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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 April 2013
Having read and thoroughly enjoyed The Imperial Banner (Agent of Rome), I thought I'd better read the novel that preceded it. In The Siege we see Cassius Corbulo's first mission as a 19-year-old cornman or agent of Rome. Cast out from his family after an indiscretion, Cassius is sent off to `man up'. He arrives in the Syrian desert in 270 AD. Zenobia is still claiming victories, fought for by warriors obsessed by her beauty and charisma. Cassius is ordered to the small, pitifully neglected desert fort of Alauran and is charged with holding it until reinforcements arrive. Palmyran attack is inevitable; the fort is built around a well that the enemy must control to advance. Unfortunately, the fort is manned by the dregs of Caesar's own legion, the Third, as well as remnants from other legions and Syrian sling shooters. Leaderless, soaked in wine, divided by racism, the fifty legionaries and Syrian auxiliaries are all that stand between the frightened and inexperienced Cassius and certain death. It wouldn't be a quick death either.

Siege stories, if done well, are almost impossible to put down (I think of Warrior of Rome I: Fire in the East by Harry Sidebottom and The Wolf's Gold (Empire) by Anthony Riches) and Nick Brown has done an excellent job. But what makes The Siege such a successful novel is the fact that events are allowed to build up at a pace that takes us closer and closer to the edge of our comfy seat. There's no point depicting the against-all-odds struggle of fifty men against overwhelming odds if we don't care about those men. Nick Brown makes us care. But when we first meet these men it doesn't bode well. More than one is ill, most are poorly disciplined, none have been paid. The most dangerous fighter amongst them, an ex-Praetorian of colossal dimensions, is in no fit state to stand up let alone wreak fire and brimstone on a hoard of Palmyrans.

And then there's Cassius Corbulo, our hero. Unclear of his own status, not knowing how to deal with these men so much older than him, terrified of how he will act when faced with the gory horror of hand-to-hand combat for the first time, this is a very young man who wants to let nobody down but more than anything wants to live to see his mother again. He'll obey orders almost blindly but incredibly his idealism, so ridiculous as it seems in the situation, inspires these men and when the siege begins you will be desperate for Cassius and his men. So many of them won't make it. This is a Zulu situation.

The Imperial Banner is more polished as one might expect from a second novel but The Siege is a fine book. It is cleverly paced and the characters are developed very well indeed. Cassius' new servant Simo is a fascinating individual, even more so when you know how his character develops in The Imperial Banner. Here, we are getting to know him just as Cassius is. This novel is full of individuals whose names we learn and whose fate we care about. The action when it comes is so thrilling but it is also harrowing. There is a realism about it that crosses these two thousand years. I might have read these two books in the wrong order but I will be reading every one as they come from now on.
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on 3 July 2013
The Siege is the first book in Nick Brown's debut the Agent of Rome series and tells the tale of Cassius Corbulo, a young Roman aristocrat who after too much boozing and womanizing is forced to join the army by his Senator father. Luckily because of his standing in Roman society, Corbulo manages to gain a place in the Imperial Security Service, which in normal circumstances would handle administration within the army such as gaining food and supplies and not really fight on the front line with normal Legionaries.

However, when Queen Zenobia of Palmyra throws off the shackles of Rome and revolts in 270 AD, Corbulo finds himself been the highest ranking officer on the Syrian boundary and is tasked with holding an important fort called Alauran on the Roman supply line. Been a fresh recruit and only just passing his officer training, Corbulo is uneasy about taking a posting as the commander of the fort and when he learns that the cohort which is guarding Alauran are veterans from the Third Legion, Corbulo's insecurity is made much worse.

When Corbulo arrives at Alauran he finds the fort in a state of severe disrepair and with the death of their commander, the Legionaries of the defences have become lazy and ill disciplined. Nevertheless, Corbulo has to find a way to repair the fort and get the Legionaries on his side as news arrives that a Palmyran force has been dispatched to attack and capture Alauran. Lacking in leadership skills, Corbulo uses other methods such as bribes to gain the support of the fort's most influential officers and manages to motivate the men and their allies to fight and repair the defences with the promise of a relief column arriving within the next week (which Corbulo is not 100% sure will arrive!). However, this may not be enough as the unexplained murder of one of Corbulo's best men reveals that there is a traitor in the camp. In addition, the sheer number of Palmyran forces which arrives to siege Alauran means Corbulo will have to use all of his limited knowledge of soldiering and the experience of his officers to stem the tide of the Syrian conquest of Roman land!

