Civil War

(Marius’ Mules #13)

by S.J.A. Turney

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46 BC. Pompey is dead, Egypt is settled, and Rome is controlled by the loyal Marcus Antonius. As the new year looms, Rome’s greatest general and dictator Julius Caesar moves precipitously to take on the last stronghold of the rebel faction: Africa.

Crossing against all advice in the middle of winter, with minimal forces and little forward planning, the campaign almost dies before it begins, legions scattered across the sea by vicious storms, the general putting ashore with just a single legion and his most trusted veteran commander: Marcus Falerius Fronto.

But the war in Africa is no easy task. Scipio, Cato and Caesar’s one-time lieutenant Labienus have gathered an enormous force to counter him, and are prepared to fight to the death. With few troops, no supplies, little foreknowledge, and all the problems of a winter campaign, Fronto and Caesar face a monumental struggle, yet they know they must win for the prize in this campaign is nothing less than control of the republic itself. Rome hangs in the balance.

REVIEW

“Scipio, you cowardly (insert various and sundry defamatory remarks on Scipio’s parentage), come out and fight!” That could be considered the Caesarian battle cry in this rollicking edition of Marius Mules. Though it must be told that Caesar is not at the top of his usual tactical/strategic genius level, and that causes doubts among his officer corps. In looking for the reason behind this bout of ineptitude, the common blame is cast upon a woman. It’s always the woman’s fault…Adam & Eve – John & Yoko – Gaius Julius & Cleopatra… In his usual commendable fashion, the author has taken the sparse, often contradictory historical record, and infused it with life, vitality, and the clinching ingredient of unputdownableness…(yes, I know – I made up a word). Plus even after 13 volumes, it is always nice and refreshing to get reacquainted with that irascible curmudgeon, Fronto. 5 Stars

Amber Road

(Warrior of Rome #6)

by Harry Sidebottom

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AD 264 – The Roman Empire is torn in two.

The western provinces – Gaul, Spain and Britain – have been seized by the pretender Postumus. To the east, on the plains of northern Italy, the armies of the emperor Gallienus muster.

War is coming.

Everyone must choose a side.

On a mission shrouded in secrecy and suspicion, Ballista must journey The Amber Road to the far north to Hyperborea, back to his original home and the people of his birth.

A fearsome, masked warlord attacks, bringing fire and sword against the Angles. Yet not all welcome Ballista`s return.

Does treachery pose the greatest danger?

REVIEW

All of the curses endured, all of the enemies made, all of the oaths reneged on, all of his failures, all of his fears for his family, all of the brooding sadness over the loss of Calgacus – all of these things have left their mark on Ballista/Dernhelm. All of that makes for another page turning episode in this remarkable series. It seems fitting that the last episode finds Ballista in his homeland…though his homecoming is not a joyous one…an impossible mission, but a damn fine bit of storytelling. 4⭐⭐⭐⭐

Shield of the Rising Sun

(Path of Nemesis #3)

by Adam Lofthouse

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War still rages at the edge of empire while centurion Albinus Silus fights at its beating heart.

Gone is the boy who joined the legions. What remains is a man torn apart by the savagery of battle, the heartache of lost love.

He does not know what became of his wife, and now he must balance being both a soldier and a father.

And yet, for all his pain, he shall have to endure more than he ever thought he could. His valour in the northern wars has not gone unnoticed, and now he is to be given a special mission.

Marcus Aurelius’ star falls with his health. One day the sun will rise on his successor and son, Commodus. But he must be ready, must know what it is to lead. Centurion Albinus has been chosen to educate him.

From Pannonia to Rome, to the far reaches of the east, Albinus must protect Commodus from enemies both inside the empire and out.

Can he keep the Caesar safe? Can he nurture him, teach him what it is to be a man? Can he be The Shield of the Rising Sun?

