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⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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.
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 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ballista the bada$$; barbarian bred, but Roman raised, now in disfavor with Valerian, has a new assignment – persecuting the dangerous religious cult, Christianity. Not a happy situation for him or his familia given that he is a warrior and a battle hardened commander. An administrative job, given to him under suspicious circumstances, has him requesting and then conniving to be replaced. Book two of Warrior of Rome adds to the intrigues of the imperial court and sets Ballista on a collision course with the narrow minded, noses in the air Roman patrician class, and which eventually culminates in a surprising and shocking turn of events (that I will not divulge – spoilers, you know). As in the first book, Fire in the East, the author shines in his portrayal of the Roman court, and the events that lead to the inevitable clash with Shapur, King of Kings. 4.7 stars
I fell in love with the Warrior of Rome series many years ago in the era known as the PBR – or Pre-Book Reviewing era. However, for some inexplicable reason, I only read the first four books. Therefore, in order to rectify that situation, I decided to reread them in preparation for reading the rest of the series and thus, reviewing them as I go a long. I call that a win-win scenario as I get to read them again and you, my peeps and fellow travelers, get to read my penetrating, yet humble reviews. In the first installment, Fire in the East, we meet Marcus Clodius Ballista, son of a Germanic chieftain but raised as a Roman, and who rises through the ranks of the Roman army to become the Dux Ripae of a force given the seeming impossible task of defending the city of Arete on the banks of the Euphrates. Their opponent is the Persian King of Kings, Shapur and his far numerically superior force. To many in the Roman establishment Ballista is seen as a warrior leader of immense experience and ability. Others, however, view him as nothing but a barbarian bastard far beneath their social standing. The tale is at once intriguing, exciting; full of surprises as it progresses through Ballista’s arrival, the preparation for the coming battle and siege and finally the battle of wills between this barbarian commander and the staggering, fanatic Persian host driven by the power of the King of Kings and bent on the total destruction of Arete. It is also a tale populated with wonderful characters, Ballista, his retinue – Maximus, Calgacus and Demetrius to name but a few. The historic research done is more than evident as you walk the streets of Arete; as you take in the defensive towers and the well placed artillery; the stone throwers and ballistas. A tension filled atmosphere permeates the pages as Ballista recognizes the near hopeless situation he has been thrust into; not only from Shapur but from assassins and secret agents out to see he doesn’t succeed. A highly entertaining read – glad I decided to give it another go. 5 stars