4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A good fictional introduction to the life of Vespasian,
This review is from: Tribune of Rome (Vespasian 1) (Hardcover)
I picked up 'Vespasian: Tribune of Rome' at an airport bookshop during one of those long waits between flights. Being someone with a keen interest in Ancient Roman History, I am always on the lookout for new books (both fiction and non-fiction) on the subject. In this book Robert Fabbri writes a fictionalised account of the early life of Vespasian (from his birth until the point of the beginning of his tribunician stint. Vespasian is one of the lesser known of Roman historical figures (at least relative to Julius Caesar, Augustus, Nero and the like).
I started reading the book with very low expectations- (a) I had no idea who Robert Fabbri was and (b)There is normally a tendency to 'dumb down' or 'sensationalise' history to appeal to a broader swathe of readers and the first few pages of the book somehow tended to confirm this sentiment with a fairly annoying preachy style (defining every Latin term from a Triumph to Impluvium and so on). It seemed like Fabbri almost wanted to show off how much he knew more than the average layman about Rome. The humour and the narrative in the first section also seemed a little forced.
However the narrative does pick up some speed and style almost as soon as Vespasian enters Rome and the book quickly becomes a page turner. Fabbri does an excellent job of describing chariot races and battles (though if too much of blood and gore are not for you- then I would advise you to skip it). The author also does a good job of giving a view into the high political games that were played in Ancient Rome (though I guess history has already done more than half the work for him).
True to it being a fictional tale, a lot of the events in the book are manipulated though none are out of character- so the book doesn't jarr at any point once it picks up speed.
In all the book is a fairly good light read- something you can read in a few evenings on a weekday without your having to apply yourself too much to it, but at the same time giving you an interesting glimpse into the wonder that was Rome.
Out of all the characters in the book (excluding Vespasian- who I guess being the protagonist is fairly well sketched out)- Magnus- the veteran soldier, now ring leader of one of the crossroads maffia who lands up accompanying Vespasian in his adventure is the one who is most enjoyable and likeable. You almost feel in someway that he is a 'Gandalf' of sorts. And it is good to know that Fabbri has released a book on Magnus (Kindle Edition)THE CROSSROADS BROTHERHOOD which I promptly purchased.
I was torn between giving this book 3 and 4 stars but ultimately I am a sucker for Roman History and this was a good read so four stars it is!