REVIEW

Just as the we’ve seen the main character grow from a boy in The Centurion’s Son, into a man in War in the Wilderness, and into the mature leader of men in this the third book, Shield of the Rising Sun, now we are also witnessing the growth of an author. This tale is a veritable thrill ride interspersed with the angst, frustration, and emotional toll of a father and son seeking to be at peace with themselves while their world shatters with rebellion, forcing some difficult decisions for all involved.

One aspect of the story that I really enjoyed was the character of Calvus – both as a boon companion to Albinus, and as mentor/protector of Faustus. It is through his eyes that we see the tale unfold as he tells Faustus about his father. It is his voice that compels the reader to turn the page, that draws the reader in, leading us to the inevitable climax – to the end of a remarkable series. Of that I will say naught – you, my fellow readers will have to discover that on your own time. 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Emperor’s Axe

(Imperial Assassin #3)

by Alex Gough

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The fate of Rome, and thousands of lives, rests on the shoulders of one man.

After murdering his brother, and taking the position of Emperor for himself, Caracalla orders a brutal purge of the supporters of Geta.

Meanwhile, Caracalla’s ally Marcellus, along with his family, is captured by Syrian warriors. They wish to use his son, Avitus, as a puppet emperor to affirm a new Eastern Empire.

Caracalla orders Silus to track down and rescue Avitus, rumoured to be Caracalla’s child. As Rome buckles beneath the weight of internal slaughter and external threat, only Silus stands in the way of death and destruction on an incomparable scale.

REVIEW

Another gritty tale … more unpleasant duties … though with some increased soul searching. Indeed, the character development in this edition has been taken to a new level. Silus is still a brutal killer when tasked to do the Emperor’s bidding, but he is now a bit more lenient when the duty goes beyond what he considers unnecessary cruelty. Couple this with Atius’ growing faith in Christos, and you have a drama filled tale full of irony, and religious fervor.

Yes, my fellow readers, the third installment is an entertaining, page turning entry into a very well done series. 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author:

Vet living in the southwest of England. Avid reader of multiple genres, including thriller, sci-fi and fantasy, but particularly interested in historical fiction. Author of Roman historical fiction, and owner of the romanfiction.com blog.

Avenger of Rome (Gaius Valerius Verrens #3) by Douglas Jackson

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Emperor Nero’s grip on power is weakening. In every shadow he sees an enemy and like a cornered animal he lashes out at every perceived threat. His paranoia settles on the figure of Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, Rome’s greatest General who leads the imperial legions in the East.

So popular is Corbulo with his men that he effective presides over an Empire within an Empire. Is Corbulo preparing to march against Rome and take the purple?

Gaius Valerius Verrens, Hero of Rome, is ordered to Antioch with the power of life and death over Corbulo, a soldier he worships. There he finds word of his mission has preceded him and every man’s hand is turned against him. But Corbulo’s eyes are not on Rome, but on a new threat to the Empire’s border. The Parthian King of Kings, Vologases, is marching to war and with such an army that if not stopped he might overwhelm the entire Roman east.

Valerius marches at Corbulo’s side. Outnumbered they make a stand in the barren wastes beyond the Tigris to meet Vologases in an epic contest of military might and ingenuity that will decide the fate of the Empire. And while he fights for the Empire, and for his own survival on the battlefield, Valerius must decide whether to complete his mission, or risk incurring his Emperor’s dangerous wrath.

