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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 21 May 2006
Yes, if you are looking for a historically accurate acount of the fall of Rome and it's last emperor then this isn't it. But Manfredi accepts that in his notes at the back of the book. As other reviewers have stated this book can almost be split into halfs. The first half of the book is concerned with the plight of Romulus and how he is going to be rescued then the second half follows the flight of the heros (and heroin to be politically correct). Some saw this half the book as a bad movie script with an easily discernable plot. Although you can guess that they will reach their destination it is thrilling to find out how they overcome the various obstacles. The presentation of Aurelius as a hero with dark secret in his past is refreshing as he isn't a perfect hero. The ending also comes under scrutiny as it links in with Arthurian legend. What you must remember when reading this ending is that it is fiction and it is a beautiful lead into the legendary kings tale. After all Geoffrey Monmouth's version in 14th century of Arthur as a Knight in shining armour is far less accurate then this ending is. It is a very easy read although i suppose you do have to let the words wash over you a bit as the translation can make the speech seem very American movie-esque. There is bad language so any parents might want to note this before reading/buying for their children. It's not my favourite Manfredi (that's Spartan) but a good read regardless
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on 1 February 2010
I enjoy imaginative re-takes on the Arthurian Legends - but this one is a model of how not to do it. First make up a bunch of cardboard characters, then place them in a succession of impossible situations with a "Jim'll Fix It" approach to getting yourself (the author) out of the four diametrically opposite corners you have simultaneously painted yourself into (what else is magic for?). Motivation? Careful plotting? Not for Manfredi in this load of hokum. And finally, get yourself a translator, preferably one for whom neither Italian nor English is the mother tongue, and who chooses from the options she finds in an Italian-English dictionary by closing her eyes and jabbing with her husband's magic ball-point pen. Bound to be a winner...
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Few authors can be better equipped to write about the subject of Rome and its Legions than Manfredi. Professor of archaeology at the the university of Milan, he has carried out many excavations and expeditions in the Mediterranean region. He has produced many factual books on historical matters, mainly military and has still found the time to write several novels and this is one of the best of them.

The story begins the day that the Roman Empire collapses and the eternal city itself is being over-run. In the weeks before the final collapse some British Romano soldiers have reached the city with the express task of rescuing the young son of the last Emperor Romulus Augustus, these are the men of The last Legion . . .

They are there to protect and guide the last emperor on a journey that takes them across Europe to the shores of Britain and into legend.

I found the book exciting and exhilarating. It was another one I did not want to end.
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on 9 June 2011
I'm flabbergasted by the 4 and 5 star reviews for The Last Legion. I agree whole-heartedly with the 1-star reviews. If possible I'd give it ZERO star! What I'd hoped would be a good read turned out to have irritated me beyond belief. The plot, though thin, is passable though peculiarly patchy, but it could have been so much more creative. What utterly killed the book and ALL of Manfredi's work for me (life is too short to waste it trying another one however many 5 stars it has) is the translation. Some here have said they don't know if it was badly written or badly translated or both. My wife is Italian and had read the original and said it was pretty good (and she's very discerning in her taste) and agreed the English version, when in extreme exasperation I showed her extracts from it, was ... awful. On more than one occasion, we resorted to the original Italian to de-construct the gobbledygook Manfredi's translator had written. So, clearly, the translation is the gaping problem. And the translator? Manfredi's wife, who is Swiss. Swiss German, that is. Not Italian. Not English-speaking. A breach of international translation conventions of translating into your mother tongue. It is obvious to me at least neither Manfredi nor his English publishers Pan care one jot for their English-speaking readers. His wife, by the way, has translated other books for him too. STAY CLEAR and use your life for better things.
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VINE VOICEon 22 October 2008
This book is quite an entertaining read, and is certainly much better than the film that was released recently. Not his strongest and unlike his other historical novels this is nearly all fiction. However this is still worth a read, and do not judge it on the film!
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on 22 January 2004
I looked forward to reading this as it is a sadly neglected period of history (and historical fiction). The 1st third of the book was fine but thereafter I forced myself to finish the book. The latter third of the book I found very irritating.
I found the translation poor tending to use Italian forms of English renditions of classical names (if that makes sense). The grasp of the history was sadly superficial and I came across numerous inaccuracies presumably kept to keep the story flowing or to humour the ignorance of the reader (and the author).
It started off OK but I felt the book was a disappointment; the various events of the time have been squandered in a rather vain attempt to link the collapse of the Western Roman Empire with the rise of Arthurian Britain. Oh well, overambitious. I have been put off from reading his Alexander books (I think these have probably been better written by other authors).
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on 27 December 2006
Overall this was a fine read, which sustained one's interest through 400+ pages. It is, however, laden with numerous typical modern fiction resonances such as the overused themes of freedom and revenge, and the tough warrior woman (Livia; compare Xena) and the friendly black (one-time) gladiator (Batiatus; compare Draba in "Spartacus" and Juba in "Gladiator"). Although it is perhaps more than unfair in general to point out historical mistakes in a work of fiction, especially one that has fantasy elements in it, the author's credentials as a historian and archaeologists are emphasized and he himself makes a note at the end of the novel of his use of various historical sources; therefore I will make a few points about inacuracies and anachronisms. The Emperor Romulus was not taken to Capri but to the villa of Lucullus near Naples (where he may have remained for decades, along with his mother). Arthur (and not his father) was said (in one late source only) to have fought at Mount Badon (which would have occurred around A.D. 500 and not shortly after A.D. 476), defeating Anglo-Saxons (and not Wortigern). Stirrups (p. 65) are first known from China around the third century but did not reach the West until about the eighth century. Pumpkins (pp. 107 and 115-116) are a new world product, though some sort of squash may here be meant (as in the standard translations of Seneca's 'Pumpkinification of Claudius'). And it is difficult to believe that the admiralty in Misenus signaled hours with bells (pp. 115 and 117), something unknown until centuries later (note that this is a standard anachronism in Shakespeare's Roman plays, as in, for instance, 'Antony and Cleopatra' 3.13). Much of these points are no doubt little more than tiresome nitpicking but I would have been more satisfied if the author had been able to meld what is found of Romulus in the sources with what is found of Arthur in the sources in a more convincing manner.
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on 5 February 2004
I quite liked this book. Fast paced, dramatically set in the last glimmers of the Roman Empire. It makes a fascinating read, if not an historically accurate one (the timing whit byzantine history is all wrong)But,hey, it could be read as alternate history,surely! All in all, an entertaining story.
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on 19 December 2016
This review refers to the Italian original. Of Prof Manfredi’s imaginative fiction this I think this the best (his Alexander Trilogy is also excellent but that is based firmly on recognised facts). It is not what I had expected – a gritty and realistic story of Roman legionaries – rather a tale of adventure laced with a touch of fantasy and a mix of Arthurian legend. The action is relentless and there isn’t a single boring page. The story is, of course, pure fiction – there is absolutely no evidence that Romulus Augustulus ever left Italy – and at times a little far-fetched but it is entertaining and that is enough with a book like this. I have seen criticism of the translations of some of his other works; I read this in the original and can’t say it made any great difference. I have never had any problems with the translations of his other books but I can’t comment on the English version of this one.
One minor point - I do wish the prof would not insist on including descriptions of love-making – his descriptions of sex are rather cringe-worthy and hardly necessary.
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on 3 November 2007
It's hard to know whether to blame the author or the translator for this awful book. Suffice it to say that it's appallingly badly written, with a prose style that makes Dan Brown seem like Henry James. To be fair, it must have required some degree of skill to compose such a long and turgid book entirely in cliches, without even a single concession to originality or imagination.
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