Commodus (The Damned Emperors #2) by Simon Turney

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Rome is enjoying a period of stability and prosperity. The Empire’s borders are growing, and there are two sons in the imperial succession for the first time in Rome’s history.

But all is not as it appears. Cracks are beginning to show. Two decades of war have taken their toll, and there are whispers of a sickness in the East. The Empire stands on the brink of true disaster, an age of gold giving way to one of iron and rust, a time of reason and strength sliding into hunger and pain.

The decline may yet be halted, though. One man tries to hold the fracturing empire together. To Rome, he is their emperor, their Hercules, their Commodus.

But Commodus is breaking up himself, and when the darkness grips, only one woman can hold him together. To Rome she was nothing. The plaything of the emperor. To Commodus, she was everything. She was Marcia.

REVIEW

Well now, that was certainly not the Commodus from Gladiator. Once again, Mr. Turney has taken on myth and misconception, and has brought forth a fascinating look at one of the more enigmatic of the Roman emperors. As in his other novels, the author relies on his ability to glean from contemporary sources those facts or myths, and turn them into a page turning (and to this burgeoning author), mind boggling tale that grabs the reader’s attention from page one, word one, and does not relent in it’s grip. Written from the perspective of Marcia, the narrative is rich in detail, poignant in its telling, and once again left this reader amazed at the creative talent of the author. 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Emperor’s Sword (Imperial Assassin #1) by Alex Gough

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A desolate wasteland. A mission gone wrong. An impossible goal. A gripping new series of Ancient Rome

Roman scout Silus is deep behind enemy lines in Caledonia. As he spies on a raiding party, he is abruptly discovered by an enemy chief and his son.

Mounting a one man ambush, everything quickly goes wrong. Silus must run for his life, the head of the enemy leader in his hands. Little does he know the price he will pay…

As Silus is inducted into the Arcani, an elite faction of assassins and spies, he must return to Caledonia, back into the wilderness, and risk everything in the service of his Caesar. The odds don’t look good.

Failure is not an option.

REVIEW

What we have here is an example of an author using the historical research, or lack thereof, and combining that with a creative flair to produce an exciting story of loss and courage. A no holds barred sweep of competing forces bent on total destruction of their foes, Emperor’s Sword is also a glimpse into the human soul as Silus copes with the guilt ridden hopelessness that underlies his life, and is a driving force in the revenge he seeks. I love Roman fiction, there are so many eras, places, and people to bring to life on a written page, and this one is spot on. Caracalla in Caledonia, oh what fun. A page turning, heart pounding tale awaits you, my fellow readers.  5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Caspian Gates (Warrior of Rome #4) by Harry Sidebottom

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AD 262 –the Roman Imperium is in turmoil after the struggle for the throne that brought Gallienus to power. And Ephesus, the metropolis of the Eastern Empire, lies in ruins, shattered by a mighty earthquake. Its citizens live in fear as the mob overwhelms the city, baying for blood to avenge the gods who have punished them. Yet an even greater threat to the Empire advances from the North: the barbaric Goth tribes, determined to pillage the city. Only Ballista, Warrior of Rome, knows the ways of the barbarians, and only he can defeat them. In a relentlessly gripping and richly authentic tale of ancient warfare, The Caspian Gates is an adventure for Rome enthusiasts and scholars alike.

REVIEW

Well, the rereading of the first 4 volumes of the Warrior of Rome series is complete, and I am looking forward to the next installment, The Wolves of the North. I have sort of glossed over much of what I usually cover in my book reviews during this reacquainting period, but I will say this. The author has unknowingly had me hearkening back to the early 70’s when I was an Ancient History student at Wayne State University. The inclusion of philosophical and mythological discussions spread throughout the narrative sparked some familiar memories. I find it to be a definite plus when the tale being told also has the possibility to enlighten, educate, edify…something that happens quite often in this series. 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Lion of the Sun (Warrior of Rome #3) by Harry Sidebottom

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It’s Mesopotamia, AD 260. Betrayed by his most trusted adviser, the Roman Emperor Valerian has been captured by the Sassanid barbarians. The shame of the vanquished beats down mercilessly like the white sun, as the frail old emperor prostrates himself before Shapur, King of Kings. Ballista looks on helplessly, but vows under his breath to avenge those who have brought the empire to the brink of destruction with their treachery. One day, maybe not soon, but one day, I will kill you …But first he must decide what price he will pay for his own freedom. Only the fearless and only those whom the gods will spare from hell can now save the empire from a catastrophic ending. Ballista, the Warrior of Rome, faces his greatest challenge yet.