REVIEW

Once again I find myself way behind in a captivating series, though I suppose that’s understandable. A little background – I first came across Douglas Jackson’s books while searching for Roman fiction and read his Claudius and his Caligula books and enjoyed them so much I searched for more. That search uncovered a multitude of extraordinary authors dabbling in Roman fiction (e.g. Ben Kane, SJA Turney, Gordon Doherty, Robert Fabbri, Simon Scarrow, LJ Trafford, Anthony Riches, Harry Sidebottom, et al) thus my reading spread out over many authors in the same genre. Thus I am lagging behind because these authors keep writing books I cannot ignore. Anyway, in this installment of the Verrens series, the author has penned a real page turner. The plot/subplots are full of surprises and keep the readers on their toes(or maybe on the edge of their seats) … the struggle to survive a shipwreck…the tense atmosphere surrounding Verrens arrival at Corbulo’s headquarters…the sheer scope of the battle… Yes, this is a heart pounding tale that is hard to put down. What with the fall of Nero and the Year of the Four Emperor’s waiting in the wings, I can’t wait to get into book 4.  5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thunder of the Gods (Empire #8) by Anthony Riches

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The eighth book in the Empire sequence takes Centurion Marcus Aquila and his Tungrian legion on a dangerous mission to the heart of the Parthian empire

With Rome no longer safe Marcus and the Tungrians are ordered east, to the desolate border lands where Rome and Parthia have vied for supremacy for centuries.

Ordered to relieve the siege of an isolated fortress, their task is doomed to bloody failure unless they can turn the disaffected Third Legion into a fighting force capable of resisting the terrifying Parthian cataphracts.

And Marcus must travel to the enemy capital Ctesiphon on a desperate mission, the only man who can persuade the King of Kings to halt a war that threatens the humiliation of the empire and the slaughter of his friends.

REVIEW

The thing that impresses me the most, I think, and is an important element in my own fiction writing, is the author’s amazing ability to keep a long series fresh, vibrant, exuding an anticipatory eagerness. This is the 8th book in the Empire series; an adventure to the East to face Rome’s longtime rival, Parthia. By now, the familiar cast of characters are just that, familiar to the reader, almost family like even. The plots are skillfully/creatively written…the battles are exquisite…etc, etc, etc. I don’t know that I can add much more to the hundreds of reviews already posted…this is, to put it succinctly, another masterpiece of historical-fiction. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

Rome’s Lost Son (Vespasian #6) by Robert Fabbri

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Rome, AD 51: Vespasian brings Rome’s greatest enemy before the Emperor. After eight years of resistance, the British warrior Caratacus has been caught. But even Vespasian’s victory cannot remove the newly-made consul from Roman politics: Agrippina, Emperor Claudius’s wife, pardons Caratacus. Claudius is a drunken fool and Narcissus and Pallas, his freedmen, are battling for control of his throne. Separately, they decide to send Vespasian East to Armenia to defend Rome’s interests. But there is more at stake than protecting a client kingdom. Rumors abound that Agrippina is involved in a plot to destabilise the East. Vespasian must find a way to serve two masters—Narcissus is determined to ruin Agrippina, Pallas to save her. Meanwhile, the East is in turmoil. A new Jewish cult is flourishing and its adherents refuse to swear loyalty to the Emperor. In Armenia, Vespasian is captured. Immured in the oldest city on earth, how can he escape? And is a Rome ruled by a woman who despises Vespasian any safer than a prison cell?

REVIEW

A gap in the historical record of Vespasian; a veritable open canvas for the author, a proving ground for a fertile imagination. Once again I was awed by the character building, and the level of political intrigue involved in this brilliant look at Vespasian and the way he is playing the “long game”. His birth prophecy and a sacrificial liver set him on a course to the throne, but a lot has to happen first. And a lot does happen in this intricate, page turning tale.  Claudius is on the way out…Nero is next in line to continue the Julio-Claudian tendency to excess… Rome’s Lost Son, as one would expect given the previous books in the series, is a thrilling tale that keeps the reader coming back for more. 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Emperor’s Knife (Imperial Assassin #2) by Alex Gough

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Brothers. Emperors. Deadly enemies… An unputdownable novel of intrigue and combat in Rome.

Emperor Severus is on his deathbed. His sons Geta and Caracalla, feuding in Britannia, are readying for a devastating power struggle.

Silus, now a centurion in the Arcani, the secretive network of spies and killers, is thrown into the maelstrom. Back in Rome, plots breed in the stinking alleys.

