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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Republican Rome's underbelly exposed.
Republican Rome's underbelly exposed.

Ben Kane's novel 'The Lost Legion' is a gripping novel set in ancient Rome. Kane writes about the last days of the Roman Republic but with an unusual approach. He chooses his main characters from people on the margins of Roman society, those who inhabit the underbelly of the Republic and provide the essential services to...
Published on 1 Aug 2011 by Martin Lake

versus
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok But we Have Been Spoiled by The Emperor Series
This is an adventure set in the days of Pompey, Crassus and Caesar and following the legion that Crassus lost on his ill fated expedition into Parthia. It's a good enough story, and I don't really fault the effort the author has put into understanding the history and setting - but I have been spoiled by reading through Conn Iggulden's "Emperor" series. That is an...
Published on 22 Mar 2010 by Sir Furboy


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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Republican Rome's underbelly exposed., 1 Aug 2011
By 
Martin Lake (French Riviera) - See all my reviews
Republican Rome's underbelly exposed.

Ben Kane's novel 'The Lost Legion' is a gripping novel set in ancient Rome. Kane writes about the last days of the Roman Republic but with an unusual approach. He chooses his main characters from people on the margins of Roman society, those who inhabit the underbelly of the Republic and provide the essential services to keep the wealthy in a life of luxury. This means that the society they describe is almost as much of a mystery to them as it to the reader of two thousand years later.

Kane opens the book by giving us Tarquinius, a character from the long-conquered Etruscan society, moves swiftly to introduce Brennus a giant of a Gaul and then to Romulus and Fabiola, slave siblings who are sold into two of the most awful worlds of Rome, the brothel and the circus.

Kane chooses to develop different streams of his novel, never an easy task but one which he manages with skill. I never felt I had to go back to re-read what was happening to one of the characters even when there had been a gap since I had last read about them.

I particularly liked his portrayal of the clever, beautiful Fabiola. Many epic historical novels tend to side-line female characters but Fabiola is not a woman content to be side-lined by anybody, (including, I suspect, the author.) I look forward to seeing how she will develop.

Kane seems to me to be historically accurate, adept at capturing the essence of Romans such as Caesar, Crassus and Brutus. This dedication to authenticity led to one of my few niggles. He uses the accurate Roman words for weapons, almost all of the time. This gave me pause; I'd rather he dispensed with the Latin and said swords and shields for ease of reading. Because of his accuracy I was also somewhat surprised to hear Romulus described as a teenager and wondered whether Alexander's soldiers would have been as fair of skin and hair as Kane suggests.

These tiny niggles apart, I loved this book. I have bought the next one in the series and look forward to branching out to his book about Hannibal.

Martin Lake
The Lost King: Resistance
Wasteland (The Lost King)
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok But we Have Been Spoiled by The Emperor Series, 22 Mar 2010
By 
Sir Furboy (Aberystwyth, UK) - See all my reviews
This is an adventure set in the days of Pompey, Crassus and Caesar and following the legion that Crassus lost on his ill fated expedition into Parthia. It's a good enough story, and I don't really fault the effort the author has put into understanding the history and setting - but I have been spoiled by reading through Conn Iggulden's "Emperor" series. That is an extremely hard act to follow.

Ultimately the thing that - to me - let this book down was the pacing of the story - I almost gave up at 250 pages in because nothing much had actually happened at that point. We were treated with far too much information about the life of the prostitute Fabiola. I did not intend to buy soft porn, but the sexual references were very frequent in this book (not just for straight sex either). Eventually events unfold in Parthia as they must, and there were no surprises on that score. The story sets up a sequel, but maybe the book would have been more interesting if the sequel had been written into this one. I doubt I will bother with the sequel.

Regarding prose, there was something odd in the dialogue. The author uses some very basic colloquial English, which is fair enough as a stylistic choice. Romans swore as much as anyone, and used colloquialisms too. But then the next sentence of dialogue would be much more formal. An example:

"We are in deep sh**. We should flee"

Surely a more natural dialogue would read "We are in a dire situation now, we should flee" (formal) or "We are in deep sh**. Run!" (colloquial)

Maybe others will disagree, but this grated on me as I was reading it.

I cannot really recommend this story, although its not the worst thing I ever read, so I will give it 3 stars and add that if you are patient with the pacing, your mileage may vary. But really I would recommend the "Emperor" series in preference to this.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful stuff!, 20 Aug 2011
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First of all I have to declare an interest (and a concern) here. Ben Kane and I are colleagues in the historical fiction genre, and friends to boot. He's recently reviewed my first book and been kind enough to make some positive comments - and I suppose the praise of our peers always means a lot to any professional - and I therefore approach this review in the interesting situation that if I take a positive view of 'The Forgotten Legion' it can 'only be' as an act of mutual back scratching. Indeed I thought long and hard before setting finger to keyboard at all on the subject, but decided that not to comment on Ben's debut novel would just be counter productive, given the way I reacted to his work. So...

Ben often says that 'The Forgotten Legion' would be a better book were he to write it now, and think we can all say the same about our early work. We mature as writers, learn what works best and become more skilled at plot and characterisation (you can either write dialogue or you can't, and no amount of literary study will change that in my opinion). So if Ben were to re-write TFL he might produce a more 'polished' work, but might also run the risk of losing the energy that I found in the book, that sheer sense of 'what if...' that has a fan of alternate history like me stroking his chin and thinking.

