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Masters of Rome (Vespasian 5)
Masters of Rome (Vespasian 5)
by Robert Fabbri
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing turn up a supernatural cul-de-sac, 14 Oct 2014
I guess I must be in a minority of one with this review. However for me this series has taken a disastrous turn up a supernatural alley. I was going to call the review a book of two halves as, unlike most reviewers, I found the second half of the book much better than the first, which for me, was marred by Fabbri’s increasing use of the supernatural. Josef of Arithamea turns up, an acceptable historical licence perhaps, except he has the holy grail and it has magical properties. But fear not the author is not about to go all Christian as the baddies have magic too, The chief druid can communicate telepathically with Vespasian over an expanse of water, he has also been clued in on the Vespasian prophecy , knows about the canker growing in Rome that will destroy the Druid's ways (presumably Christianity) and about future seaborne invaders (either the Saxons or the Vikings depending on the range of his crystal ball). Oh and the druids can make the Romans think they are sheep or wolves.
The second half centring around the fall of Messalina reminded me why I first loved the series. The imagining of a past for an historical character set around a framework of real events. There is a nice bit of character development as Vespasian turns from a diligent servant of Rome into a man with an eye for the main chance.
Then just as I was about to write about how the author saved two stars with a strong second half performance he sends on twin strikers Mumbo and Jumbo for the last five minutes in a ludicrous finale. I know this is supposed to be an entertainment and I am not expecting the historical accuracy or earnestness of a Graves or McCulloch. However if I wanted evil spirits and supernatural powers I‘d head to the fantasy section. Others may disagree, as is their right, but for me the ramping up of the supernatural elements has spoilt what could have been a great series, My one star reflects my personal disappointment in the direction the series has taken as Fabbri is clearly a very talented author and the early books are excellent.

Rome's Fallen Eagle: VESPASIAN IV
Rome's Fallen Eagle: VESPASIAN IV
Price: £2.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable if a little repetitive, 30 Nov 2013
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I have thoroughly enjoyed the previous books in this series albeit they have to be taken with a large dose of historical salt. In this book, however, there is the first appearance of a problem that Fabbri will have to tackle as the series progresses. For the earlier books Vespasian is a blank page on which Fabbri can weave whatever historical fiction he wants. As time progresses, however, Vespasian becomes much clearer in the historical record such that the author is now constrained by actual historical events. In this case it's the invasion of Britain. There is still some scope for fictional elaboration but the second half of the book, which covers the invasion, consists of a series of battles in which legions wheel, pila are thrown, swords stab, heads are decapitated and guts spilt. I must confess to speed reading some of the latter battle scenes desperately hoping I didn't skip some detail that would drive the plot on.

I will definitely read the next book as I am keen to see how the author takes Vespasian's story forward, but more liberties will need to be taken with history if the series is not to become repetitive.

Marching With Caesar-Conquest of Gaul: Conquest of Gaul
Marching With Caesar-Conquest of Gaul: Conquest of Gaul

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but too long, 22 July 2012
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As a new Kindle owner I have steered clear of the cheaper Kindle only books. However I made an exception here as I love Roman historical novels and I was swayed by the reviews.

I'm glad I did. As others have said the author's military background gives the book added authenticity. The camaraderie between the tent mates and the battle scenes are well rendered. Unlike Scarrow's heroes Pullus rapes and kills women and children much like his real life namesake must have done. At 50% of the way through I was fully prepared to follow the other reviewers with a 5 star review. At 60% through I started to struggle and dropped a star and at 75% I've dropped another. It is just way too long - I don't know how big it would be in physical form but I would guess it would be a doorstop of a book.

The length wouldn't be a problem in itself. However the author has made a rod for his own back by slavishly following Caesar's commentaries. Pullus is therefore trapped in an endless sequence of march, build a camp, kill some Gauls, march build another camp kill some more Gauls. There is an attempt at creating an original story arc alongside the historical facts. Pullus best friend Vibius is always criticising Caesar so is clearly going to end up with Pompey come the Civil War. There is a bad boy in the tent who has a grudge against Pullus and our hero has a thing both for his best friend's girlfriend and another soldier's mistress. So far at 75% through none of these stories lines have been developed enough to provide any variety amongst all the marching, camp building and killing.

In my opinion the book would have been better split in two or shortened by summarising some of the battles. Pullus original story lines also need developing.

Having said that I will buy the next one not least to see how the author tackles the motivation that drove ordinary men to die for the political advancement of their Generals.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 9, 2012 10:53 AM GMT

The Forgotten Legion: (The Forgotten Legion Chronicles No. 1)
The Forgotten Legion: (The Forgotten Legion Chronicles No. 1)
by Ben Kane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.60

27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Spare me the pseudo mysticism, 14 May 2009
I love Scarrow's Macro and Cato novels and am always on the look out for similar fare. I tried Napier's Atilla series and Manda Scott's Boudicca books but gave up on both because they contain a large helping of pseudo mysticism - dreams, visions, fortune telling and so on. So I was disappointed Mr Kane has followed suit.

Tarquinnus, the Etruscan is a traineer seer. His mentor examining the liver of a lamb reveals to him that he will journey to the land of his ancestors far to the east. Brennus the Gaul is told by a Druid that he will go (boldy?) where no member of his tribe has gone before. Once in Rome and now a gladiator Brennus visits an augur who examines some chicken entrails and reveals that his journey is not over yet. Different religions, different offal but same celestial travel agent it would seem.

Its a shame because the story and characters are strong enough to stand up on their own without the fortune telling sign posting the plot.

I had a nice piece of liver for my dinner last night. A quick examination before cooking revealed that I will probably give Mr Kane a second chance in his sequel but only if he significantly pulls back on the mysticism.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 23, 2012 7:02 AM GMT

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