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Reviewed by Barbara Harper for Readers' Favorite
The Beautiful Tale by Francis L. Pipolo begins with a scene based in Rome, at the Great Circus Maximus, during the reign of Emperor Tiberius Caesar Augustus. Rome ruled supreme, lived in excess, satisfying the needs of the flesh, and enjoyed gratuitous violence. It was also a time of plunder as the Romans conquered, slaughtered, and enslaved, leaving in their wake the hungry, the poor, the sick, and the downtrodden. Yet far north of Italia, there was a peaceful land ruled by a king named Nabal, who was respected and admired by his subjects. He was married to his beloved and delightful Queen Beatrice. But, alas, although the king possessed all his heart desired, he felt restless, unfulfilled, and empty. He turns to his wife for answers and the queen suggests that what the king seeks is Truth, which is an extremely rare commodity. Nabal decides to send Felix, the king's jester out into the world to search for Truth. Felix the cripple, the most honest person in all the kingdom, sets out on his noble quest, afraid yet as brave as a lion. He stumbles across Tobias, the merchant, known as the Hefty man, a freed slave who had been a murdering gladiator of Rome. Felix will encounter unimaginable evil, cruelty, and men who are full of hypocrisy, but he will also encounter the exact opposite in his search for Truth.
The Beautiful Tale by Francis L. Pipolo is an enjoyable tale of opposites. The author introduces the reader to two opposite realities. First, there is Rome, ruled by Caesar, who is uncompromising in his power and rules with supreme authority, plundering, conquering, and enslaving. Then there is King Nabal’s peaceful and bountiful kingdom with contented citizens who respect and admire their king. The second contrast is that of the Truth seeker, Felix, the cripple, who has led a peaceful existence and has a gentle, humble, and sensitive nature. The other contrast is the battle between good and evil that resides within human beings, and the emptiness and depravity that takes hold if there is no Truth. By making use of contrasts, and giving the characters names with descriptions, and continually referring to the quest for Truth, the author cleverly uses disguised biblical references, and quotes from scripture to draw a parallel between the journey of Felix and his companions. In the Bible individuals only had a first name, and to identify them from each other reference was made to their occupation, the region they came from, and their physical state of being, for example, the poor leper or the blind beggar, etc.
The author used very descriptive language when describing the battle scenes, and I was reminded of the battle scene from the movie Gladiator starring Russell Crowe. Another gruesome practice by the bloodthirsty Romans was that of crucifixion, which is another aspect of the plot that was captured with accuracy. The dialect used was Old English and a certain phrase used by the author suggested the speech by Marc Anthony, from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The author took the time to investigate and analyze content to make this book as authentic as possible, to depict the era when the Roman emperor ruled with absolute authority. Readers who enjoy historical fiction will enjoy reading this book.