Fields of Mars – Marius Mules X by S.J.A. Turney

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The Rubicon River, a rather insignificant stream with a rather major significance.  Fronto is once again with Gaius Julius Caesar and follows him across that river and into open rebellion against fellow Romans.  In MM X, the author presents the events of Caesar’s siege of Massilia and his campaign in Hispania against Pompey’s legions.  In a nice bit of plot interweaving, we find Fronto, once again in charge of a legion, with Caesar at Ilerda while at the same time he is also mentally occupied with the Massilia situation due to his business interests there and the fact that his nice villa is now a Roman camp.  The cast is replete with some old favorites, Galronus, Antonius, Brutus, and a nice cameo from Musgava and crew.  On the flip side we have some nasties like Ahenobarbus and Petreius for example.  We are also introduced to an intriguing character, Salvius Cursor, one of those characters who make you wonder if you’re supposed to hate him or to like him – trust me, you’ll understand as you read the book.  The author puts on another display of his battle prowess, but to me it was more of a story about the characters; the mindsets of Caesar – the way he prosecutes this war; Fronto and the fact that he is aging but can’t stay out of the action; Salvius and his need for bloodshed.  It is a masterful telling of historical events that changed the Roman world with a fine smattering of fictional tweaking.  It is sad to realize that we are on the down slope of Marius Mules; only five more volumes to go.  🙂  4.7 stars

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Pax Gallica – Marius Mules IX by SJA Turney

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Things are heating up between Caesar and the Senate.  The Senate calls for him to lay down his legions and return to Rome for prosecution while Caesar seeks to be made a Consul.  Marcus Falerius Fronto, ex-legate of the Tenth Legion has been declared an outlaw and takes his family to Massilia whereupon he decides that despite his differences with Caesar, the only way to regain what the Senate has taken from him is to rejoin Caesar.  Meanwhile there is an uprising in Aquitania led by an enigmatic man known as The Smiling King and Fronto is sent there with one legion made up of veterans ready to retire to put down the incursion and settle the veterans in that region.  Throughout this series, the author has created some very memorable characters, both Roman and barbarian.  In Pax Gallica, that honor belongs to The Smiling King; driven by vengeance, fueled by sacred vows, and totally ruthless in his pursuit to bring down Caesar.  Fronto needs all of the steadfast, professional demeanor of his ‘legion’ just to survive the opening salvos from this new enemy.  Fronto also needs all of his guile and experience to try to stay one step ahead of Smiley but is inexorably and with much loss led to where The Smiling King wants him.  Mr. Turney delivers yet again a muse inspired tale filled with drama, mystery, heroic deeds, loyalty, and most importantly a story of many twists and turns as he sets the stage for the inevitable showdown between Pompey and Caesar.  5 Stars and a Hoover Book Review query, Why haven’t you started this series yet?  🙂

Conspirata by Robert Harris

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The middle book of the trilogy,  Conspirata encompasses Cicero’s life during his Consulship and the subsequent fall out from the Catiline Conspiracy.  Through the voice of Tiro, the uber secretary, the author continues an excellent reading experience chock full of history enhanced with intrigue and emotion.  Cicero rides a stormy sea as he vacillates between victories, doubt, and a surprising predilection to turn his fears into heroic acts.  The characters ring true, from the pompous (Catalus, Hortensius), to the pretentious power seekers (Pompey, Crassus) and a unremitting, ruthless Caesar.

It had been quite a while between my reading of Imperium and Conspirata.  I predict that it won’t be as long before I start the final volume, Dictator.  4.8 stars & The Hoover Book Review’s coveted “It’s a Good One, Boys & Girls” award.

 

Magnus – Triumphator by Robert Allen Johnson

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When one looks back at the history of Rome during this period that saw the ushering in of the end of the Roman Republic, one cannot help but be amazed at the number of so many pivotal characters; Marius, Sulla, Cicero,Crassus, Pompey and waiting in the wings, Gaius Julius.  No wonder that this period gets so much attention from authors, however, it takes a good author to take on a character that has been portrayed by many different authors, in many different ways.  Robert Allen Johnson has done just that in this series on Gnaeus Pompey Magnus.  He has given us a Pompey that is more human, more prone to doubt and yet more determined to succeed.  In the second installment, Triumphator, Pompey begins to grow, becomes less rash and more calculating and to some, more dangerous.  The author has created a work that rings true, a page turning delight that has one almost hoping that this version of Pompey will see through Caesar’s ambition and bests him in the end…almost.  4.8 stars and Hoover Book Review’s Seal of Approval.  Can’t wait for book three.