Nest of Vipers

Nest of Vipers, by Luke Devenish, April 2010

Three women. One goal. Who will be Empress of Rome?

Rome is bathed in blood as the Emperor Tiberius is tormented by drug-fuelled terrors of treason. The innocent are butchered while the guilty do evil in darkness. 

None are guiltier than the Emperor’s devoted and deluded ‘son’, Sejanus. 

In this city of poison three beautiful women are locked in a lethal rivalry…

Agrippina. Driven mad with grief, her obsession with revenge for her murdered husband imperils the lives of her children.

Apicata. Robbed of her eyes and embittered in her heart, she schemes in the shadows to empower the husband who despises her.

Livilla. Sensual and sly, she is gripped by a lust for a lover as deadly as he is desirable.

Moving stealthily among them is Iphicles, arch schemer and slave, whose haunted heart is lightened by the eunuch Lygdus, his willing apprentice in murder. 

With paralysed Livia now a helpless captive to her slave, it is the repellent brat Little Boots’ turn to profit from prophecy. But as Iphicles’ deadly plan to enthrone Little Boots unfolds, Livia struggles secretly towards recovery with the help of the sorceress Martina.

Rome is a nest of vipers, and Livia, the one true Empress of Rome, is hell-bent on wreaking her vengeance… 

Listen to me talking about Nest of Vipers on ABC Radio National's Off the Shelf here


To pick up any non-fiction book concerning Ancient Roman history is to be bludgeoned with shocks enough to leave you reeling. Although it’s a precursor to the civilisation we call Western, Roman society was starkly different to modern life. Above all else, the world of Rome was devoid of compassion; lives could be bought and sold—and taken without censure. Corporal punishment was horrific—and so was public entertainment. Death was everywhere and ever-present; domestic murder was an accepted political tool. Sexuality was unfettered by shame; the streets of Rome were bedecked with images of genitalia. Women married at thirteen; children worked the Forum as prostitutes. 

To read about Rome is to feel the hair rise at the back of your neck—but you’re compelled to know more. To write about Rome, at least to me, is to provide the same experience. I looked to the works of those writers I admired for their ability to employ shocks with aplomb, and they were my inspiration for how to approach the writing style of Den of Wolves, and its sequel, Nest of Vipers. I wanted it to feel like an ancient world Hollywood Wives—and excite like a 1st Century Once is Not Enough. I wanted it to grip the reader like a swords and sandals The Other Side of Midnight. To my great pleasure, readers from around the world have told me I succeeded. 

Readers' reviews on GoodReads:

'The scandalous second volume in the series... I can't wait for the next one.'

Matt D 

'Ancient Rome in Devenish's hands is a complicated, gory, deadly, lustful, obsessive place full of elaborate and complicated characters... The three main characters, locked in a lethal rivalry, are not above using anybody or anything to advance their own causes...  there's quite a feeling of reality, albeit a very unpalatable reality, about the society in which NEST OF VIPERS takes place.'