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on 1 September 2012
Whew. I finished it. Not a phew as in `that was tough going' but a phew as in `wow what a powerful conclusion.'

I've been reading Doug Jackson's books since Caligula first appeared in hardback, while I was still writing my first, and I love his work. But when he started the Valerius Verrens series, something changed and his work stepped up several notches.

Hero of Rome (the novel that introduces the character) is one of the best Roman novels I've read and the scenes of the evacuation of Colonia in advance of Boudicca's attack were among the most powerful I've seen. The second Valerius novel, Defender of Rome, had a different feel and a different tack. It was a brave novel and a powerful one, if a little bleak and soul-withering at times.
Avenger of Rome is a book I've been waiting to read for some time. I found it difficult to see how the story could progress after the second book.

Well Doug did good! Avenger is a triumph of a novel. It has the tension of the first book in the series and the depth of the second combined, but it also has much more. It is far and away the best of the series so far and left me wanting more.
After the horrifying events in Rome in `Defender', in this great tale, Valerius is sent east with the remit of investigating General Corbulo for signs of treason. But nothing is as it seems and, as Valerius becomes more and more involved in matters, he finds himself becoming a valuable and trusted member of the great general's staff as Corbulo defies imperial edict in order to safeguard the empire, whatever the cost to himself.

Certain things stand out about this book, to me. Firstly, the journey - which occupies a quarter of the book - is a magnificent tale in itself and could quite easily have made the basis for a novel on its own.

Secondly, the book features some of my favourite characters from Roman history (Vespasian, Titus and Corbulo) and does each of them proud, the depiction of Corbulo particularly striking a chord with me as it is very much how I have always imagined him. While I would hardly describe Nero as one of my favourites, I also have to admire the way Doug handles the complex character of the youthful emperor. Nero is an enigma and the character is built upon from the second book to a strangely almost understandable and certainly pitiable combination of paranoia, pride, neediness and hubris. He is too complex to pigeonhole, which is, I suspect, as close to the truth as any writer will get. Indeed, hubris is a strong theme among the more powerful characters in the novel.

Thirdly, the battle. Wow, the battle. Well, come on, it's hardly a spoiler, is it? You knew there was going to be a battle, right? I know from personal experience how hard it is to write a good battle. Not an ok battle, but a good one. I've tried. And in the end, I come down to showing any battle from a point of view of individual encounters, as I simply cannot adequately convey the scale of the whole thing. Doug just did. The scale was immense, the time it took, the numbers, the sheer organisation, and yet not a single detail is lost. Not even the noise. The smell. The tension. The fear. It is a work of sickening beauty.
The upshot? Valerius is one of the most interesting characters in Historical fiction at the moment and each book Doug writes adds to the depth and power of the character. This book has, however, stepped another notch upwards and, where the first left me feeling a little drained with the heart-wrenching conclusion and the second left me feeling weary and saddened, this one left me feeling awed and astounded and waiting to see what comes next (the conclusion almost pushes you straight into the next tale). Valerius, I will watch you put things right! My sword arm is with you.

Well done, Doug. A fab read. When's the next due out?
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on 28 October 2016
. The characters are extremely fascinating, and the story lines are such that I find myself anticipating every spare moment when I can sit and read. I have read hundreds of Roman fiction books and enjoyed all of them, however, sometimes one comes across a writer of the genre that can actually generate real emotion in the reader, and make the characters and events come to brilliant, blazing life with all the attendant feelings of compassion, horror, amusement, shock ,outrage, sadness and admiration. Mr Jackson is one of those writers. My only regret is that I will read the whole series in short order, as the books are impossible to put down! If you want to 'feel', there's the books!
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If you love hard combat with a lead character placed in between the hammer and the anvil not only politically but for their very life, then you really have to read Douglas Jackson's Gaius Valerius Verrens series. Here in the third outing for the character he's placed in perhaps the most perilous place possible as Nero's madness takes its inevitable toll on those around him.

As with the other books, it has great characters, solid prose and of course pace that really keeps you going especially as the first part is more of a journey to allow the reader to get to know the characters involved more. Add to this the huge combat sequences that occur later and all in this book more than hit the spot for me as a reader. Great stuff.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 August 2012
Douglas Jackson and his hero Gaius Valerius Verrens returns in book three of the same named series.
As pointed out by the Splendid reviewer Kate this is two books in one tome, We follow our hero on a journey to Antioch escorting the lady Domita to visit her father. Its not an easy journey, full of intrigue danger and coming together of characters. The other part of the book puts us on Valerius home turf, the battlefeld, if you have read the other two books you know how good the author is at writing battles. Whilst part one is battle for survival on a small scale, it is mainly about bringing some of the main character together on a personal/ respectful level forming bonds. I love the way that Douglas Jackson can very quickly build a character and invest you in their life and survival. Part two is fighting the might of the Parthians, never easy and always full of action.
My favourite scene in all Douglas Jacksons book will so far remain the battle for the temple of Claudius in book one, I have never felt such raw emotion in a book.
This latest book though has many emotive, triumphant and heroic scenes it just enthrals from page 1 to 352, putting this writer as one of the best in the genre. There is no let up in this story, there are no weak sections, there is no respite from the story. You will not want to put this down. (it kept me up until 3am)

