on 25 May 2012
The modern crop of Roman Historical fiction writers fall into two categories. First are those that just research the area they are writing about, and never really leave behind the modern world. Then there is the second group of writers who live and breathe their chosen period. Robert Fabbri's historical knowledge is astounding, whether it's military history, politics, philosophy or Mithras, he manages to blow me away.
For those who have never come across Robert Graves' 'I, Claudius', Fabbri presents the perfect alternative [or even better, introduction.] Obviously, this is the boys-own version [and quite frankly Graves is far more brutal and shocking]. I did however begin to feel that Fabbri was starting to push against credibility, in asking me to believe that Vespasian was privy to every important event in Rome.
As the next book is titled 'The False God of Rome,' Fabbri is turning his attention to the blood-soaked reign of Caligula. My only fear is that Fabbri is going to suggest that the assassination is a plot contrived between Claudius and the Praetorian Guard. Which would be a dis-service to the Imperial Guard's nature and desperation to ensure their position by Emperor-making.
I would also like to defend Fabbri's characterisation of Vespasian. Contempory sources describe Vespasian as 'dull but reliable man.' Vespasian certainly wasn't a Marcus Aurelius or Julius Caesar, Fabbri can only use the material provided. I was more bothered by the characterisation of Rhoteces, who whenever he appeared on the page, I kept picturing Getafix from the Asterix comics. My other problem is Caenis. In Book I she seemed to have great potential, but after this book I'm very disappointed. It would seem that in Book I she was just there to be kidnapped, so that the hero can rescue the damsel-in-distress. And now in Book II her sole function is for Vespasian to get some girl-action, and for her to gaze admiringly at her big, strong hero. There was so much potential here, she should have been haunted by the fact that her lover would [very soon] be married off to a suitable Roman woman, and Fabbri has failed to tease out the tension between her slave status/identity and Vespasian as a Citizen.
I have to admit, I nearly did abandon the book early on. The first act concentrates on characters talking about how hard it will be to kidnap Rhoteces, then Fabbri chickens-out and Rhoteces is not captured 'on-screen', and not by Vespasian or Sabinus. I then thought 'not again,' when the heck is Vespasian going to get his hands dirty. Fabbri did begin to redeem himself by the end, but he's got a long way to go before convincing me that this Vespasian will grow into the conqueror of Britain, and Sacker of Jerusalem who stabilized the Empire. I actually was hoping Tiberius would fling Magnus into the sea, so Vespasian would be forced to solve his own problems. The only reason I kept reading was that I love 'I, Claudius' and wanted to see how Fabbri handled Sejanus' downfall. Which raises another problem in my mind, through the course of Vespasian's career Fabbri cannot maintain these boys-own antics, and Fabbri will have to turn more towards a political thriller. I will definitely read the next in the series, but Fabbri does need to up his game again.
On a final note, I read the hardback, and the copy-editor should be ashamed.
Of course, any reader who isn't familiar with Graves' 'I, Claudius' I recommend either reading the books, or getting hold of the BBC serialisation.
on 23 May 2012
I bought the first book in this series on something of a whim. An historical novel about the young Vespasian, hmm? It turned out to be mostly a fast moving and exciting adventure story, although we were introduced to Antonia, Antony's daughter, a member of the imperial family, and thus involved in its politics and conspiracies for power. Volume two begins a few years later, with Vespasian a bored young military tribune on the Moesian frontier. His brother Sabinus arrives, Antonia's messenger. She wishes the two to kidnap a barbarian priest guilty of conspiring with the malignant praetorian prefect, Sejanus, to raise the tribes just outside the border to warfare against the empire. Once again there is derring-do and adventure. The brothers are successful in their task and then conduct the prisoner to Rome.
Once back in the capitol, events begin to take a darker turn. Antonia is engaged in a conspiracy to bring down Sejanus, one of Roman history's great villains, trusted by the mentally deteriorating Tiberius to provide not only for his safety as he lives in dissolute isolation on Capri, but also to have great influence over the empire's governance. Antonia once more calls on Vespasian and his brother to smuggle the barbarian priest they had captured onto Capri and into Tiberius's presence, in order to implicate Sejanus in the conspiracy to destroy the royal family (which now consists of Antonia's grandchildren, two young girls and Caligula). Caligula, as a prospective heir to Tiberius, has been living with the emperor in his "pleasure" palace. He is a member of Antonia's plot too, since he is also Sejanus' prospective next victim. Sejanus seeks nothing less than the throne itself. Vespasian had befriended a still innocent young Caligula in the first book, but now finds him a good deal less innocent, engaging in practically non-stop sex with his sisters. But he lives on his wits in the mad Tiberius' domain, where no one knows who will be the next person to be flung off the high cliffs and onto the the rocky shore beneath. Fabbri has written a wonderfully creepy scene where Caligula introduces Vespasian's group to Tiberius. Tiberius changes from minute to minute from madness to lucidity, with Caligula continually having to keep up with his moods in order not only to convince the emperor that Sejanus is really his enemy, but also to prevent him from throwing the others, one by one to their deaths. Fabbri has done a great job of characterizing not only the emperor's madness, but also the complex combination of intelligence and beginnings of dissolution in Caligula's character.