Ben holds a sizeable audience in the palm of his hand, and it's easy to see why. The risk with historical fiction is that we tend to know more or less what's coming. We know that Crassus makes a right old mess of his war with the Parthians and ends up with a gut full of molten gold, but Ben, like all really good historical fiction writers, manages to get the reader, even those with a good idea of what's coming, to read on regardless, fascinated by the detail he provides and hooked by the plot elements woven around the bare details that most of us know. The plot provokes the reader to read on, and find out what's going to happen to the captives once the dreadful defeat at Carrhae has played out, whether Romulus and Fabiola really are Caesar's illigitimate children from a rape years before, and how this will all come together in future volumes. Alongside the plot lines, Ben's characterisation crafts real people, scarred by experience and circumstance and with strengths to be exploited and weaknesses to be coped with, characters the reader will happily follow along the story's arc with a genuine sense of concern for their well being.

Lastly, and critically for me, Ben really does his research, and when he's going off piste in terms of what we know as historical fact he tells the reader so in order to be clear as to what's based on the record and what isn't. He clearly has a long and successful career in front of him, and I can only see his work going from strength to strength as his powers develop. Well done Mr Kane, and thanks for making it easy for me to solve my dilemma by providing me with so much entertainment.

Oh yes, and silk to 'arrow proof' shields, eh Ben? *quietly tucks the fact away for future use...*
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53 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent first novel, 1 Jun 2008
By 
Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK) - See all my reviews
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This book is really outstanding, all the more so as it's the author's first book. The research is impeccable, no doubt reflecting the author's long-standing interest in Roman history. It follows an Iggulden like model of interlacing several related stories following key characters before drawing them all together. The quality of the visualisation of ancient Rome also follows Iggulden and, if anything, is better. I'd recommend this novel certainly before Scarrow's books.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Spare me the pseudo mysticism, 14 May 2009
By 
C. Stringer - See all my reviews
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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.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new title contender, 12 Jun 2011
By 
Parm (A bookshop near you) - See all my reviews
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A new title contender

A great debut title, is this the start of something exceptional? I hope so. This book more than many of the other new authors in the genre seems to have something different, a blend of the action of Scarrow, the pace and power of Anthony Riches and his own unique element a bit of mystery and myth that sets it apart.
As the Genre starts to get more and more crowded an author needs something unique and I think this series has it, it also has the power to make you love the people within the book, you want to read about them, you want to save them, you want to battle with them, you want to turn that page and rush to the next chapter, and then when you get to the end of the book you don't want to turn that last page and read the end, because you know it will be another year to wait before you meet again. And that's the sign of a great writer.

Im writing this having read book two so I know this isn't a flash in the pan, and im eagerly anticipating book 3 Road to Rome.
Keep up the great work Ben.
(Parm)
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting offering, 21 Jun 2010
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
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With a great many titles in the Historical Fiction genre being set within the Roman era, an author has to come up with something very special to stand out from the others. What Ben has done with this offering is take a different approach by utilising an interesting snippet from history of the possibility of a Roman Unit within China. Its interesting, its got some controversy but above all the author has cleverly considered what difference this ancient war machine would make to an Army from the East.

The characters were reasonable, the plot outline not only fascinating but intriguing and brought together with some descent combat sequences. It's a title that will either have a great many readers loving or loathing but its definitely a title that stands out and will, above all else find the readers staying up late to read the next chapter. Which is a great way to keep the author's characters and arc in mind. I'll eagerly await the second offering.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good But Lacks Focus, 10 Jun 2009
By 
C. Green "happily low brow" (Quenington, Glos, UK) - See all my reviews
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The Forgotten Legion is a pretty good addition to the 'Ancient Roman Adventure' genre. Its not up there with Simon Scarrow's Eagle series or the first three of Conn Iggulden's 'Emperor' novels but its not far behind.

Covering some similar ground to Manfredi's 'Empire of Dragons' (but a thousand times better than that woeful book) and mixing in elements of Gladiator, Spartacus and any of the thousands of novels about Roman politics in the time of Julius Caesar, The Forgotten Legion is somnething of a greatest hits collection of bits from other novels and movies. That doesn't mean its not enjoyable; it is resolutely a tale of adventure rather than high politics (although these do features) or precise historical accuracy. It does feel however, somewhat derivative at times.

Fortunately a set of attractive lead characters, decent pace, historical details that are used sparingly, a smattering of sex and lots of action distract from the less original aspects of the story. On the whole The Forgotten Legion is an enjoyable historical romp.

What it could do with but lacks is a real sense of focus. This is a tale that rambles both narratively and geographically. Covering a fair amount of time, often leaping ahead months or even years, it feels very much like the first part of a larger story. There is no real structure, with the book lacking identifiable 'Acts'. It is also missing a proper denoument. What would be the big finish of any other book comes two thirds of the way through, and the actual finish is rather a damp squib. This lack of focus means that book often meanders and doesn't always hold the attention as well as it should. Certainly after the 'big battle' I found my interest in events fading somewhat.

With tighter plotting and piossibly the last hundred pages carried over to the next volume The Forgotten Legion would be a far better book. As it stands its for the most part an entertaining romp and a promising debut. I'll pick up the next volume The Silver Eagle when it comes out in paperback. I just hope that has tighter plotting.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Stunning - Wilbur Smith meets Gladiator, 31 Aug 2008
I have been waiting for this book for a long term having heard about the author's struggle to find a publisher for the book via a friend of mine who knows him.

Quite simply, it is a fabulous book. As previous reviewers have mentioned, it is obvious that an awful lot of research has gone into this book, and the writer's natural style of mixing both historical fact and gritty fiction meld together to form an exciting story that I found "unputdownable".

I eagerly await the remaining books in this series and would keep an eye out for further books from this budding new author...
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 31 Aug 2008
By 
Dr. Philip Le Dune "g12doc" (Washington, UK) - See all my reviews
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A great story, well written, can't wait for the sequel. Unpleasantly graphic in places but more realistic as a result. I think this is the best novel I have read in this genre and hope he writes many more.
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The Forgotten Legion: (The Forgotten Legion Chronicles No. 1)
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