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on 3 February 2009
This great book has taken me on a journey into the Andalucian mountains in
Southern Spain. I was expecting the usual roman battle scenes, but
these had a different take on the norm. There is a more spiritual
story going on in the background that I think will appeal to women
readers who might usually give these sort of books a wide berth. The
characters managed to get under my skin and I found myself catching my
breath at certain points when things happened that were unexpected. It
has left me wanting to learn more about the mountains and its ancient
tribal people. I would like to know what happens to the main character
Melqart. I would highly recommend.
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on 22 August 2009
Cruelty and torture is rife and horribly convincing, and the details of early mechanical weaponry - the scorpio, for example - are painted in with precision. Sexual excesses too, of course. But neither Caesar nor his army is demonized - there are marauding tribes and pirates who are just as bad - and there is plenty of room for the other side of things. Some of the heart-rending farewells and reunions make you think Forrest has one eye on the screenplay. Most interesting for me was the ingenuity of the central character, Melqart. His shortcomings as a warrior are exposed throughout, but greatness is thrust upon him anyway because of his wit and imagination. There's a wonderful lighter scene involving Games in Sicily where he invents the centre-board in order to win the sailing race. Every kind of adventure is in this book: massed battles in Spain, hair's breadth escapes at sea, attacks on the Berbers in northern Africa - what more do you want? For me it's more a question of what less do you want. There's a little too much mysticism for my taste, and the style is heavily adjectival at times, but after a while you don't care about such things as you're swept along by the sheer narrative power. Great read.
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on 18 April 2009
I was hoping for shades of David Ball (Sword & Scimitar). But the beat of the book reminded me of early work of Bernard Cornwell (Sharpe's Rifles). I recall Cornwell's first books about Richard Sharpe were spartan efforts. Cornwell was still working out his story-telling voice. But the author of Libertas has Cornwell's same knack for characters. Unexpected heros, likable louts, or pitch-black villains. In short, this was Libertas for me. It's a promising first book told against the backdrop of pitched battle that Caesar fought in Southern Spain.

I liked the unlikely hero of Libertas, a smart Spanish boy who is a bad fighter and poor hunter, but who finds his true calling as an inventor of war machines. Shades of Archimedes. Along the way, inventor-hero Pito crosses paths with historical characters like Caesar, Sextus and Agrippa. Sextus and Agrippa were nicely done. I also enjoyed the author's take on the Celtic mountain people of Spain and desert Berber people of North Africa. United by a common thread of grace, fierceness, and integration with nature. Good stuff.

Finally, I have minor beefs with the book's detour into mysticism, the mountain shamans, and guardian eagles. Didn't work for me. This voodoo aside, the new author knows how to tell a good story. Buy it.
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on 3 June 2009
Alistair Forrest is surely a name to conjure with in the future. It's almost as if he's got himself present at the battles he so vividly re-creates and one is struck by an attention to detail that only comes from a thorough knowledge of the period. The human aspect of this gripping and quirky story is also perfecly measured. Melqart's friendship with Sextus and his being relentlesly drawn into these bloody events is a real hook as well as the generally pacy nature of the story. Thoroughly recommend as an antidote to so many historical adventure novels that adhere to the same formula.
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on 8 May 2009
The author of the book Libertas was new to me, hence hesitancy at purchasing a product to keep me entertained on a couple of long flights. However I was soon engrossed in the pages, which details actual historical events of Roman battles lead by Julius Caesar himself, of simple Spanish village life, of mountain people and arab warriors, all wrapped in a fictional and sometimes mystical storey of a boy on the path of growing into a man and of the people and cultures he met along the way. The writer describes scenes in such detail that there is no problem in picturing the events in ones own mind. To me the only real downside was that it ended quicker than I expected.
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on 29 May 2010
Libertas was an unusual choice for this reader who prefers historical tales based on modern history, which makes my enjoyment of this novel all the more remarkable. From the outset it fell into that rare category of book which forces you to read almost too fast for the brain to process as the desire, even need, to find out what happens next grabs hold of your senses.

The characters are alive and appealing, it is not long before each is cared for deeply and unexpectedly, this connection is maintained with a wide spread of characters, not just the leads. I found myself caring whether two bit playing slave girls would ever achieve freedom and love.

It is a masterful piece of literature that delivers a great story and a history lesson while developing the reader's appreciation for the native people and land they occupy. It is plain to see that the author, to lend the characters and culture authenticity, has painstakingly researched the content.

It's a great read that I recommend to everyone.
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on 20 July 2009
A beautifully written account of a major time in the history of Rome and Southern Spain. It has been well researched and held together by a fascinating duel between good and evil. You will warm to the main characters and I for one am looking forward to the follow up.
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on 11 February 2011
Libertas is set in the same period of Roman history as Robert Harris's Lustrum, but gives an utterly different perspective on the rivalry between Caesar and Pompey. Whereas Harris's book is set in the dry political world of the capital, Alistair Forrest shows the impact of the clash in the more real world of Hispania.

The story follows a Spaniard called Melquart - Pito is his more pronounceable nickname - from childhood through to young adulthood. Pito has what seems like the good fortune to be born into a happy family in the peaceful town of Munda, in the Spanish mountains inland from present day Malaga. When Munda becomes the epicentre for the struggle between Caesar and the sons of Pompey that good fortune turns to ashes.

On one level Libertas is a well-crafted coming of age story. It is clear that the author knows and loves the setting because the southern Spanish mountains are so well evoked that you can almost smell the thyme. The lives of the inhabitants, and of the mysterious Kemeltoi who live beyond the walls of the town, are convincingly drawn. The fighting and battles, when they come, are vivid and realistic. It is impossible not to be drawn to Pito, who is brave, resourceful, self-deprecating and humourous. The supporting cast - complete with a suitably villainous villain - all come to life - one or two I felt were cast aside rather cavalierly and I would have liked to see more of them first, but that complaint about their summary despatch in a sense praises how well they were brought to life.

Some aspects of the plot are perhaps a touch predictable, but overall this is a most enjoyable book, with a clear message about the impact of war on a peaceful community.
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on 11 November 2009
Anyone who likes historical novels will find this offering by Alistair Forrest a literary delight. Not only I defy anyone to separate history from fiction, but the story has such an authentic feel that you wouldn't care if it were based on fiction alone. Yet, to my amazement, the author is as knowledgeable in matters of the immediate pre-Christian era, as he is with nuances of best fiction writing. If you like history, read it. If you like just a fast paced, action filled adventure, then you will be equally as pleased. This novel holds its own with the best of historical fiction works I read.

Konrad is the pen-name of Stan I.S. Law who is the author of a number of novels available on the Amazons.

Yeshua a Personal Memoir of the Missing Years of Jesus
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on 3 April 2009
Forrest had me rivetted from the first chapter. I'm not one for historical novels normally but love stories about Spain and the Med, which is why I read the book. However I have been converted and am looking forward to Forrest's next offering. Forrest's descriptive writing kept me enthralled and unable to put the book down. I felt I knew Melqart well enough to call him Pito. I would highly recommend this book.
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