Very highly recommended

Emperor Nero's grip on power is weakening. In every shadow he sees an enemy and like a cornered animal he lashes out at every perceived threat. His paranoia settles on the figure of Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, Rome's greatest General who leads the imperial legions in the East.

So popular is Corbulo with his men that he effective presides over an Empire within an Empire. Is Corbulo preparing to march against Rome and take the purple?

Gaius Valerius Verrens, Hero of Rome, is ordered to Antioch with the power of life and death over Corbulo, a soldier he worships. There he finds word of his mission has preceded him and every man's hand is turned against him. But Corbulo's eyes are not on Rome, but on a new threat to the Empire's border. The Parthian King of Kings, Vologases, is marching to war and with such an army that if not stopped he might overwhelm the entire Roman east.

Valerius marches at Corbulo's side. Outnumbered they make a stand in the barren wastes beyond the Tigris to meet Vologases in an epic contest of military might and ingenuity that will decide the fate of the Empire. And while he fights for the Empire, and for his own survival on the battlefield, Valerius must decide whether to complete his mission, or risk incurring his Emperor's dangerous wrath.
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I rather like the fact that Gaius Valerius Verrens has grown as a person and a character through the three books. The first book had slight flaws ( a slightly rushed relationship) and left Verrens a hero, but very much a broken hero. So in the second book we had a man coming to terms with his fame and his injury and being thrown into the dark pit of Roman politics and at the whim of the very dangerous Nero.

So Avenger of Rome finds him trying to keep out of the limelight but Nero has another poisoned chalice of a mission for him. General Corbulo is getting far too popular for Nero's liking and Nero fears he will turn his attention and troops towards Rome. On the other hand, Verrens greatly admires Corbulo and is not pleased to be thrown into his legion as Second in Command and with the news that he is Nero's spy arriving before he does.

And with a journey involving pirates, shipwreck and the general's daughter, our hero arrives to find distrust and treachery and the small matter of conflict with the Parthians.

So, with his options limited he has to watch his back as he turns towards a ferocious enemy.....

I very much enjoyed this, the author grows more confident with his character and the stories are well plotted, fast moving and great historical adventures. You can read this in isolation but you would be missing a treat if you don't read the first two. Very much in the vein of Simon Scarrow, Anthony Riches and Ben Kane and equally recommended.
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on 5 September 2012
Avenger of Rome is the third book in Doug Jackson's series to feature the hero Gaius Valerius Verrens.

The Eastern Empire is in flames, Judea as risen up in rebellion and slaughtered its Roman garrison and the Parthian Empire, sensing Roman weakness has set it sights on placing its own puppet ruler on the buffer state of Armenia. Only one man can stop the Parthians, General Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo. Adored by his legions he has a plan to smash the power of Parthia once and for all. If he fails then the whole of the Eastern Empire could be lost.

In Rome, Corbulo is viewed with suspicion by the Nero and his court. He is too popular with the people and too powerful with the legions at his back, will he make an attempt for the throne? With Nero descending into madness and paranoia the Emperor needs someone to spy on and report back any treacherous actions or thoughts by Corbulo and his officers, that man is Gaius Valerius Verrens the Hero of Rome.

Valerius, our reluctant spy is sent out to the east as Corbulo's second in command. With his mission compromised before he even leaves Rome, Valerius must contend with Pirate attacks, shipwreaks, Mutiny, hostile officers and the beautiful Domitia, Corbulo's headstrong daughter. If he survives all that is thrown at him then he still has to survive Corbulo's plan to defeat Parthia and the paranoia of Nero and his cronies.

I have to say right off that I am a huge fan of Doug Jackson's Valerius series and this is the best of the series so far. After the more political settings of Defender of Rome it is good to see Valerius back where he belongs, leading troops and fighting Rome's enemies. This isn't to say that Jackson has completely jettisoned the political story. Between battles and fights we follow Nero and his court as fear and suspicion leads Nero to ever more brutal methods to maintain his tenuous grip on power and as madness grips him even his closest advisers start looking over their shoulders.