REVIEW

Another exhilarating episode … another drama packed tale … another seamless melding together of history and fiction … another reason to read the Warrior of Rome series.

5 Stars  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Marius’ Mules XII: Sands of Egypt by S.J.A. Turney

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Winter, 48 BC. Caesar and his small force are trapped in the Egyptian city of Alexandria. Caught up in the dynastic struggles of the House of Ptolemy, the consul has sided with the clever and ruthless Queen Cleopatra. Her brother and fellow monarch Ptolemy XIII languishes in the palace, a hostage of Caesar’s, while a huge army under the command of the Egyptian general Achillas closes on the city to free him.

With both the future of this ancient land and the safety of Caesar and his men at stake, Fronto and his friends face the terrible task of holding an unfamiliar city under siege, in the desperate hope that reinforcements will reach them before the enemy break in.

But Egyptian reinforcements gather too, and with the interference of the youngest princess, Arsinoë, the future is far from written. Trapped, besieged and outnumbered, time is running out for the Romans, as shadows loom across the sands of Egypt

REVIEW

As this is the 12th episode in this magnificent saga, I am going to presume that anyone reading this review is familiar with Marius Mules, and will gloss over the salient points usually covered in my reviews…such as character development, plot, etc etc, mind you all of the usual salient points are done in the usual excellent SJA manner. 😊 Instead, I will state only that Marius Mules would be a must see TV event on par with I, Claudius or ROME.

I will say this about #12…the building tension between Caesar and Cassius and the looming decisions Fronto will be faced with…man oh man, 13-15…I can’t wait.  😎

5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Quest for the Crown of Thorns (The Long-Hair Saga #2) by Cynthia Ripley Miller

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#QuestfortheCrownofThorns #CynthiaRipleyMiller #HFVBTBlogTours 
 
Twitter tags: @CRipleyMiller @hfvbt  
 

Facebook tags: @cynthiaripleymiller @hfvbt

 

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AD 454. Three years after the Roman victory over Attila the Hun at Catalaunum, Arria Felix and Garic the Frank are married and enjoying life on Garic’s farm in northern Gaul (France). Their happy life is interrupted, when a cryptic message arrives from Rome, calling Arria home to her father, the esteemed Senator Felix. At Arria’s insistence, but against Garic’s better judgment, they leave at once.

Upon their arrival at Villa Solis, they are confronted with a brutal murder and the dangerous mission that awaits them. The fate of a profound and sacred object–Christ’s Crown of Thorns–rests in their hands. They must carry the holy relic to the safety of Constantinople, away from a corrupt emperor and old enemies determined to steal it for their own gain.

But an even greater force arises to derail their quest–a secret cult willing to commit any atrocity to capture the Crown of Thorns. And all the while, the gruesome murder and the conspiracy behind it haunt Arria’s thoughts.

Arria and Garic’s marital bonds are tested but forged as they partner together to fulfill one of history’s most challenging missions, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns.

REVIEW

A tantalizing adventure awaits you my fellow fiction aficionados as Arria and Garic take on the perilous mission to deliver a relic so precious that people will kill to possess it. A story line with many strands, believable characters, intense drama, and engaging love story. As the journey progresses, it becomes harder to put the book down as the Crown gets closer to Constantinople. Excitement at every turn of the page including an intriguing teaser at the end. Settle back with your beverage of choice and enjoy an exciting look at the Roman world of the 5th century.  4 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

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About the Author

Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages and books. She has lived, worked, and travelled in Europe, Africa, North America and the Caribbean. As a girl, she often wondered what it would be like to journey through time (she still does), yet knew, it could only be through the imagination and words of writers and their stories. Today, she writes to bring the past to life.

