The Splendor Before the Dark by Margaret George

The Splendor Before the Dark

Margaret George

In the tenth year of Nero's reign, a terrifying prophecy comes to pass and a fire engulfs Rome. Nero vows to rebuild it as a city that will stun the world. But there are those who find his rampant quest for glory dangerous.

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Nero’s ascent to the throne was only the beginning....Now Margaret George, the author of The Confessions of Young Nero, weaves a web of politics and passion, as ancient Rome’s most infamous emperor cements his place in history.

With the beautiful and cunning Poppaea at his side, Nero commands the Roman empire, ushering in an unprecedented era of artistic and cultural splendor. Although he has yet to produce an heir, his power is unquestioned.

But in the tenth year of his reign, a terrifying prophecy comes to pass and a fire engulfs Rome, reducing entire swaths of the city to rubble. Rumors of Nero’s complicity in the blaze start to sow unrest among the populace—and the politicians....

For better or worse, Nero knows that his fate is now tied to Rome’s—and he vows to rebuild it as a city that will stun the world. But there are those who find his rampant quest for glory dangerous. Throughout the empire, false friends and spies conspire against him, not understanding what drives him to undertake the impossible.

Nero will either survive and be the first in his family to escape the web of betrayals that is the Roman court, or be ensnared and remembered as the last radiance of the greatest dynasty the world has ever known.

 “A resplendent novel filled with the gilt and marble of the ancient world.”—C. W. Gortner, author of The Romanov Empress

Advance Galley Reviews

The Splendor Before the Dark by Margaret George is the second of her books about Emperor Nero. The first book told the story of the child caught up in the palace intrigue from his very birth. This book is the story behind "Nero fiddled while Rome burned." Both books portray the emperor as a sympathetic character. An innocent child is much easier to depict as sympathetic versus a grown adult making choices, making this one a tougher sell. See my complete review at Reviewed for Penguin First to Read program.

In “The Confessions of a Young Nero”, Margaret George introduces the reader to a Nero that is not at all like that portrayed in other books and taught in history classes. He’s a young man who enjoys partaking in sport and artistic endeavors. His mother’s ambition makes him the emperor of Rome. This book continues Nero’s story and starts with the famous burning of Rome. While Nero helps in organizing fire brigades, rumors start that Nero set the fire so that he could play the cithara while Rome burned around him. This is just one of many rumors that is spread by Nero’s enemies. The rumor mill remains unchecked while Nero goes to Greece for a year to compete in the Olympics. His absence also gives strength to his enemies. After reading these two books, I believe the Nero and the Roman Empire would have been better off if Nero had just been left to be a rich, young man who followed his artistic and athletic whims and not emperor of the Rome.

This author and I are just not compatible. I should have known better than to try this book since I didn’t manage to get through the author’s first book about Nero. Unfortunately, I just don’t enjoy her writing style and the same factors that bothered me in the first book still bothered me. The first person narration leads to a lot of telling rather than showing. The author obviously did a lot of research, but the mix of extensive physical descriptions and imagined feelings and conversations didn’t work for me. I was also not pleased with the complete reimagining of Nero’s character and behavior. Here we have Nero as noble real estate developer. At least now I know not to attempt this author again. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

The description in The Splendor Before the Dark is absolutely beautiful. From describing the visual of the fire to Nero's emotions throughout, George does a wonderful job of bringing this history alive.

This was an exhaustively well researched novel about the ROman Emperor Nero. This is the second book in the series, but I managed okay without having read the first one. This story begins at the Great Fire of Rome and covers the last four years of Nero’s life. History remembers Nero for his alleged cruelties and depravities. Author Margaret George takes a softer view, portraying him as an artist and devoted, if naive, Emperor who only occasionally gives into a dark side when he absolutely must. You won’t find George’s Nero fiddling while Rome burns or kicking his pregnant wife to death like history records. This version of Nero took a little getting used to, since he was not at all like what I knew about him. There was a wealth of historical information and detail about the Roman way of life. I would really only recommend this book to readers who are very keen on history, as it’s almost 600 pages long and heavy on the historical facts and exposition.

I enjoy reading historical fiction but hadn't read any books set in ancient Rome before, so this was a new subject for me. I had only heard the popular history of Nero "fiddling while Rome burned", so it was interesting to get more of the story of Nero and his history. I found him to be a sympathetic character, to a point - highly ambitious to do great things but remarkably poor at playing the political games he needed to play to survive. Roman emperors weren't a particularly long-lived group on the whole, but his life was sadly short, and it was impressive how much he did accomplish. I enjoyed the book and the writing, and though I know that historical fiction has to fill in a lot of blanks and may not necessarily be "true", I like to think that this is a more accurate portrayal of Nero. I will recommend it to my friends who like historical fiction.

I have to say first that Margaret George is my favorite historical fiction author. She is meticulous, exact and detailed in her research so not only are her books entertaining but they are rich in history. This is her second book detailing the life if Nero. The first chronicled the early life of Nero,his innocence, and the death of that innocence up until the great Fire. This book follows his life from his attempt to rebuild Rome while fielding unfounded accusations; his attempt to create a new emperor, one that conquered the arts not nations; his attempt to thwart repeated conspiracies and his belief that it was more important to be loved by the people rather than appease the Senators. He is a different Nero than the one depicted by historians; he’s remarkably naive, yet honest and compassionate. He’s not the Nero we know that fiddled while Rome burned. His death was a betrayal and he died a sad death yet mourned by his people. It was refreshing to read Ms. George’s explanations of the fallacies of the myths surrounding Nero. I loved this book and have a new appreciation for a much maligned man

Very interesting. I couldn't walk away. Part of me kept checking back to see if this was the same Nero I've read about so often. The Nero that was raised by a monster and taught how to be one himself. An emperor whose mother killed and schemed her son's way to the throne. A mother who later was murdered by the same son. Nero, who blamed Christians for the burning of Rome and caused them to die the most gruesome deaths. This book leaves me terrible confused. Yes, his contemporaries loved him. Hitler was loved too. Was Nero a nut or a confused mother's boy? History has yet to give a definitive answer to that. I wish I had read the authors first book. Solid, believable characters, well written.


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