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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Caligula's Roman world brought to life!
You know that you're about to embark on a new year full of fine books when it kicks off with the publication of a novel by Robert Fabbri, one of the best writers of historical fiction about today. Vespasian, the 1st-century AD general who against all odds survived a succession of Rome's most nutty emperors to don the purple himself, is a worthy subject for a series of...
Published 18 months ago by Kate

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars False God of Rome
A little slow in places but a really strong last third. Cannot wait for the next one. Death to Caligula
Published 15 months ago by Dazz Upton


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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Caligula's Roman world brought to life!, 4 Jan 2013
By 
Kate (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
You know that you're about to embark on a new year full of fine books when it kicks off with the publication of a novel by Robert Fabbri, one of the best writers of historical fiction about today. Vespasian, the 1st-century AD general who against all odds survived a succession of Rome's most nutty emperors to don the purple himself, is a worthy subject for a series of novels and Robert Fabbri has done him justice. In the third novel, False God of Rome, everything takes on a whole new edge. Caligula is now emperor and it is no spoiler to say that here is a madman of Olympian proportions. There is a chance that, like me, you may want to read some of Fabbri's portrayal of these mad years with your eyes shut (or at least with an empty stomach). Fortunately, Vespasian marches through the insanity but even he cannot be unaffected by these dark days.

Robert Fabbri has a remarkable knack of bringing the ancient Roman world to life. Quite apart from his dexterity in recreating the lost cities of Rome and Egypt, he captures brilliantly, and horrifically, the most awful terror that Caligulan Rome must have held for its ruling classes. In the second book of the series, Rome's Executioner (Vespasian), Tiberius is presented as I've never seen him before in fiction and its power gave me nightmares. Through the preceding two novels we have watched Caligula grow up as Vespasian's friend. We have the power of hindsight denied to Vespasian but during this third novel Vespasian finally confronts the reality. We have also enjoyed Vespasian's relationship with the matriarch of Rome, Antonia, but all that means nothing when her grandson Caligula assumes power. This is the value of a series following the life of one man. We have begun to know the men and women around them and what becomes of them is all the more poignant and horrifying for it. What this reign of terror does to Vespasian is a strong theme - there have to be ugly compromises.

The lightness here comes from the relationship between Vespasian and Caenis, the slave of Antonia. The darkness, though, comes in the unmistakeable form of Caligula. False God of Rome is not my favourite of the series - that would be the marvellous Rome's Executioner - but that is mostly because of Caligula himself. A truly odious individual, his perversion is brought home to me here more immediately than Suetonius ever managed.

Wonderfully written, with the pace of a runaway train (and with a fantastic opening), False God of Rome is a fine addition to the series. I'll just be relieved when Vespasian emerges on the other side. Mind you, you know what that means? Not just Claudius but Nero! I am grateful for the review copy.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cracking third outing, 1 Jan 2013
By 
Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog "Falcata T... - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Death, murder, deceit and double dealing with all of them being done before breakfast in ancient Rome as the principle characters story continues to unwind for the modern reader in an imaginative and thought provoking series by Robert Fabbri.

It's definitely a series that has taken the Historical Fiction world by storm and when you add this to the facts that this remarkable man started out so low and rose to the highest position possible it really is a tale that needs to be told. Throw into the mix the wonderful prose alongside writing style of Robert that makes this engaging as well as the wonderful quips and foresightedness of the principle hero in one of the Empires darkest time which when the reader is introduced to the vileness of Little Boots himself will all round not only make you appreciate our hero but one that will force you to answer questions within your own mind. A wonderful read for the start of the year and to be honest if the quality all round maintains this high, we're in for one hell of a ride.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!, 13 Dec 2013
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In this the third book in the Vespasian series Robert Fabbri once again shows his mastery of combining Historical Facts with fast paced fiction.Highly recommended

The ROMA VICTRIX wine beaker is the perfect companion to the Vespasian series. Indeed Robert has one of his own, here is a passage from his review.

It has now become my every day drinking vessel and as such gets plenty of usage; every time I take a sip of wine I am delighted by the beaker's form and feel, it's a pleasure to hold. For me, however, there's an even more personal aspect to the beaker: above each panel is the head of Vespasian; so after a day spent writing the great man's story I sit back with a decent red and toast him and the II Augusta.
To see the full review click on this link.Calix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another five star book, 9 Jan 2013
By 
JPS - See all my reviews
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On both the UK and the US sites, there seems to be, at least this time, a bit of a consensus regarding how good this book is. As far as I am concerned, determining whether it is slightly better or slightly less good than the two previous volumes is a rather moot point since I rated all three of them as five star books. What may be of more interest for potential readers are the reasons for attributing the highest possible rating to this book.

There are essentially three of them: excellent plot, excellent historical research and superb characterization. This does not imply that the book is "perfect", even assuming that this was possible. However, and despite taking a very close look at it, and even double checking a number of points - this is at least my excuse for not posting this review earlier! - I could only find a few quibbles barely worth mentioning, as opposed to any significant drawback that may have justified a lower rating than five star rating.

First of all, and as others have mentioned, the plot is fast paced and manages to be rather original, despite being the continuation of the previous volumes and despite the rather large number of "swords and sandals" novels set during various periods of Roman history that are already out there. This is no mean feat in itself, especially when you consider that the period covered in this volume - the last years of the reign of Emperor Tiberius and the first half of the reign of Caligula - did not see any major campaigns or battles taking place. You will nevertheless get plenty of violence and blood-letting in this book which is all about power plots, intrigues, murders and terror in Rome, and ruthless riots and policing in some of its unruly and/or strategic provinces, in particular in Cyrenaica, Judea and Egypt. You might end up disliking the book's plot, or even finding that this or that piece of it and the involvement of the Flavian brothers are somewhat far-fetched, but I would be very surprised if you find this book boring.

Then there is the historical context, the author's research and the ways in which the author has chosen to interpret and present it. Here again, I found it very difficult to take exception with any of these items (and believe me, I certainly tried!).

The author has taking a number of liberties and come up with a number of interpretations, but then that is to be expected in a historical novel. When this has been done, however, he has taken great care to mention it explicitly and, as far as I can tell, in a rather systematic way, in his author's note. This is not something that all writers of historical fiction take the trouble to do and, as far as I am concerned, this is also one of the book's qualities. I believe he has also mostly managed to get away with it, again, at least as far as I am concerned, for at least three reasons.

The first has to do with the contents of the written historical sources. We know rather little about Vespasian's early years (and the same applies to his brother), apart from a few scattered anecdotes which the author is careful to use. This gives Robert Fabbri a lot of license when building up his intrigue and putting the Flavian brothers right in the middle of it all.

Second, the Roman written sources (Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio) all wrote well after the reigns of Tiberius and Caligula, and even after the reign of Vespasian himself. They were also quite biased and quite eager to show up the Julio-Claudians (Tiberius, Caligula and Nero, in particular, but also Claudius to a lesser extent) in a rather unfavourable light, to put it mildly. This was particularly the case since the first two were, if I remember correctly, writing during the reign of Trajan (Tacitus) or Hadrian (Suetonius) and the third wrote under the Severans. In all cases, the "new" Emperors of the time - and the authors writing during their reigns - were more than eager to distance themselves from the previous dynasty and to portray the members of this dynasty as unworthy in general and either half-wit cripples (Claudius in particular) or mad tyrants and monsters (Tiberius, Caligula and Nero). The sole exception was Augustus (Octavius), the founder of the Empire, which they all adopted as their role model.

What you therefore end up with is a rather extreme divide between "good" emperors and "bad" ones, with the, respectively, positive or negative features being probably somewhat exaggerated (the "good" ones are excellent, the "bad" are simply awful monsters capable of just about any meaningless crime or atrocity). These kinds of bias, while making life extremely difficult for a historian, are wonderful for an author writing a historical novel as he can have a field day in developing some truly hideous characters - real monsters - while being fully supported by the sources. This is exactly what Fabbri has done in this book with both Tiberius who, at least initially, may not have been entirely awful and was certainly a competent emperor, and, of course, Caligula, the archetype of the mad paranoid and entirely unpredictable emperor. In both cases, but perhaps even more for Caligula than for Tiberius, the paranoid and murderous atmosphere at the Imperial Palace that they had to live in since their youth goes a long way towards explaining their atrocious behaviour once they became emperors. This is also something that is very well shown, especially for Caligula, in both this volume and in the previous one.

The third reason is the way that Fabbri manages to convey the rather atrocious climate of terror, abuse, tortures and arbitrary executions and casual murders and rapes that senators and their families had to live through during the reign of Caligula. It is so vivid and oppressive, and entirely based on the historical sources that it "sounds and feel" true, regardless of whether certain specific features and points of detail have been exaggerated or not.

As very well shown in the book, the sheer uncertainty regarding their fate obliged all of the Senate to transform themselves into the most abject sycophants in what were rather abject attempts to ensure their own personnel survivals. The same - or something very similar - also happened under Nero. What may have made it somewhat worse under the reign of Caligula was that he seems to have been so unpredictable: no one seems to have been able to know to what extent he was mad or to what extent his terror tactics were deliberate and vengeful. He also took an obvious sadistic pleasure in tormenting the Senators and their families (including his uncle Claudius) both morally and physically. All these traits are also superbly presented and described in this book.

Finally, another set on gems with regards to the historical context are the author's descriptions of Rome and Alexandria, in particular, with their various monuments (the Alexandrian Pharos, one of the seven marvels of the world, was a particularly good piece for instance). To a lesser degree perhaps, he also manages to achieve something similar with both Jerusalem and Cyrenaica (Appolonia and the Siwas oasis and temples). Here again, the riotous atmospheres in both Alaxandria and Jerusalem, and the fact that both are described as powder kegs just waiting to explode, is also very well conveyed (and backed by historical evidence).

As I have already hinted at when mentioning the way Fabbri presents and describes the "bad" emperors, the third main and very successful feature of this book is the extreme care that the author has taken in characterization.

This starts with the main character (Vespasian) that the author has been careful enough NOT to present as a flawless "hero" but rather as a gifted young up and coming senator, with all his flaws and limitations. He is not above quite a bit of bribery, nor is his brother Sabinus. His personal life becomes somewhat complicated, to put it nicely. He is ready to abuse his position if this can get him into bed with a pretty face. Both brothers are typical senators of their time, and so is their uncle. All went, as mentioned above, rather far in order to survive and save their skins, and our "heroes" were no exceptions. This interesting feature contributes into making the characters more "realistic" and perhaps also more human if not also more sympathetic.

The other main characters of the book are also very much based on and derived from the written sources, starting with the scheming Antonia, daughter of Marc-Antony, and the real power behind the throne in Rome during the last seven years of Tiberius' reign, once Sejanus had been removed. Even Herod Agrippa and Alexander the Alabaster are very good. My only little gripe, if I really need one, was Paulus which I found to be a bit too much of an "arch-villain", a bit of a caricature and not as convincing as the other characters.

While all this going for it, and to cut an overlong story short, I simply could not see any way to rate this book less than five stars...
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast pace... great story telling, 1 Jan 2013
By 
Parm (A bookshop near you) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: False God of Rome: VESPASIAN III (Kindle Edition)
Review
Sometimes going to the TBR (to be read) pile can be a chore, how do you pick a book from so many genre's and often so much class? But then there are a few authors who just leap to the top of the pile and take that need for choice away. Robert Fabbri is one such author and his Vespasian series to date has been well told and action packed... So how does this latest 3rd part of the tale compare?

As usual we follow Vespasian, possibly (in my opinion) either the luckiest or sharpest General / Emperor Rome ever had. This man outlived one of the most insane periods of Roman history as well as being very successful General, he then went on to be one the greatest Emperors of Rome. This book as well as the first two of the series is set in his early life. He has now made it to Jerusalem, his brother is now a Quaestor and is embroiled in the ever present politics and struggle between the Jews and the Roman invaders. Vespasian himself is off in the desert carrying out his own dangerous mission and back in Rome the arch nutbag Caligula has his own mission for Vespasian, dropping in a nice link to the great Alexander (the subject of the mission). In books one and Two we saw Caligula and Vespasian become friends, in book three we see how being Emperor changes one man and changes a relationship beyond anything you could expect, some friendships.... well, we all have had friends we wish we didn't!

Fabbri as ever brings the roman world to life, the heat and size of its empire, Jerusalem, and the depth of character of the great names involved in the tale. The pace as usual is electric, its one of those books that you have to force yourself to put down to go to sleep. (i wish i had had a whole day to sit and read it).

This is highly recommended and 3 books into 2013 this one is top of the charts so far.

(Parm)

Product Description
Vespasian is serving as a military officer on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, suppressing local troubles and defending the Roman way. But political events in Rome - Tiberius's increasingly insane debauchery, the escalating grain crisis - draw him back to the city. When Caligula becomes Emperor, Vespasian believes that things will improve. Instead, he watches the young emperor deteriorate from Rome's shining star to a blood-crazed, incestuous, all-powerful madman. Lavish building projects, endless games, public displays of his relationship with his sister, Drusilla, and a terrified senate are as nothing to Caligula's most ambitious plan: to bridge the bay of Neapolis and ride over it wearing Alexander's breastplate. And it falls to Vespasian to travel to Alexandria and steal it from Alexander's mausoleum. Vespasian's mission will lead to violence, mayhem and theft - and in the end, to a betrayal so great it will echo through the ages
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars superb, 9 Jan 2013
By 
M. Delaere (The Hague Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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Superb, a real page-turner, this third volume in Mr. Fabbri's series on Roman emperor Vespasian.
And at 7,99 pounds a real bargain. An exciting book; can't wait for the fourth episode Rome's Fallen Eagle.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 9 July 2014
By 
G. Walton (Co.Durham.England.) - See all my reviews
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probably Robert Fabbri's best book in this series so far.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book in the series., 20 Oct 2013
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This review is from: False God of Rome: VESPASIAN III (Kindle Edition)
. This series of stories just gets better and better. I have read a lot of "Roman" fiction and this series is right up there with the Simon Scarrow and Anthony Riches stories. If you like them you'll like this and vice versa.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great!!!, 20 Oct 2013
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This review is from: False God of Rome: VESPASIAN III (Kindle Edition)
Excellent read, can't wait for the next one. Historical fiction at it's best, would highly recommend. A pleasure to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great read, 1 Oct 2013
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This review is from: False God of Rome: VESPASIAN III (Kindle Edition)
As ever Robert Fabbri delivers. This book reads as if it was modern day, through the perfect use of Fabbri's interpretation and his ability to take you through a real drama. It has got to the stage, I just need to see his name and I will buy the book. Just started Fallen Eagle, can't wait to get into this story
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