The main strength of this book are the battles scenes, Jackson writes them on an epic scale and the battle between Rome and Parthia is no exception. Throughout the book, the battles scenes are written with a pace and a realism and makes them very enjoyable to read. Valerius is a great character and he has a great supporting cast and I'm hoping Domitia is a character that sticks around.

This is a seriously good book and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series and as we edge ever closer to 69AD and the year of the 4 Emperors. It will be interesting to see where the author takes Valerius in this troubling time.
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on 13 September 2012
Emperor Nero`s grip on power is weakening.In every shadow he sees an enemy and like a cornered animal,he lashes out at every perceived threat.Gaius Valerius Verrens,Hero of Rome is ordered to Antioch with the power of life and death over Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo,Rome`s greatest General,a soldier he worships.After the last outing of Valerius in which he was drawn into the politics of Nero court,our hero is back on the battle field and up to his neck in blood and guts as he marches at Corbulo side,outnumbered,they make a stand in the wastes beyond the Tigris in an epic contest of military might and ingenuity that will decide the fate of the Empire.On top of this Valerius must decide whether to complete his mission,or risk incurring his Emperor`s dangerous wrath.Douglas Jackson has become a top story teller who puts you into the thick of the action,and with a in-depth knowledge of the period and along with quality research,he produces a first rate Historical novel that puts him in the top elite of Historical writers. May Valerius next adventure be with us soon.
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on 2 January 2014
I hope there's a further book here but if not this has been among the best trilogies I've read. It's built and gathered momentum in an unstoppable manner.
The hero of the story is just that, magnificent and probably how we imagine our heroes to be, I want to read more about him, please Douglas give us more!!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 August 2012
Gaius Valerius Verrens, the Hero of Rome, is back! How good it is to see him. The Avenger of Rome is the third in the series and so this review does contain mild spoilers for the previous two novels.

Valerius' title of Hero of Rome is just. Having barely survived the bitter onslaught of Boudicca on the Temple of Claudius (Hero of Rome), Valerius returned to Rome to receive the adulation of the deranged Emperor Nero as well as the terrible and bloody task of ridding the city of its Christians (Defender of Rome (Gaius Valerius Verrens 2)). Now, in the third novel in the series, Valerius is given a choice. He must ride out east to Antioch to spy on Rome's most successful general Corbolo and, if necessary, remove him from the reach of Nero's jealous gaze or his sister will be eliminated. What choice is there?

Still honourable, and always brave, Valerius agrees to escort Domitia, the daughter of Corbulo, on a sea voyage to her father's side. Despite the pressure, Valerius is no slave to the whim of a half mad emperor. He is our hero, a likeable, proud and less than whole man, who will do whatever he can to stay as true to the course of honour as he can in these dark days.

Avenger of Rome is a book of two halves - the first follows Valerius' most arduous journey to Antioch escorting the lady Domitia to her father Corbulo, both strong and fascinating characters. The second half places Valerius in his more familiar surroundings - the bloody battlefield. It would be difficult to decide which is the most exciting and moving. The journey to Antioch becomes a lesson in survival for Valerius. When they finally reach the general in Antioch, ties have been formed which will inform the rest of the story.

The relationship between Corbulo and Valerius forms the heart of the second half of the book as Valerius assists the famous general in his campaign against Parthian might. There are deadly battles here and great bravery and sacrifice by the general, his commanders and their men, but what makes Avenger of Rome such a satisfying and rewarding third novel is that it is different to the previous two. The astonishing Temple of Claudius scenes of the first novel of the three, Hero of Rome, makes that a difficult novel to beat in terms of bloody action and thrills whereas Defender of Rome is an enormously dramatic depiction of life in Rome under Nero, whether one is an ambitious soldier or a vulnerable Christian. Avenger of Rome is different again. This time, in tandem with the battles against Parthia's finest, we have conspiracy, raw emotion, love even and masses of danger, not all of it on the battlefield.

Much of the action may take place far from Rome, but the centre of the empire isn't forgotten and there are scenes in which we get far too close to the rot at its heart, namely Nero and his Praetorian Guard.

Valerius continues to deserve the title of hero - ours as well as Rome's - but in Avenger of Rome there are also three other characters who you'll remember: Corbulo, Domitia and Tiberius. We're invested in all three and as a result Avenger of Rome doesn't just thrill, it also moves. It's not often a novel about a Roman soldier moves me to tears, but this one manages it. The Sword of Rome is coming...

You don't need to have read the previous two novels to enjoy Avenger of Rome, but it would be such a shame to deny yourself the treat.
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on 24 December 2012
Doug Jackson just gets better and better everytime I read his books. Its so disappoint that I have read all his work and have to wait so long for the next ones, I have actually thought of reading slower!! Bravo Mr Jackson keep them coming.
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