She holds two degrees and has taught history and teaches English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press Mysteries.com and The Scriptor. A Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist for her novel, On the Edge of Sunrise, she has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus

Cynthia has four children and lives with her husband, twin cats, Romulus and Remus, and Jessie, a German Shepherd, in a suburb of Chicago.

On the Edge of Sunrise is the first in the Long-Hair Saga; a series set in late ancient Rome and France and published by Knox Robinson Publishing. The second book in the series, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, was released in June 2017.

For more information please visit Cynthia Ripley Miller’s website. You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

 

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Masters of Rome (Vespasian #5) by Robert Fabbri

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Britannia, 45 AD: Vespasian’s brother, Sabinus, is captured by druids. The druids want to offer a potent sacrifice to their gods – not just one Roman Legate, but two. They know that Vespasian will come after his brother and they plan to sacrifice the siblings on mid-summer’s day. But to whom will they be making this sacrifice? What were the gods of this land before the Celts came? Only the druids still hold the secret and it is one of pure malevolence.

Vespasian must strive to save his brother whilst completing the conquest of the south-west of the haunted isle, before he is drawn inexorably back to Rome and the heart of Imperial politics. Claudius’ three freedmen remain at the locus of power. As Messalina’s time as Empress comes to a bloody end, the three freedmen each back a different mistress. But which woman will be victorious? And at what price for Vespasian?

REVIEW

Due to circumstances beyond my control – well maybe I have some control – I have been subjected to a plethora of authors penning marvelous books, looking to me for reviews. In the long run, this is a good thing, but it has meant falling woefully behind, e.g. Robert Fabbri’s Vespasian series. On the plus side, Masters of Rome reminded me that I need to lessen the time before I read the next one. In this tale, or rather, two tales, Vespasian is wrapping up his time serving in Britannia (tale 1) and preparing to return to Rome to further his career (tale 2) The situation in Rome at the time – Messalina’s grasp for power – is what he returns to, as well as a devastating possibility that his brother Sabinus will be implicated in the assassination of Caligula.

The action is pulse pounding stuff…the characters are more than believable – the formidable Druids , the streetwise Magnus, a way more wicked Messalina than the Messalina of I, Claudius fame, and she was definitely wicked.  The political machinations of Narcissus, Pallas and Callistus…this story has it all and then some. 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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The Eagle’s Vengeance (Empire #6) by Anthony Riches

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The Tungrian auxiliary cohorts return to Hadrian’s Wall after their successful Dacian campaign, only to find Britannia in chaos. The legions are overstretched, struggling to man the forts of the northern frontier in the face of increasing barbarian resistance.
The Tungrians are the only soldiers who can be sent into the northern wastes, far beyond the long abandoned wall built by Antoninus, where a lost symbol of imperial power of the Sixth Victorious Legion is reputed to await them. Protected by an impassable swamp and hidden in a fortress atop a high mountain, the eagle of the Sixth legion must be recovered if the legion is to survive.
Marcus and his men must penetrate the heart of the enemy’s strength, ghosting through a deadly wilderness patrolled by vicious huntresses before breaching the walls of the Fang, an all-but-impregnable fort, if they are to rescue the legion’s venerated standard. If successful their escape will be twice as perilous, with the might of a barbarian tribe at their heels.

REVIEW

One of the drawbacks to my humble skills as a book review scribe, and the numerous requests I receive to apply those humble skills, is that there is often a long gap in my reading of some of my favorite long running series’. Such is the case with Anthony Riches Empire series. It had been a couple years since I had read book 5, The Wolf’s Gold, and it dawned on me rather quickly while reading The Eagle’s Vengeance that waiting so long was a mistake. A pulsating adventure pitting Corvus and his Tungrian mates against remorseless foes, not only the painted warriors of northern Britannia, but also the plotting Praetorian Prefect. It’s an understatement to say that the action is exciting, or that the plot with its twists and turns keeps the reader turning the pages. The climatic ending, without any spoilers, is a bit frightening in its outcome, but it also sets up nicely the next volume in the series, The Emperor’s Knives, which by the way I will not wait a couple years to read. 😎  5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

War in the Wilderness (The Centurion’s Son Chronicles Book 2) by Adam Lofthouse

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Germania, winter, AD 168.

