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.
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 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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?
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⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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?
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 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
First things first – I’m going to be sad for a long time. This is the final episode in this, ‘the year of four emperors’, and this makes me sad. Now whenever I get a craving for the author’s very creative writing style I’ll be forced into a rereading her books – oh, wait a moment, that is actually a good thing. 🙂 Alrighty then, glad to have thought this through, I feel much better; now onto the review of Vitellius’ Feast.
As with the other failed emperors, this particular failure is told from the perspective of the professional palace staff members, which means we get to follow the exploits of some of my favorite fictional characters (at least the one’s who have survived the previous failures). Philo, Epaphroditus, Lysander, Felix, Sporus, and Mina are all involved in various ways. At first, serving the new emperor, but in the end – well I best not go there, let’s just say that the author has once again bewitched me with her plots, subplots, and surprises. The interaction between the fictional characters and the historical figures is, as expected, flawlessly contrived; the description of Vitellius’ gluttony and abhorrent bedtime practices, the sometime comical interplay between Mina and Domitian, yes dear readers, the author is at the top of her game. I expectantly await more from her. 🙂 5 stars
Well now, my faithful legion of readers, I am somewhat baffled. I actually started to read this novel about five years ago, but through the vicissitudes of life, I never finished it. I, as you may have guessed by now, have finished after finding it snugged up with my collection of Tom Clancy novels, and then re-reading the beginning chapters. The tale takes place during the reign of Nero and while there are many plots and subplots, the famous episode of the burning of Rome is the focal point of the narrative. Nero is often depicted as a spoiled narcissist caring nothing except for his own pleasure and power. The author does indeed include those elements of his character, but also shows a side that cares deeply, if a bit mercurial, about the well being of his people. As for the famous fire and who caused it, it has been speculated that Christians were the culprits. Here is where the author transcends the oft repeated cause and takes it further, having the fire played out as a Sibylline prophecy with some surprises as to who runs with that prophecy and seeks Rome’s downfall. Indeed, I was taken aback slightly with this particular look at what I was brought up to believe about God and Jesus…not that that is a bad thing, by the way. I hesitate to say more as to not be a spoiler. Hint – be sure to read the author’s notes at the end. So, my peeps and fellow travelers, I absolutely recommend this highly entertaining rendering of Nero and his fire. After all, not only do you get that aspect, but also a spy tale, a charioteer tale, and remnants of the Boudiccan revolt all wrapped up in a superbly written book guaranteed to keep you turning the pages. 5 stars
A murder mystery set during the enlightened reign of Nero (well, maybe not enlightened, more of a spoiled kid playing with power). An aged Senator, Gaius Nerva dies suddenly and it is assumed it was a natural death, but his devoted steward/slave Calidus thinks otherwise and embarks on an investigation. This search for the murderer leads in many directions including to the Imperial Court. A cleverly concocted set of circumstances reveals many suspects and motives. Calidus, now a freedman, is persistent despite a lack of results, and an increasingly dangerous situation. The authors kept me engaged throughout this many faceted who done it including a look at Nero and the strange relationship he has with his mother, Agrippina; an interesting subplot to this enjoyable look at what Rome was like during this rather bizarre period of history. The characters, from the upper echelons of Roman society to the seedy underworld of the delightful cut purse thief, Piso are brought out in exquisite detail. The conclusion of the investigation and the resulting revelations is a top notch bit of creativity, though I will not say more about that. 🙂 4 stars