As a debut novel this book was extremely well written and thought out and different to any other Roman novels I have read. Yes, like Scarrow's Cato and Riches's Corvus, the main character was an inexperienced young aristocrat who is thrown into leadership and has to make the best of a bad situation. But what I really enjoyed about this book and what I thought made it refreshing to this genre, is that whereas Cato and Corvus evolve into great leaders charging into battle and killing numerous foes, in this book at least, Corbulo doesn't. He is still nervous and confused about what he has to do as a leader and often times would rather let others tell him what to do instead of the other way round. I thought this was a great factor because it made the book seem much more realistic because I know if I was thrown into that situation, I'd have no clue what to do! I also think this factor helps portray the situation the Roman Empire was in in 270 AD as they would fast track young aristocrats into leadership roles because they had no other experienced men to fill them. I don't know, maybe in the later books Corbulo will evolve into a great leader but in this first novel I'm glad Brown made him the nervous young man I think he should have been.

I'd suggest this book to anyone who enjoys Roman historical novels and authors such as Simon Scarrow, Anthony Riches, Ben Kane and Gordon Doherty. I'd also suggest it to anyone who is looking for a great historical fiction novel because this book was brilliant and I'm sure is going to be a part of an amazing series. By the way, I'd like to say a massive thank you to Nick Brown for getting in touch and introducing me to his work- look out for his new novel Agent of Rome, The Far Shore which will be released on July 18th!

For more book reviews google adam-p-reviews
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on 28 March 2013
I was wary of beginning Nick Brown's 'Agent of Rome: The Siege' and put it off for a long time. Having read the blurb, it looked to me to be ridiculously close in plot to Harry Sidebottom's first Warrior of Rome, in that both involve a Roman site under siege from an eastern power at almost the same point in history. The locations are close, both in Syria. The times are roughly a decade apart.

I needn't have worried. There are similarities, yes, but... well let me put it this way: I could give two artists the brief to paint a picture of a tree on a hill in September, and one might look like a Monet while the other might be a Braque. So that's that dealt with. The two stories are dissimilar enough to make comparisons pointless.

Brown has taken on an interesting premise for the main character, selecting a member of the Imperial Secret Service; one of the (in)famous Frumentarii or grain officers. What he has done is to tackle the service in the style of a sensible, sensitive young nobleman with only the best intent at heart. This is not the sly, devious, murderous, dangerous view of that organisation we are used to. There is very little reference in detail to the service in this book as, despite being an officer of it, Corbulo is thrown into a situation where he is more active as a military officer.

As usual, I won't push the plot other than to say that it involves a tiny Roman garrison at the far eastern edge of Syria, full of misfits and laxity, which faces a siege by the forces of the newly expansionist Palmyrene empire. More need not be said and indeed should not, lest the plot be ruined.

What I can say is that Brown has created a believable and fascinating view of frontier life in third century eastern Rome, full of well-painted and interesting characters, each driven by realistic needs and desires, thrown together into a horrendous situation.

In short and as an incentive to go read it - The Siege was reminiscent of that most excellent of all siege movies: Zulu, and I can think of no higher praise than that.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 April 2012
When ever you get a new / debut author in a genre its potentially a mixed blessing, could this be a new giant of the genre? could he/ she be a turkey? There are the subtle parts of a new writer, like will they be a writer of explosive action, or slow burn deep facts, or a mix of them both?

With so many authors out there turning out great books it then means its down to the marketing and the cover artists to draw the eye and make you pick up the book and read the back cover.

With Siege of Rome the cover is fantastic, giving the reader the impression of action, pace, and history, Some excellent back cover blurb to really rope the reader in, so i was hooked and ready to part with my cash...was it a good idea?

Yes is the simple answer, the cover is actually slightly deceiving as the book is not just an all out action thriller, it is a well paced well thought out story with a great plot, with a complex multi faceted hero in the guise of Cassius Corbulo, It also good to see a less written about section of the Roman world by going east to the parts that are more ancient than even Rome, Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Palmyra, all names far older than Rome.

