Book Review: Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King


Delicious tale of ambition and its consequences

FeastofSorrowAbout the Book

Description (courtesy of Goodreads): 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.

Praise for Feast of Sorrow

“Crystal King’s debut is a feast for the senses, bringing ancient Rome to dark, vibrant life. Politics, intrigue, danger, and passion mix deliciously in this tale of a young slave vaulted into the corridors of power as personal chef to the ancient world’s greatest gourmet. Not to be missed!” (Kate Quinn, author of Mistress of Rome)

“An engaging foray into the treacherous world of Claudio-Julian Rome from a fresh perspective. Who knew that the gourmand Apicius was larger than life? King deftly serves up intrigue, scandal and heartbreak with lashings of exotic sauces, mouth-watering recipes and the occasional drop of poison. Highly recommended.” (Elisabeth Storrs, author of the series Tales of Ancient Rome)

“Through the lens of a slave in ancient Rome, Crystal King illuminates a realm of seemingly impossible gluttony and excess, along with every other deadly sin. In the household of outrageous gourmand Apicius, he of extraordinarily decadent mores, one man, a slave, Thrasius, provides the sole ethical center. Feast of Sorrow is impossible to put down.” (Randy Susan Meyers, bestselling author of Accidents of Marriage)

“Crystal King has clearly done her homework. The historical world of Feast of Sorrow lives and breathes, and it is a delight to follow its characters’ struggle for happiness and survival amidst the simmering peril of Rome’s great houses. Even if you’re not a foodie drawn to novels of ancient Rome, this immersive, sensorily rich page-turner will take you for a delicious and unforgettable ride.” (Tim Weed, author of Will Poole’s Island)

“Crystal King’s debut novel, Feast of Sorrow, tells the story of Apicius, the notorious gourmand of ancient Rome, from the viewpoint of his slave and cook Thrasius. It’s a dark and engrossing read, and provides an evocative new perspective on the rule of Tiberius.” (Emily Hauser, author of For the Most Beautiful)

“Crystal King has written a delicious feast of a book, one that allows us to not only see, but also taste ancient Rome in all its dark and varied appetites.” (Yael Goldstein Love, author of Overture)

Book Facts

  • Format: ebook
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • No. of pages: 416
  • Publication date: 25th April 2017
  • Genre: Historical Fiction

My Review (4 out of 5)

I really enjoyed the author’s assured writing and the fascinating details of daily Roman life and customs that are woven into the plot – dining customs, religious rituals, rules of hospitality and so on. The focus of the book is the life of Apicius so naturally there are gorgeous descriptions of actual Roman recipes, even if some of the ingredients themselves are not so gorgeous sounding to modern diners. Each section of the book opens with an authentic recipe from the time.

Through the invented character of Thrasius, the cook, the author enables the reader to get up close and personal with the real-life Apicius. He is vain and single-minded to the point of selfishness and, as Thrasius remarks, ‘apt to assume the world revolved around him’. However, one cannot help admiring his passion for food and for seeking out new ingredients and taste experiences. Unfortunately, along the way, he creates some powerful enemies although those closest to him show absolute loyalty to the end.   Apicius’ story is one of ambition bringing success but with tragic consequences for himself and those around him.

As well as Apicius, well-known figures from Roman history feature – Livia, Sejanus, Ovid and Tiberius Caesar – feature prominently in the plot.  Political rivalries and the jockeying for position, power and influence are played out through the medium of food at elaborate banquets featuring the choicest and most expensive ingredients. It’s a game of gastronomic one-upmanship but one with dangerous consequences.

I really enjoyed Feast of Sorrow which should appeal to fans of historical fiction, cookery or Roman history.

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of NetGalley and publishers, Touchstone, in return for an honest review.

To buy a copy of Feast of Sorrow from, click here (link is provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

In three words: Well-researched, engaging, fascinating

Try something similar…I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith

CrystalKingAbout the Author

Crystal King is an author, culinary enthusiast and marketing expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and a passion for the food, language and culture of Italy. She has taught classes in writing, creativity and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet, one of the leading creative writing centers in the US. A Pushcart-nominated poet and former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her M.A. in Critical and Creative Thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in medias res. She considers Italy her next great love, after her husband, Joe, and their two cats, Nero and Merlin.

Connect with Crystal


One thought on “Book Review: Feast of Sorrow by Crystal King

Comments are closed.