t feel like I got to know him, unlike Nero and his mother the Augusta, the only characters who really jumped off the page to me.
As the blurb says it was a ‘racy whodunnit’ constantly reminding me of the Carry On films and particularly Carry on Cleo.
I’m so glad that I read this as a buddy read as I’m not sure I would’ve enjoyed reading it by myself, especially as there were formatting problems with my arc.

Thanks to NetGalley and Endeavour Media for my digital ARC.
Was this review helpful?
In The Year of the Snake, the authors certainly succeed in bringing to life the sights, smells and sounds of ancient Rome, describing customs, festivals, food and clothing in meticulous detail.  I particularly enjoyed the description of the Juvenal Games near the end of the book with its panoply of exotic creatures and extravagant procession.   

Calidus’s investigation into the death of his beloved master, Gaius Lucius Nerva, centres on those who attended a dinner the evening before Nerva’s unexpected demise.  It plunges Calidus into the murky world of politics, ambition and ancient cults.  ‘Dark deeds are done are done in darkness.’ He also finds himself drawn into the decidedly dangerous ambit of the power-crazed (actually pretty much everything-crazed) Emperor Nero.  ‘But this was Nero’s Rome, a city crawling with the cruel, the licentious, the insane.’ Within the Imperial Household there is extravagance, excess, debauchery, plots and intrigue aplenty.  And then, of course, there’s Calidus’s old flame, Julia, now a lady of the court but is that flame still flickering?  Calidus’s wife, Paula, certainly begins to suspect there’s no smoke without fire...

In The Year of the Snake, the authors give readers a lot of characters to get to grips with, especially when you include the husbands, wives, servants and mistresses of key characters.  A dramatis personae would perhaps have been helpful.  My favourite character was Piso the pickpocket who, through his knowledge of the seedier side of Rome, helps Calidus with his investigation.  Piso has a great turn of phrase and a scathing view of those who would like to think they are his betters. After listening to Emperor Nero’s obsequious speech at the Juvenal Games, ‘Piso toyed with throwing up in the corner, but somebody like him would have to clean it up and so, in an unusual rush of solidarity with the people of Rome, he thought better of it.’  

The book description promises an Agatha Christie-style finale and it certainly delivers on that promise with Calidus adopting the mantle of Hercule Poirot to unravel the mystery of Nerva’s death and reveal the culprit while the tension builds.  Events of the past cast long shadows, it seems.

I enjoyed The Year of the Snake.  I very much liked the historical detail that was clearly the product of extensive research on the part of the authors.  As the book progresses I did find however that the investigation of Nerva’s murder takes second place to the shenanigans in the Imperial Household and the politics of ancient Rome.

I received a review copy courtesy of publishers, Endeavour Media, and NetGalley in return for an honest and unbiased review.  I did have a few issues with the formatting of the book, especially the sudden changes of scene mid-chapter with no indication except for an asterisk which could easily be overlooked.  Hopefully, since I was reading an eARC, this will be corrected for the final version.
Was this review helpful?
I love historical mystery set in the ancient Rome and I liked this one.
It's a very enjoyable mystery fun to read and entertaining.
I loved the main character as I liked the historical settings.
Recommended!
Many thanks to Endeavour Media and Netgalley for this ARC
Was this review helpful?
I was initially drawn to both the cover of The Year Of The Snake and the promise of a story set in ancient Rome. I was already familiar with the general details around Emperor Nero and his reputation, and I had high hopes for this story connected to him. Sadly, The Year Of The Snake turned out to be quite a disappointment for me, and I found especially the first half of the story to be quite weak. The promise of a good story is there, with a murder mystery, a cult and the ruthless Emperor, but the execution for me was lacking. Why? The first thing that stood out for me were the formatting problems, which made it harder to read the story. I can forgive those since it's an ARC and not a final version, but still. I wasn't a fan of the writing style and tone in general (including crude language) and the many many POV switches every other page made it a lot harder to keep track of the story and the different characters. In fact, I found the plot itself quite weak and chaotic and would have preferred a more ordered storyline with a lot less switches and more time to get used to each character. This would have made the story and plot a lot stronger for me. It also would have helped connecting to the characters in a more solid way, which as it is I wasn't really able to do. To be honest, I found most characters to be rather flat and lacking a more detailed description... But. I do have to say things improved considerably in the second half of the story, after the investigation of Nerva's death intensifies and we see just what Nero and his mother are actually made of. This higher level of suspense and intrigue being incorporated into the plot saved the story for me, and the final twist was quite a good one as well. All in all, whiile the story behind The Year Of The Snake sounds really promising, the execution needs a lot of editing for me to really work.
Was this review helpful?
It's the first century AD, and Rome is a roaring giant that sleeps fitfully under the guidance of a half-insane Emperor, the infamous Nero. Senator Gaius Lucius Nerva was old, but not unwell enough as to die of fever and hallucinations. The family is told that it has been a death of natural causes. His favourite slave and now freeman, Calidus, is certain that this is not the case.

As he embarks on a journey of finding his beloved master's true murder, Calidus will find himself in the middle of danger, conspiracy and betrayals. Politics in the Roman Empire is a dangerous game, and if Calidus wants to avenge his master, he will have to tread carefully among the secrets that all powerful people of this city seem to keep. But during his quest, Calidus will uncover more secrets than he ever had imagined ; what will this brave, intelligent man find out about his own life and the course it has been on? And who can he actually trust during his ventures?

The Year Of The Snake instantly transports the reader to the grounds of the most powerful ancient empire in the world : Rome. In times of danger, an unstable Emperor and murderers lurking around every corner, you can experience the atmosphere so incredibly well, as if you were there yourself. It is not just about the mystery of a man's death; there are so many background stories to this plot, that it never gets dull or tiring.

The characters are carefully constructed, backed by intricately woven backgrounds, to the point that it is almost impossible to guess the murder behind this compelling story. Calidus, the main hero of this conundrum, is a very smart and resourceful man, devoted and persistent. It is easy to like him and empathise with his turmoil. 

The Year of the Snake is a great book for everyone that loves historical fiction, also strongly suggested for fans of the mystery genre.
Was this review helpful?
In first century Rome, Senator Gaius Lucius Nerva dies. His slave Calidus, who was freed in Nerva’s will, doesn’t believe his previous master died of natural causes as others believes. He begins to investigate the death as a murder.

This book should attract readers who are interested in historical mysteries. I was disappointed in this book not by the setting, but by the writing. The author needed an editor to help with awkward transitions, confusing sentences, and syntax. If the latter is not important to the reader, she/he might well enjoy this historical mystery.
Was this review helpful?
In first century Rome, senator Gaius Lucius Nerva falls ill at a dinner party and never recovers, dying at home a few days later.  He leaves behind his devastated wife Flavia, and newly freed slaves Calidus and his wife and young daughter.  Calidus loved his master and was treated as part of the family.  He stays on at the home determined to learn who has murdered Nerva, which proves harder than he expected since everyone is convinced it was natural causes.
He's brave enough to question both senators and soldiers in Rome and captures the unwanted attention of the young and cruel emperor Nero.  Keeping his family close but his enemies closer, Calidus seeks justice for the house of Nerva and finds he has belonged there all along.
Full of racy humor and sexual innuendos, The Year of the Snake is an entertaining mystery that will keep you guessing until the very Agatha Christie style end.
Thanks to Endeavor Media and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?