Enemy of Rome

(Gaius Valerius Verrens #5)

by Douglas Jackson

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Summer, AD 69. Rome and its empire are in turmoil, caught in the coils of a desperate and destructive civil war.

The emperor Otho is dead by his own hand and his rival, Aulus Vitellius, occupies the imperial throne. However, a new challenge has arisen in the East – the legions of Titus Flavius Vespasian have declared him their Emperor.

In the dry heat of an August morning, Gaius Valerius Verrens prepares for his last day on earth. Wrongly accused of deserting his legion on the field of Bedriacum, it seems he is destined to die a coward’s death.

Then the executioner’s hand is stayed. Vitellius’ enemies will spare the life of the man who was once Hero of Rome if he pledges allegiance to Vespasian and his cause. Valerius – tired of the endless slaughter and hoping that he might be reunited with his lost love – agrees. And so he must battle his way south to Rome in order to persuade his friend Vitellius to stand down for the greater good of the city, its people and the Empire.

But this is civil war and this is Rome, and Valerius – his loyalties divided and branded an enemy of the people – is trapped in a maze of distrust, corruption, betrayal and blood-letting .

REVIEW

You have to feel for a protagonist who finds himself fighting for, and against every side in a war. Yeah, the author certainly has it in for his creation…of course that’s what makes this such an entertaining series. Notch up another winner…next one is already loaded up on me Kindle.😁 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Emperor of Rome

(Vespasian #9)

by Robert Fabbri

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The final, thrilling instalment in the epic Vespasian series from the bestselling author, Robert Fabbri.

Rome, AD 68. Vespasian is tasked with the impossible. Should he quell the revolt in Judaea, as Nero the emperor has instructed, or must he resort to the unthinkable and sabotage his own campaign? If his conquest succeeds, he risks becoming the sole object of the mad emperor’s jealousy. If he fails, then his punishment will be severe. The fate of his men and his beloved son, Titus, all hang in the balance.

But unknown to Vespasian, Nero has committed suicide, catapulting Rome into political turmoil. Sabinus, Vespasian’s brother, is caught between the warring factions of Aulus Vitellius, a cruel opportunist, and the noble Marcus Salvius Otho, who finds himself severely outnumbered. Seeing no aid on the horizon, Sabinus must rely on wit, and wit alone, to ensure the safety of his family.

With a contested throne and an army at his disposal, now may finally be Vespasian’s time – to ascend, to conquer, to achieve what countless prophecies have foretold and take control of Rome itself. Will Vespasian, at long last, be the one to wear the purple?

REVIEW

Well my peeps and fellow travelers of the Vespasian saga, the tale is now complete. I reckon it’s not much of a spoiler to say that the good guy wins in the end, though even knowing how it ends does not detract from the masterful telling of the tale. Bringing to life the chaotic political landscape while shaping the outcome through the prophecies is simply put, some damn fine writing. Then again, that’s been evident through all nine books, if you catch my meaning. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rome’s Sacred Flame

(Vespasian #8)

by Robert Fabbri

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Vespasian has been made Governor of Africa. Nero, Rome’s increasingly unpredictable Emperor, orders him to journey with his most trusted men to a far-flung empire in Africa to free 200 Roman citizens who have been enslaved by a desert kingdom. Vespasian arrives at the city to negotiate their emancipation, hoping to return to Rome a hero and find himself back in favor with Nero. But when Vespasian reaches the city, he discovers a slave population on the edge of revolt. With no army to keep the population in check, it isn’t long before tensions spill over into bloody chaos. Vespasian must escape the city with all 200 Roman citizens and make their way across a barren desert, battling thirst and exhaustion, with a hoard of rebels at their backs. It’s a desperate race for survival, with twists and turns aplenty. Meanwhile, back in Rome, Nero’s extravagance goes unchecked. All of Rome’s elite fear for their lives as Nero’s closest allies run amok. Can anyone stop the Emperor before Rome devours itself? And if Nero is to be toppled, who will be the one to put his head in the lion’s mouth? 

REVIEW

When a book has as many ratings/reviews as this one, it is difficult to write something that hasn’t been already written. So, this review will be succinct – to wit – The author’s portrayal of Nero is fiendishly outlandish, in other words spectacular; especially concerning the fire; oh yeah especially the fire. Another facet of this episode that I found so compelling is the long lived/exquisitely planned plots for revenge on Vespasian; in other words masterful storytelling, or as Magnus would say, ‘if you get my meaning.’ 😁 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

From the Ashes

(The Colosseum #1)

by Melissa Addey

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Rome, 80AD. A gigantic new amphitheatre is being built. The Emperor has plans for gladiatorial Games on a scale no-one has ever seen before. But the Games don’t just happen. They must be made. And Marcus, the man in charge of creating them, has just lost everything he held dear when Pompeii disappeared under the searing wrath of Vesuvius. Now it will fall to Althea, the slave woman who serves as his scribe, to ensure the Colosseum is inaugurated on time – and that Marcus makes his way out of the darkness that calls to him. 

REVIEW

I love Roman historical-fiction. So many eras, earth shaking events, godlike personalities, and stories for an author to choose from. From the Ashes takes place during the reign of Titus, and the inauguration of The Flavian Amphitheatre. As for earth shaking, Mt Vesuvius blows up covering the landscape in an ashen shroud, choking and burning all in it’s reach. The story revolves mainly around Marcus and Althea, not the usual godlike characters, but two individuals who rise above the tearful, paralyzing grief brought about by Vesuvius, while faced with the daunting task of keeping the Emperor pleased with his father’s legacy. Vividly described, their journey to get to and then through Pompeii in a hopeless search, is one of the more heartbreaking storylines in a tale full of emotional upsets. It would take a very strong, determined person to navigate the many challenges faced in this page turning tale. The author has created just such a character. Althea, accustomed to taking orders, becomes adept at handling situations where failure to succeed would produce dire consequences. Beset with her own sorrows, Althea digs deep into her being placing the doubts and worries aside. The tortuous path to complete the Amphitheatre is strewn with seemingly impossible to overcome obstacles…and that is what makes this book so entertaining, so enjoyable to read. I cannot wait for the second book in the series. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Furies of Rome

(Vespasian #7)

by Robert Fabbri

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AD 58: Rome is in turmoil once more. Emperor Nero has set his heart on a new wife but to clear a path for her, he must first assassinate his Empress, Claudia Octavia. Vespasian needs to tread carefully here—Nero’s new lover, Poppaea Sabina, is no friend of his and her ascent to power spells danger. Meanwhile, Nero’s extravagance has reached new heights, triggering a growing financial crisis in Britannia. Vespasian is sent to Londinium to rescue the situation, only to become embroiled in a deadly rebellion, one that threatens to destroy Britannia and de-stabilize the empire.

REVIEW

As this book has been out for a while, and has garnered enough reviews that it’s safe to assume all angles have been covered. Thus I will keep this short…damnation, what a tale. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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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