Balomar, King of the Marcomanni and leader of the united army of the tribes, broods and drinks his way through the long winter as his alliance falls apart. He won great fame when he destroyed the Fourteenth legion and brought his army to Italian soil. Rome will not let his victory go unanswered; new legions have been formed, and their spear tips point north.

Elsewhere Albinus braves the harsh weather and tribal hordes as he searches desperately for Licina, his lost fiancé. Once more he must play dice with Fortuna as he launches himself into the iron storm.

For Rome, and his father’s shade…

REVIEW

A sequel well worth the wait. The tale takes up where Centurion’s Son left off, so in no time the reader is propelled into an action packed drama pitting Albinus and his 14th Legion comrades against the elements and foe alike. As in the first book, we get a glimpse of life in a frontier/wilderness Roman legion; the camaraderie between Albinus and his mates, their absolute dedication to the Eagle despite the rigors, dangers, and discomforts.  The characters are full of the life of the period, their flaws, their doubts, their abilities are all on display; a feast for the readers. The tale, as the title indicates, is a war story replete with not only gladius laden battles, and skirmishes, but it is also one with elements of mystery and espionage. In what is a very striking and unexpected turn of events, Albinus finds himself once again in search of Licinia, but I will say naught of that. You, my fellow readers, will have to discover why for yourselves.  😊  4 stars

Praetorian: Lions of Rome by SJA Turney

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Rufinus is dead, crumpled at the base of a cliff in far-off Dacia. Or so the world believes. Back in the west, secretly in the entourage of the fierce Septimius Severus, the young hero moves in the shadows with fellow conspirators in an attempt to finally bring down the would-be tyrant of Rome: Cleander.

Under assumed names and in a variety of roles, the former Praetorian conspires with some of the most important men in Rome, bringing the city to the very brink of disaster in a grand and complex plot to cause the fall of the untouchable chamberlain.

And as governors, prefects, Praetorians and consuls work their secret plots in the seedy underbelly of Rome, Rufinus finds he has an opportunity to settle old scores along the way.

The empire is suffering. Rome is seething. Rufinus is back.

REVIEW

In the most complex Praetorian yet, Mr. Turney has delivered yet another masterpiece bringing together every element in the city of Rome, in a taut thriller to bring down the vile Cleander. There are a lot of moving pieces on the game board as the Septimus Severus led conspiracy plays a long waiting game; everything has to be right for them to succeed. It is this long wait that could have been a negative as far as slowing the pace of the narrative, a lessening in the number of stars awarded. But, my dear readers, just as Rufinus chafes at the wait, you must also. Like Rufinus, I was growing impatient, but like Severus, the author knew best…the last quarter is justification for the wait. In fairness, the drawn out grain part, while causing anxious moments for the conspirators, and the occasional sigh by me, is in retrospect necessary to the narrative. When you’re going after the most powerful “right hand man of The Emperor” since Sejanus, you better be sure all your plans are laid out in meticulous detail.  Besides, dear reader, the last quarter of the book is pure Turney excitement magic.

Book four of this series is also a prime example of the research that the author employs in all of his books. The descriptions, for example, of the streets of Commodus’ Rome makes the reader feel like he’s walking down familiar byways. In addition to that level of detail, you have a more complete Rufinus. He is now an elite warrior/spy exuding confidence in all of his tasks – a killer when necessary – a wearer of many masks – yet still possessing a compassionate outlook and a questioning mind. Yes, my peeps and fellow travelers, ready yourself for time well spent as you read Lions of Rome.  5 Stars