After some months of uncertainty as to whether Caligula will be able to keep Tiberius committed to Sejanus' destruction, the conspiracy climaxes in Rome, where the Senate must decide the praetorian prefect's fate (in other words figure out what Tiberius really wants them to do). Sejanus is indeed sentenced to a traitor's death, but the deadly machine of conspiracy and debt settling eventually engulfs his whole family, including his young children. Betrayal upon betrayal, and Antonia's own daughter Livilla is accused of having poisoned her husband, Tiberius' son, and so too must die, a lingering death that Antonia undertakes herself to witness. The growing number of deaths deemed necessary for the preservation of the state, have their effect on Vespasian too. He has been appointed to a public office that requires that he witness all the executions himself. He can no longer be the dashing action hero. He is no longer the political innocent.
This is a grim study of the price of power in ancient Rome.
on 10 December 2012
Nothing so far that i dislike about the storyline, considering i am just over half way through it. I enjoyed the first book in hardback and this is my kindle version for travelling.
Robert Fabbri style of writing flows easily through the mind, the story contains good wit, action [one big battle], political intrigue surrounding Antonia [another Great character in Rome] and i am thoroughly enjoying it.
I do think that when reading a book sometimes the harsh language could be tamed a little, the "F" word is common everyday now being so versatile but the "C" word could be exchanged for something for all ages. I would rate it a 5 except for this .
Vaspasian is a good character to write about as he came from a background and upbringing that surprises and shows how one can achieve positions in life. I believe he was a good man in real life
Kindle books need to be below £3.50 as u only get electronic print, can't pass on to family members, there are no print cost, paper costs, binding costs,storage and handling costs are minimal. You can get paperbacks for this amount.Good entertainment at a good price.
on 16 December 2012
I know that if you tell the story of any of the caesars you're not talking about clean hands, and it's clear that things for Vespasian will get worse before they get better. However, well written as this (and as many others of the genre are), I can't rid myself of the feeling that modern authors are under pressure to up the ante in order to stand out from the crowd of others jostling for our attention in the stores. So more sex, more violence, more circuses, more caricatures, less bread? It's not the way I want to go, so I've bought my last Fabbri (last Cornwell, last Iggulden, last of any of the others too, I'm afraid). More non-fiction history is my recipe - and there are some outstanding authors out there (try Mark Urban, Juliet Barker, Alison Weir for starters) whose narrative history style tells every bit as good a story - and I shall go back to Patrick O'Brian to rediscover the kind of historical fiction I want to read in my dotage. Sorry, Robert.
on 15 May 2016
Already read - mistake for VII!! Beware Roman numbers!! Or should it be ii)
Great re-read. But I knew the plot.
A roller-coaster of a novel: well written, great command of English and how to thrill
on 16 March 2015
Although I read the previous book with interest, I found it rather concentrated on the blood and guts aspect of Roman society.
I regret that this book crosses the boundary, such as there is nowadays. As the author admits, it is historically incorrect, deliberately.
Vespasian, as a tribune, was in charge of road works, not executions. The detailed descriptions of tortures and executions, including the slow strangulation of children, are simply disgusting, and add nothing to our understanding of Roman Society.
on 5 February 2016
Superbly written and well researched, this is a fantastic series of books and gives the reader an extraordinary insight into the politics and power struggles in the burgeoning Roman empire.
on 16 July 2012
I originally downloaded this onto my Kindle because it was very good value; I hadn't come across Fabbri before. What a great read. The prose is incisive, tense and holds the reader inthrall. This is one of those books you can't put down, the sort where you wonder what the characters are doing when you aren't reading! I am about to download the other Vespasian titles and am hoping that it won't matter that I read the second novel first!
on 17 March 2013
Another great book in this authors series about Vespasian who came from no where in the Roman Empire and rose to become emperer against all the odds. Really good read.
on 25 January 2016
Super book - great read, lots of history and intrigue, this is the 2nd in the series I have read and looking forward to the rest. Good characters and enjoyable story.