Everyone might be an enemy. Everyone a traitor. As an Imperial Assassin, Silus’ loyalty will be tested to breaking point. And with the Empire starting to buckle under the strain, Silus must ask what matters: Rome or his own damned soul?

Better watch yourself…

From thundering races at the Circus Maximus to death in the Imperial palaces, this is a powerful and unputdownable novel that will transport to you Ancient Rome, perfect for fans of Ben Kane, Simon Scarrow and Conn Iggulden.

REVIEW

A heart pounding, heart breaking tale as Silus finds himself thrust into situations where his devotion and loyalty to his Arcani master and the Emperor are put to extreme tests. A well crafted story that is part soul searching dilemma and part action filled excitement. Caught between the ever increasing divide between the co-emperors, and the demands of his assigned missions, Silus struggles to maintain his loyalties, not only to his masters, but to his friends as well.  Plots full of surprises, characters who draw you into the narrative, the ability to keep the reader turning the pages, and a nice teaser at the end makes Emperor’s Knife an enjoyable romp in yet another troubled dynastic period in Rome’s history. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

Brothers in Blood by Simon Scarrow

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The Roman Empire’s conquest of Britannia is under threat from within.

A messenger on the streets of Rome has been intercepted and tortured, revealing a plot to sabotage the Roman army’s campaign against Caratacus, commander of Britannia’s native tribes. A treacherous agent’s mission is to open a second front of attack against them and eliminate the two Roman soldiers who could stand in the way.

Unwarned, Prefect Cato and Centurion Macro are with the Roman army pursuing Caratacus and his men through the mountains of Britannia. Defeating Caratacus seems within their grasp. But the plot against the two heroes threatens not only their military goals but also their lives.

Includes 2 maps and Roman army organisation chart.

REVIEW

Another rousing adventure for Cato and Macro. Another excellent addition to the series. On the trail of Rome’s worst nightmare in Britannia, the redoubtable and seemingly invincible Caratacus, our dynamic duo are once again the playthings of palace intrigue. A well conceived plot full of action and surprises…I thought for sure I knew who the traitor in their midst was…I was wrong…😊… So my fellow readers, if you’ve gotten this far in this series, you know what to expect, and yet it still seems fresh, and there’s more to come.  4⭐⭐⭐⭐

Dark Eagle (Legionary #8) by Gordon Doherty

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What hope has one forgotten soldier of bringing an emperor to justice?

Winter, 382 AD. The Gothic War is over. After years of bloodshed, the Eastern Roman Empire and the Goths have struck a deal for peace. Imperial heralds crow about the treaty as if it were a triumph. Feasts and celebrations take place across the Eastern provinces. Every hero of the war is honoured and acclaimed… except one.

Tribunus Pavo languishes in exile, haunted by a dark truth: that it was Gratian, Emperor of the West – the most powerful man alive – who caused the war and manipulated its every turn. Tormented by memories of loved ones lost during the great conflict, one word tolls endlessly through Pavo’s mind: Justice!

But in this great game of empire, justice rarely comes without a grave cost

REVIEW

With all of the strife the XI Claudia has faced in the previous episodes of the Legionary series, one might think that they could use a break. After all, there is now peace with The Goths, The Huns are being contained; a time to recoup and recover from their travails. However, that would be a rather dull story. Thankfully, the author feels the same way, though I did question him as to what the XI Claudia, and Pavo in particular, ever do to him as Dark Eagle sends them through hell and then some. What transpires is a page turning tale of courage, loyalty, and most of all, survival. A plot line that is rarely straight, is full of surprises, and beckons the reader to feel the pains, the agonies, and even the joys of this resilient group of dedicated legionaries. Indeed, my fellow readers, there were times I had to stop and wonder, “How are they gonna get out of this one?” An excellent addition to the Legionary series awaits you.  5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