Review: The City War by Sam Starbuck

Rating: 4 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | All Romance
Length: Novel


Marcus Brutus lives his life in dedication to Rome.  As a leader and a Senator he works for the good of the city and is well respected by many.  But it is clear there are rumblings of discontent in Rome, as Caeser reaches for increasing power.  Brutus’ lover Cassius believes the time has come to get rid of Caesar before his reach becomes too large and his control too strong.  Brutus has loved Cassius for years, and after spending time in the country with him listening to his proposal, Brutus agrees to side with him against Caesar. Cassius convinces him the good of Rome is worth the act of treachery and that the people will be happy to see Caesar gone.

While on that country trip, Brutus meets a boy who says he is an orphan looking for a job as a horse-boy. But in reality, Tiresias hiding many secrets, which Brutus soon uncovers.  Brutus finds comfort in the boy’s loyalty, dedication, and unwavering confidence in him.  As Brutus experiences doubts and concerns about his plan, Tiresias’ presence soothes him.  But all too soon it is time to act and Brutus must decide if the way to protect Rome is to save Caesar or to eliminate him.

This is an interesting story that tells the other side of the Brutus/Caesar conflict.  Here we see things from Brutus’ side, what motivates him to act, his uncertainty, his dedication to Rome, and ultimately his feelings about the decision he makes.  Starbuck paints a vivid picture of a man at a crossroads, fighting for the city he loves but not sure he knows the right way to defend it.  He is a leader and a model citizen and has dedicated his life for the love of Rome, and I couldn’t help but admire him as the same time I questioned some of his choices.

The story shows us how Brutus experiences four very different relationships.  We meet his childhood teacher Aristus who was his first sexual encounter, as well as someone who has guided him for years.  But now they are growing apart, as Brutus makes decisions that do not please Aristus.  We see Brutus’ wife Porcia, someone he cares for deeply but for whom he feels no romantic affection.  The two share a strong bond and a great partnership, but neither wants a sexual relationship with each other.  For Brutus, the one he has always loved and wanted is Cassius.  They men are sweet and loving together, stealing time with each other away from the city.  I liked seeing Brutus’ more playful side with Cassius and their love for each other is clear.  And finally we have Tiresias, the servant boy with many secrets who draws Brutus in and becomes a source of comfort and lust as the dangers and stress increase for Brutus.

I will say this last relationship didn’t work as well for me as the others.  First, we are told how Brutus sees Tiresias as a boy and almost feels like a mentor to him (not to mention that Tiresias is his servant).  So the sexual relationship seemed a bit uncomfortable to me, although I think this would be much more acceptable during that time period.  More disconcerting is Tiresias’ adoration and hero worship of Brutus.  It just felt so one-sided to me. Like Tiresias is totally dedicated to Brutus and Brutus is stressed and appreciates the attention.  I just didn’t ever feel like it was a balanced relationship and had a hard time understanding what drew Brutus in other than Tiresias’ unconditional adoration. And maybe that is enough, I guess. I just wanted to see more there, especially given the way the story ends.

My only other issue is that after all the build up, the ending felt rushed to me.  Brutus’ feelings seem to come so suddenly and out of nowhere and we never really see how things pan out.  Given how much time we spend leading up to the murder, I would have liked to see more aftermath, more understanding of Brutus’ thoughts and emotions.

Overall this was an enjoyable story and I thought it was well written.  Starbuck does a nice job capturing the feel of the times and giving us an alternate look at a famous historical event.  I would have like a bit more development on the emotional end for Brutus, especially in the latter part of the story. But overall I thought it was an interesting story with an unique perspective on history.

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