With this fantastic background Nick brown has woven his great ability as a writer of time and location, blending the history with an ability to take the reader right to the location and when you couple that with his great characterisation, people who are living breathing soldiers, with more than cut and slash on their minds, people who have families and a past, who have fears and problems and unlike a lot of writers Nick lets you know this and lets you meet your hero at his best and worst so you know every facet of his character. Making this book so much more than a swords and sandals gory war story.

I highly recommend you part with some cash and buy this book


Synopsis (from back of book)

270 AD

Rome has ruled Syria for over three centuries. But now the weakened empire faces a desperate threat: Queen Zenobia of Palmyra has turned her Roman-trained army against her former masters and the once invincible legions have been crushed. Arabia, Palestine and Egypt have fallen and now Antioch, Syria's capital, stands exposed.

Cassius Corbulo is a young intelligence agent fresh from officer training. He has been assigned the menial task of rounding up wounded legionaries but then urgent new orders arrive. He is the only ranking Roman officer left in the line of the Palmyran advance. He must take command of the fort of Alauran, the last stronghold still in Roman hands, and hold it against the enemy until reinforcements arrive.

What Cassius finds at Alauran would daunt the most seasoned veteran, let alone a nineteen year old with no experience of war. A mere scattering of divided and demoralised legionaries remain, backed up by some fractious Syrian auxiliaries and a drunken Praetorian Guardsman. With the Palmyrans just days away, Cassius must somehow find the discipline, resourcefulness and courage to organise the garrison, save Alauran and secure Rome's eastern frontier...
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on 10 May 2013
Nick Brown has done a marvellous job in writing The Siege (Agent of Rome), a book that is well researched and hugely entertaining. The premise of an unprepared, yet well theorised young man being sent into a hell-hole to rally a body of men who have little respect for unseasoned campaigners is interesting, especially when he has to conceal his true role as a "Grain Man" - a term used for the Secret Service - who are despised.

I've read quite a few books set in Ancient Rome and can tell that Nick Brown has done an excellent job researching his novel. His characters are expertly crafted, they jump off the page and the internal dilemmas the inexperienced officer has when trying to rally the troops are superbly written. In particular, Corbula's manservant Simo is the pick of the bunch. Deeply loyal, despite only being given to Corbula at the start of his mission, he is a cross between The Admirable Crichton and a St Bernard; he is perceptive, witty and quickly proves his worth in all manner of ways.

Brown's military knowledge shines through in his battle scenes which are hard hitting and described in brutal terms. The ragtag bunch of disheartened and drunken soldiers know they have little time to prepare for war and realise they may not survive to see the relief column.
All in all, Nick Brown has written a superb debut novel and I look forward to reading more of Corbula's adventures.

I give "Siege" 5 Crosses!
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A thoroughly engrossing read. A young inexperienced "centurian" is tasked with defending a fort, with its vital food and water supplies. When he arrives the remaining legionaries are dishevelled, indisciplined, and few in number. With the aid of a few senior ranks he begins to restore military order and prepares for the impending enemy onslaught. They are heavily outnumbered and eventually battle commences - I won't spoil the story by describing the battle.
However, the writing style is engaging, character build is thorough, and the majority of the book covers only a few days. I found the storyline compelling, with a few sub-plots that enhanced the whole.
Not usually drawn to historical novels I am really pleased that I decided to read Agent of Rome The Siege, and recommend it to all,
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on 21 April 2014
Cassius Quintius Corbulo, newly commissioned officer in the oft despised branch of the Roman army, The Frumentarii, is well aware that he is ill equipped for the duty that has been thrust upon him. At the ripe old age of nineteen and with no experience in field command he is tasked with saving an outpost fort that is manned by a ragtag, veteran, under strength Century which has lost all semblance of discipline and which faces the imminent arrival of an enemy force five times their number. Against this backdrop, the author has constructed a well crafted story filled with great characters and a tension filled plot line. I found myself immersed in the character of Corbulo has he struggles with his self doubt and at times his overwhelming fears. I also found myself unable to put the book down and lost a bit of sleep because of it, but that is a good quality in any book. Well researched and written in an easy flowing style with action scenes described in a way to bring the reader into the minds of the beleaguered Romans and their adversaries. I heartily recommend this book and will be losing more sleep when I start the sequel. 5 stars.
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on 11 August 2011
This is another great debut novel and one of the reasons why I enjoy this 'topic' so much, its vast and covers literally hundreds and in this case thousands of years. I won't go into the story too much just in case you want to read it or are reading it at the moment. However, long story short, its about a siege!

