Set amongst the scandal, wealth, and upstairs-downstairs politics of a Roman family, Crystal King’s seminal debut features the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook and the ambition that led to his destruction.
On a blistering day in the twenty-sixth year of Augustus Caesar’s reign, a young chef, Thrasius, is acquired for the exorbitant price of twenty thousand denarii. His purchaser is the infamous gourmet Marcus Gavius Apicius, wealthy beyond measure, obsessed with a taste for fine meals from exotic places, and a singular ambition: to serve as culinary advisor to Caesar, an honor that will cement his legacy as Rome's leading epicure.
Apicius rightfully believes that Thrasius is the key to his culinary success, and with Thrasius’s help he soon becomes known for his lavish parties and fantastic meals. Thrasius finds a family in Apicius’s household, his daughter Apicata, his wife Aelia, and her handmaiden, Passia whom Thrasius quickly falls in love with. But as Apicius draws closer to his ultimate goal, his reckless disregard for any who might get in his way takes a dangerous turn that threatens his young family and places his entire household at the mercy of the most powerful forces in Rome.
Wow! This book was quite impressive for a debut author! At first I thought most of the book would center mostly on the cooking and foods from the era, and as I don't like to cook, I thought it would get boring. Boy, was I wrong.
This book mainly centers on the life of Marcus Gavius Apicius whose recipes were written down, but according to the author's notes, no cookbook survived, but some of his recipes did survive in the writings of other historical figures. Apicius was a very wealthy Roman citizen whose passion for cooking and good food sees him spend a great deal of money to buy a slave named Thrasius to be his cook. His dream is to be the gastronomic advisor to Caesar himself.
He throws huge, very extravagant parties hoping to get noticed. But the thing he doesn't realize is that to draw ever closer to Caesar's circle is to also potentially put yourself and family at greater risk. Set at the time of Caesar Augustus and going to the reign of Tiberius and his evil praetorian prefect, Sejanus, Apicius does not seem to realize the dangers that he risks in his quest for greatness.
I loved this book and all of the characters, even the vile ones, because it made this period in history really come alive for me. It has all the court intrigues, manipulations and dangers, but also the very human stories of a man who just wanted to be famous and the consequences in the life of his family and slaves. It also did have recipes from that time, and I could do with not eating a lot of it. Flamingo tongues?, cow udders?...no thanks.
Kudos to Crystal King for an amazing read and for a debut book! I read this one in less than a day. Keeping her on my list for future reads.
5 stars and a favorite.