14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 1 August 2011
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.
The Lost King: Resistance
Wasteland (The Lost King)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.
on 27 May 2015
The writing style is easy to read and pleasant. It suits the genre and what the author is trying to achieve in the series. I find it annoying that every foreign word is italicized. Just do it once Ben, unless you really want to use this technique to convey to readers that you are smart.
Some characters are interesting. I particularly liked the Etruscan. The female characters are cardboard. I wanted to care for Brennus as the series continued but I never could.
Plotting is well-paced and interesting overall. The beginning of The Forgotten Legion is exceptionally good.
Imagery is good. The author imagines battle scenes well; a gladiator fight in an arena in the fifteenth chapter of The Forgotten Legion is an example.
Research is lacking for the greater part. There is so much information out there about Parthians and tribes on the steppe that the author did not utilize.
Ben Kane is a passionate historical author, however, inspiration does not come through at times. He has a strong understanding of the events, personalities and societies in ancient Rome, but not Parthia or the steppe.
The Forgotten Legion series are entertaining novels overall, but research and certain characters lack depth. I used the series towards my research and it helped to a small extent. For a reason not provided, the author does not refer to "Arabs" or "Arabians"--a perfectly acceptable name used my many historians that I had expected him to use. Instead, he uses "Nabataeans". I am unsure whether the author does this to please vain Islamists on behalf of his or his publisher's will, or is intending to make the historical content in the novel more authentic. The sexual content left me questioning whether it was thrown in to gather more readers or truly recreate sexuality in ancient Rome. My last two comments as well as an unnecessary second and third novel in The Forgotten Legion series may hint extensive commercialism influencing and restricting the author's creativity.
on 19 April 2013
The Forgotten Legion is based around one of the most infamous eras of Roman history, the triumvirate of Pompeii Magnus, Crassus and Julius Caesar. During this period of corruption and instability emerges two tales. The first is that of Tarquinius, an Etruscan warrior and soothsayer who has the ability to tell the future from the stars, the elements and from the innards of animals. At a young age, Tarquinius is told by his teacher that he will travel to Rome and there meet and befriend two Gladiators. The Etruscan keeps this prophecy in mind, and after his teacher's death, travels to Rome. In the city, his prophecy is reveal as (by accident) he is introduced to two Gladiators who are wrongly accused of murder and are on the run from Roman justice.
The second story follows Romulus and Fabiola. Romulus and Fabiola are twins who were born as slaves into the ownership of a wicked merchant. At the age of thirteen, the twins are sold into two of the harshest forms of slavery. Romulus is sold to a Gladiator school and Fabiola is sold to the Lupanar, Rome's most famous and expensive brothel. Life seems over for the two young slaves, Gladiators only last a few months in the vicious Lupus Magnus and Fabiola seems destine to live out her life as the plaything of wealthy men. However, their stories do have a silver lining.
For Fabiola this comes with the introduction of Decimus Brutus, a charming army officer and Julius Caesar's right hand man. Fabiola (after been taught the tricks of her trade) manages to seduce Brutus with the hope that one day he will buy her freedom and reunite her with Romulus. Romulus's silver lining comes in the friendship he makes with a Gaul called Brennus, who happens to be the best Gladiator in all of Rome! Brennus helps train the young slave in sword fighting and when the chance arises, even sneaks Romulus out of the Lupus Magnus for a night on the town! However, the night does not go as planned, resulting in Romulus been accused of murdering a Roman noble and the two Gladiators fleeing for their lives. Luckily, fate seems to be on the Gladiators' side as they manage to escape Rome and join an auxiliary unit destined for service in the East with Crassus's army. It is here where the two Gladiators meet Tarquinius and the prophecy is fulfilled. However, with the army moving east against Rome's greatest enemy, their journey is not at an end, as the three suffer bad omens, defeat and capture to become part of the Forgotten Legion!
This was a great book! I thought the story of Crassus's army and the `Forgotten Legion' was really interesting because most other novels based in this period of history are always set around Caesar's ascendancy and Pompeii's reaction. So I found it really interesting reading about Crassus's fate and the amazing story of the Legionaries that were captured after the battle of Carrhae. As always, Kane does an extremely good job of adding precise details to his novels, which gives his books historical accuracy. At the same time, the detail also makes them extremely fun to read as the extra details makes it much easier to visualise these events that happened over two thousand years ago! Plus, when you have Michael Pread narrating, it gives another, extra bonus to the book and I'd highly suggest you check out the audiobook of The Forgotten Legion!
A really entertaining book (and so far) an amazing series. I would suggest this book to anyone who is a historical-fiction fan and enjoys Ben Kane's other novels. I'd also suggest this book to anyone who is a fan of authors such as: Anthony Riches, Simon Scarrow, Conn Iggulden and Gordon Doherty.
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on 20 September 2012
Historical fiction seems to be more prevalent today than ever before, the book stores are full of the stuff. The most popular era is the Roman Empire and more accurately the time before, during and just after Julius Caesar's reign. There is a reason for this, as it is an action packed era in time that saw great battles as well as great politics. Ben Kane enters this flooded market with `The Forgotten Legion' a story that reflects on Caesar, but tackles it from the point of view of the normal people of the time; a pair of gladiators, a fallen hero and an enslaved woman. This quadrant of characters find themselves on the peripheral of great events, but may eventually play a vital role.
`The Forgotten Legion's unique selling point is that it is about a legion that fought in the Far East and had an influence on Chinese culture. This is indeed a fresh perspective on the time, but for all the time spent talking about the Legions of Rome, it takes a very long time for them to become forgotten. The vast majority of this book is set up for the four characters and they are not even part of the army until around two thirds of the way through the book. Up to this point it is your typical Roman Epic.
Is there anything wrong with being as typical as the likes of Simon Scarrow or Conn Iggulden? Not if the book is as solidly written as Kane makes it. `The Forgotten Legion' does not try to tackle anything new in the genre, but it balances action well with information about the period. The four heroes are all likable and it is interesting to read their lives as individuals only to see them intertwine. Further books in the series will no doubt concentrate more on actually being a Lost Legion, but as long as the books retain the entertaining prose and quick pace, they will be just as good.
on 25 July 2011
This is a novel that can be very easily enjoyed, and the rhythm of flow, plot and historical fact all reach full throttle by the end of chapter 2, with most of the characters still to be introduced. For those who have written dissertations for degree courses, which are around about 12,000 words, it will be easier to understand why "The Forgotten Legion" is so well written, bearing in mind it's more than 600 pages long. To be fair, it was a little bit of an anti-climax towards the end, whereby the author didn't highlight too much Gemellus' come-uppance, even though the reader was obviously aware that that happened. It more focussed instead on the shape of things to come in "The Silver Eagle", set in the whereabouts of where countries like Iran and Turkmenistan are today. I can understand Ben's reasons for doing this, bearing in mind he's been to that part of the world, but if there's one thing a reader loves, it's where the victim exacts revenge on an attacker. That's all that "The Forgotten Legion" lacked, but I don't want to be too harsh on Ben any more than that, because the hard work and thorough research that went into such a long novel is admirable, which is why I gave Ben all 5 stars. I still enjoyed reading the novel, and Ben, if you're reading this, I want more, hence why I'm reading "The Silver Eagle". Well done Mate.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 2011
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...*
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 22 March 2010
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.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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.
53 of 66 people found the following review helpful
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.