What Nick Brown accomplishes so well is that he gave himself very few options or parameters to expand the story because not long after the first page, the siege actually begins and the characters except those carrying out the siege of the fort itself, are obviously confined within its walls.

That said at no time did I think 'he's ran out of steam, ideas or this is getting tedious'. The 'Agent' is a young Corn officer, Cassius aged 19 who is posted to the fort in order to defend it and its precious water supply with the present occupants who are a rag tag motley crew of veterans and auxiliaries.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Siege and its always great to have another Roman author's books to look forward too. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next part of the story that follows on from this and how Nick Brown develops the characters that survived the battle.
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on 15 February 2015
The Siege (Agent of Rome) is a fabulous romp of a novel. It features great characters; wonderfully scripted battle scenes; and a merciless and threatening enemy. The main character (who Brown develops in his later novels ) is a young and inexperienced Roman officer, Cassius Corbulo. Corbulo finds himself in command of a strategically important Roman fort in Syria which is about to come under attack by a fierce and well equipped enemy bent on taking control of the fort, and its crucial water supply. Corbulo's inexperience and privileged upbringing initially make him ill equipped for this monumental challenge. By the master stroke of putting the young Corbulo at the centre of events Brown has not only avoided the temptation to use a formulaic central character, but allows the reader to see events from a far more interesting perspective. The references to military strategy and combat are excellent and balanced perfectly with the development of the central characters. I am now reading Brown's second novel, The Imperial Banner.
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on 8 June 2015
I was kindly gifted a copy of the book for review and I can honestly say I’m so pleased I was!
First off.. just look at the artwork on the cover. Without even reading the outline of the story I was already interested in getting to grips with this one.

The book follows Cassius Corbulo. He’s a member of the imperial security service and thinks he will most likely spend his days sitting behind a desk not really getting his hands dirty.. How wrong he is.
Corbulo is the most senior officer out in the Syrian Desert with the rank equivalent to Centurion. His orders are to head to Alauran a strategic position due to the water and food supplies held within.

Immediately he faces trouble. Not only is he fresh from training and a very young man but he’s part of the ISS.. How on earth will he get these men to follow his orders… simple he doesn’t tell them :)

These men are a disorganised bunch since their last Centurion died some time ago and letting them know he actually isn’t a Centurion would just make things worse.

Quickly we are introduced to some characters you know will play a big part in the story. I never like to spoil a story so I’ll leave it for you to read but Corbulo has his work cut out for him getting this bunch of soldiers ready and able.

Corbulo knows relief is on its way but he knows the Palmyrans could turn up at any moment and he needs to get the men prepared.

Now the book focuses a lot on the relationships between the men under Corbulo, it really is the meat of the book for me and it was great. You see the men grow to appreciate the order brought by having Corbulo in charge while still seeing the men as individuals rather than mindless drones. While getting to grips with the men we also hear about the Praetorian Guardsman who doesn’t seem like he’ll be helping with the defence of Alauran anytime soon. If only they could sober him up! Corbulo needs every man to fight!

From here the action switches from Corbulo’s point of the view to the Palmyrans. This broke up the book nicely for me but kept me reading as I needed to find out what happened next..

The Palmyrans are now advancing on Alauran. We see them lead attack after attack against our heros. Both sides suffer loss.. I myself was left with my month left open wide with some of the losses.
There is a lengthy build up to the final battle and for me the ending didn’t disappoint. I had high hopes for the ending and It didn’t play out exactly as I thought but the characters involved were there and that was exactly what I wanted to see.

I wouldn’t change a single thing with this book in all honesty; it was a cracking read and has left me wanting more. As it happens my birthday is this month so I’ve hinted to the family I want at least the next two books in the series :)

Nick has just released book 5 in the series so I have some catching up to do but I’m looking forward to it.
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