I have a review of The Splendor Before the Dark, now available in paperback! Thanks to Berkley for the invitation to participate in the blog tour.

Note: The above is the hardback cover, and the paperback is also now available.

My Thoughts:

Historical fiction is one of my favorites,  but until the last month, Margaret George, a prolific author in this genre, was new-to-me. No longer because after reading and enjoying The Confessions of Young Nero, part one of this duology, I was prepared to be mesmerized and astounded with the second half of Nero’s story told through George’s impeccable research. 

I had a history teacher in high school who held a doctorate and when attending his lectures, it was easy to tell how passionate he was about ancient world history. I remember him sharing what he knew about Nero, and I’d love to be able to tell him I read two books about his life.

In The Confessions of Young Nero, he ascends to the throne as emperor of Rome. In The Splendor Before the Dark, we find out everything that follows. 

Nero’s first years as emperor are defined by his lovely and astute wife, Poppaea, and the cultural and artistic renaissance for which Nero is credited. Everything is off to a grand start, and Rome is in splendor. 

All that comes to pass when, ten years into Nero’s reign, Rome is set aflame. Large sections of the city are lost. Rumors name Nero as complicit. 

Nero makes a solemn vow to repair Rome and rebuild bigger and better than it was before. Nonetheless, rumors still spread, and there are many who doubt Nero’s ambitions. It’s hard to know if Nero will survive his time as emperorship. The unsteadiness, unhappiness, and distrust at court is deep. 

Margaret George’s writing is absolutely superb. We hear from three narrators- Nero, Locusta (an herbal medicine doctor), and Acte (a woman Nero loves). The different voices allow us to pan around and see the whole Nero, both his good and not-so-good qualities. 

THIS is precisely why we read historical fiction. George’s effort is polished and epic in scope and quality. Nero, just like any other human, was not all good or all bad; but instead a complex leader with fierce strengths and underlying abhorrent and fallible weaknesses. 

Thank you to Berkley for the invitation to participate on the blog tour, as well as for the physical copy. All opinions are my own. 


Ascending 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 Augustus 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 had ever known.

Check out my instagram page for a giveaway for this one! Have you read The Splendor Before the Dark, or is it on your TBR? Have you read any other books by Margaret George? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR