3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Little Less Conversation, A Little More Action Please!,
This review is from: Rome's Fallen Eagle (Vespasian) (Hardcover)
One thing you can't deny is that Fabbri knows how to write a page-turner. So, far I have to admit that book II has been the best of the series. I think Robert Fabbri's advantage over other writers of Roman HF is that he can get under the skin of the Romans, and really evoke the ancient world in the same way that Christian Cameron does for Athens. He has an extraordinary talent for getting to grips with Roman politics and writing it in a way that is accessible to the non-academic. Book II showed Fabbri at his height.
Another reviewer has commented that Fabbri seems to be growing constrained by history. I disagree, this where he excels (and I think he should stick to it more, rather than adding his fictions.) I would argue that he is becoming constrained because he is covering the same territory as many other recent authors (Simon Scarrow, Manda Scott, Douglas Jackson.) Which leads me to a second problem I had. As I neared the end of the novel I asked myself 'would it have mattered if the plot-strand of the Eagle of the XVII wasn't there, would it matter? My answer was no, and it would have been a stronger novel to forgo the boys-own antics and concentrated more on the actual invasion of Britain. It actually ended up ludicrous the idea that Vespasian could go trampling through Germania with several cohorts, and a legion in pursuit without causing another massacre by the Germans. And that's Fabbri's problem, he's now become reliant on a formula: (1) The book starts off with an historical event, sending the hero fleeing to some far-flung province; (2) Hero gets involved with boys-own antics, which is sabotaged by competitor/spy; (3) Back to historical event, ending on a hook. It made me wonder how many more lost eagles could possibly be out there waiting to be found in fiction-land?
The other major problem was that the characters seemed to spend more time standing around talking about the plot, than actually getting on with it. A few times is fine, but when it's constant, you end up feeling had the author removed these scenes there would have been a lot more plot to enjoy (and a four-star review.)
I was disappointed that Fabbri opted for the typical portrayal of Druidism 'as blood-thirsty priests,' which is neither supported by history or archaeology. I am no apologist, and do believe they committed human sacrifice, but it was hypocritical to vilify them as child-murders (in a book that starts of with a child having its head smashed against the wall), and burying virgins alive (Vespasian's own son is documented as doing this to a Vestal.)
It's a decent pot-boiler, but in the end I finished it thinking how superb a writer Rosemary Sutcliff was . . .