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 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Caligula lies dead by the hands of assassins. Claudius, the drooling fool is proclaimed Emperor but his rule will be a short one unless he wins over the legions. To do that his three conniving freedmen, Narcissus, Pallas and Callistus, concoct a scheme of breath taking magnitude. Thus we find Vespasian and his brother Sabinus on a seemingly impossible mission to find and return the lost Eagle of the 17th Legion; lost 30 years prior in the Teutoburg Forest massacre. What follows is a masterful story of danger, excitement and unrelenting action coupled with the snake-oil, behind the scenes plotting of the powers behind Claudius; not only of his freedmen but of his devious wife Messalina. Mr. Fabbri has created a compelling tale of Vespasian and his ever increasing belief in himself and his destiny. His leadership qualities and his abilities as a warrior come to the fore in this volume of what is a great series of books. From the vast and dark forests of Germania to the savage battles fought for Claudius’ benefit in Britain, Rome’s Fallen Eagle takes the reader on a splendid ride indeed. 5 stars
Well boys and girls, chalk this one up as another fine example of an author who has successfully written a series that just keeps getting better. The growth and development of Vespasian has been sure and steady and it has been a whole lot of fun observing his confidence and abilities expand from that uncertain farm boy in book one. This edition occurs during the end of Tiberius reign and the start of Caligula’s rule of madness. I love the way the author fleshes out this captivating yet revolting emperor…whenever he’s on the page I imagine the sight and sound of John Hurt from I. Claudius.
The plots and story lines are many and they keep you guessing as to what will happen next. Vespasian is caught in a web of personal trauma as he delicately treads the fine line between life and death as a “friend” of Caligula while at the same time juggling two women(and keeping them away from The Emperor.)
It had been a while between reading book 2 and book 3…I doubt I’ll wait too long to delve into the next one. 5 stars.
Rome’s Executioner – Vespasian 2 by Robert Fabbri
I must confess that when I read Tribune of Rome, the first book in the series, it took a while for me to get enthused as the beginning seemed to go a little slow but once the story gained momentum it gained my attention. The momentum carried over to volume two and this book had me from the start. The main plot concerns Vespasian being sent on a seemingly impossible mission to capture a loathsome renegade Thracian priest who may or may not be the key in bringing down the terror ridden reign of Aelius Sejanus who if I may interject was so wonderfully portrayed by Sir Patrick Stewart in I, Claudius, lo those many years ago when Sir Patrick had hair.
Vespasian has grown in the years between the two books into a more daunting and resolute individual. Gone for good is the hesitant, unsure boy who now longs for two primary things, the downfall of Sejanus and the continuing relationship he has with Antonia’s favorite slave, Caenis. Another example of a character that shines through the pages is Antonia the daughter of Marcus Antonius, mother to Claudius and his vile sister Livilla and grandmother to Gaius Caligula. She is the epitome of a noble family matron, strong, cunning and fixed with an indomitable will and spirit. What separates her from other portrayals of this remarkable woman that I have seen or read is that she is also very human and does not let her age, 60’s, curtail her libidinous urges.
The action is crisp, the dialogue well written and with an imaginative take on the whole how do we get to Caprae and tell Tiberius about Sejanus scenario. An inventive vocabulary, a thorough descriptiveness and well-rounded characters make this tale a pleasure to read. One of the things I really like is the author’s humorous turns of phrase, for example this reply as to whether he was ready to head into a dangerous situation a Thracian warrior responds, ‘We have a saying in Thrace, “A faint-heart never shagged a pig’” I cleaned that up a little for the faint of heart.
I highly recommend this book and series and look forward to the next installment and beyond. I give this book a rating of 4.6.
A note on Hoover Book Reviews new rating policy:
In order to have a little more leeway in rating a book we at Hoover Book Reviews are adopting the following policy. The system will still be based on 1-5 stars but with tenth of a point intervals, so a book that we in the past have rated 5 stars can now be more accurately fixed at say 4.5 or 4.2…etc etc. Of course this will only be reflected in the review itself as I cannot change Amazon’s restrictive, whole numbers only method.