Watchmen of Rome by Alex Gough

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Ahh, the sights and pungent smells of The Subura, a lovely place for the setting of this engaging story.  Carbo has returned home to Rome after 25 years in the Legions from which he retired as a Pilus Prior Centurion and who survived the Teutoburg Forest disaster.  All he is looking for is to reunite with his aged mother and to begin a relaxing life as a civilian, none of which is in his immediate future.  From the get go the author takes the reader on an adventurous ride as Carbo faces one challenge after another.  A neighborhood protection gang, a runaway slave and her daughter who Carbo had sworn an oath to protect years ago, a fanatical priestess of the old Carthaginian gods who has plans to destroy Rome using the slave’s daughter as human sacrifice and a relentless, ruthless fugitive slave hunter…suffice to say that the author has given us tale filled with action as well as a tale filled with emotional strain and anguish.  The characters are well developed and are such that you feel what they feel; this is also evident in the descriptions of the stew that was the Subura, you can envision the dense crowds, the noise of hawking vendors, the smell of the detritus of chamberpots, the reality of the daily lives of the poor.  That is another of the reasons I enjoyed this novel, the characters are the ordinary, the lowborn, the freedmen and the slaves not the high and mighty.  Tiberius and Sejanus while they are mentioned are there only to give the sense of time and atmosphere.

As this book was recommended to me, so to do I recommend it to you.  A solid 5 stars.

 

About the author:

I’m a veterinary surgeon from the southwest of England, working in referral practice. I have had a decades long interest in Ancient Roman history, and Watchmen of Rome is the culmination of a lot of research into the underclasses of Ancient Rome. I am also the author of two veterinary textbooks, Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats and Differential Diagnosis in Small Animal Medicine, both of which have been translated into multiple languages and are in their second editions. I would love to interact with readers, please email me at romanfiction@hotmail.co.uk. You can also follow me on twitter @romanfiction, like romanfiction on facebook, or visit my website for reviews of roman fiction, and articles about Roman history www.romanfiction.com

 

The Legion by Simon Scarrow

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When I first started reading this excellent series, lo those many years ago, I was hoping it would continue and as it went on I kept hoping for more.  Well this is the 10th one but the first one I have reviewed, so in a sense this is a review of ten books rolled into one.  The author has done an admirable job of keeping the story fresh as the characters of Macro and Cato keep growing and they are called upon to perform in many different scenarios and locations in the Roman world during the reign of Claudius.  Rest assured that wherever they are posted there is action and intrigue galore.

In this latest installment Cato and Macro are tasked with hunting down the fugitive gladiator Ajax who has already led one slave revolt and is now creating havoc in the Imperial Province of Egypt.  There is certainly no love lost between Ajax and out two protagonists and the revenge they pursue upon each other is a major theme in The Legion.

The author continues to develop the protagonists as they rise through the ranks and the bond between them is stronger than ever even with the reversal of positions as Cato is now a superior officer to his friend and mentor Macro.  Also included are plenty of plot twists and surprises one of which causes our heroes not a little anguish and remorse.

A solid entry in this entertaining series…looking forward to book 11.

Brethren by Robyn Young

 

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Sometimes I bemoan the fact that I have too many books to read which means that it takes me a while to get to them all.  I bought Brethren months ago but only recently did it rise to the top of my to be read pile.  Once I started reading it I was chagrined that I hadn’t read it sooner.  This is one terrific tale of the 13th century and the turmoil between East and West, between Christian and Muslim and between the various knight orders especially of the Templars and Hospitallers.  It seems that everyone wants to bring the Templars down and they all go to great lengths to pursue that agenda.  The author has put together what I think is a microcosm of what secular and religious powers are at their worst and has wrapped that up in a drama filled, emotionally tense story.  The characters are all too human, some are even, well let’s say subhuman and the plot and twists are sublime.  Now that I have the first book under my belt I will for sure be tackling the rest of the series with great anticipation.  5 stars.

About the author:

Robyn Young was born in Oxford and grew up in the Midlands and a fishing village in Devon, during which time she won awards for poetry and edited a regular page in a regional newspaper. After hitchhiking to Brighton at 19, she worked as a festival organiser, a music promoter and a financial advisor. She wrote two novels before gaining a Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Sussex.

Her first published novel, BRETHREN, went straight into the Sunday Times top ten, where it remained for five weeks, becoming the bestselling hardback debut of the year. It entered the New York Times top twenty on publication in the US and was named book of the year by German newspaper Bild. Her second novel, CRUSADE, reached number 2 and REQUIEM completed the trilogy. In 2007, Robyn was named one of Waterstone’s twenty-five ‘authors of the future’, judged by a panel of one hundred industry insiders who were asked to nominate the authors they believed would contribute the greatest body of work over the next quarter century.

The inspiration for Robyn’s new bestselling trilogy, which began in 2010 with INSURRECTION and continued in 2012 with RENEGADE, was inspired by a research trip to Scotland and is based on the life of Robert Bruce. The third novel, KINGDOM, will be published in 2014 in the month of the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.

Alongside writing novels, Robyn has collaborated on a WWII screenplay. Her novels have been published in 22 countries in 19 languages and together have sold almost 2 million copies.

Gisborne: Book of Kings by Prue Batten

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Ever since I finished book two of this exquisite series, I had been waiting none too patiently for the third knowing that a wonderful treat was in store for me and the author did not disappoint.  As with the first two volumes the story is replete with tension filled plots and marvelously depicted characters.  The main female protagonist , Ysabel, while she has matured maintains that spark of spontaneity and stubborn willfulness that makes her such an intriguing character.   The main male protagonist, Gisborne, remains much the same as he keeps things close to the vest even though his heart is tormented with the kidnapping of their son and the growing hatred and need for revenge is kindled within. That is one of the author’s strengths, the ability to draw you into a character so completely that you feel what they feel; the anguish, the fears, and yes the joys.  Indeed the rich variety of characters makes this book(and the other two) such a joy to read. Descriptive scenes and scenery, a tale filled with the gamut of human emotions; well I can only say that it is a pleasure to have read all three and I am sure you will feel the same.  5 stars and more.

About Prue Batten:

A former journalist from Australia who graduated with majors in history and politics, Prue is now a cross genre writer who is also a farmer, kayaker, dog owner, gardener and embroiderer