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on 30 December 2014
Downloaded this ages ago because it was free and somehow missed it until now. Boy, did it have its revenge! Started reading and enjoyed the setting, flashbacks slightly irritating but could live with them, characters a little too perfect especially the women but author's privilege and all that...and it certainly was filling the time before my favourite TV show. Right?

Wrong.
Somehow, -and that's the magic of great action scenes, good pacing, characters you end up wanting to know more about (want Radec for my birthday) and a story arc that won't let go - I missed my TV show and five hours later looked up to find it was 2.30 in the morning. I'd been absorbed into this world without even realising by a writer I'd never heard of in a genre I usually avoid. Well done, Mike Smith, you have me completely and utterly hooked. Off to download the next 2!
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on 10 February 2014
Jon, the foremost member of the emperor's personal guard is handsome and handy with a sword. You'll have met him before in other freebie space operas; ridiculously young, beloved by women and fellow officers, especially loathed and feared by the enemy, endowed with tactical ability, smouldering eyes and washboard abdominals.

He is, of course, assigned to protect the emperor's only daughter; You'll have met her too. She's a stunning red head with a figure hugging wardrobe, just feisty enough to turn a man on, but compliant enough not to be one of those irritating ballbreakers with a character. Of course they fall in love. Of course it all goes pear shaped when a coup occurs.

You already know the rest of the plot - it's a space opera so it involves the imperial navy, space stations, megalomaniac bad guys, off the shelf characters and heroic, David and Goliath space battles before nail biting FTL escapes. Because there is always room for another hot babe, there's also an oriental pilot chick to test Jon's honour while the princess isn't around.

The writing is uneven and as is common with these self published freebies, in need of editing. There is some drift in the plot and characterisation; Jon oscillates between uptight puritan, adrenalin junkie and embarrassed teenager. Lapses in grammar jar and the dialogue is as cookie cut out as the characters. The author is also under the impression that explosively propelled firearms won't work in space because there is "no oxygen" for the reaction. I hope he never has to learn the truth about chemical propellants the hard way.

However it's an easy read if you enjoy a bit of pulp, and kills an hour or two for free. But it's the first of a trilogy so expect a cliffhanger ending.
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on 21 December 2015
This is, unfortunately, the worst book I can remember reading. Weak story so full of plot holes that my eyes are strained from rolling so much. The main character (the titular 'last praetorian') lacks any nuance whatsoever - he is simply brilliant and perfect and everyone loves him (I had to stop reading for a while after I came to a scene wherein a group of female officers literally swoon when he walks in a room before sighing and lamenting that he's somehow still single). The battle scenes lack any sense of drama, except for the first one, early in the book, which is only dramatic due to an absurd plot contrivance (which didn't even get a hand-wave). A lot of the story is told in flashbacks, dipping into flashbacks-within-flashbacks without any set-up or introduction, making an unpleasant mess of the structure.

It's not the worst book and mainly isn't offensive, but there is little to recommend. It's available for free but nonetheless a waste of time.
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on 3 July 2015
No, sorry. I like the concept but his prose is just too stilted and full of un-necessary embellishment. I really feel the author was writing above his skill level here and each sentence crashed in my head as I hauled myself through the first chapter before, for good or bad, giving up on this book. If you want a natural-feeling read, this ain't for you my friend.
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on 24 October 2015
Awful story line, in my opinion. It's supposed to be set some time in future, when we have space travel and have settled on other planets, but the social structure is based on ancient Rome, with an emperor and guards running around carrying (and using!) swords. I didn't get further than 40 pages into it, but just couldn't stand it anymore - the story line seemed to revolve wholly around a total cliche of a love affair between a princess and the captain of her father's, the emperor's, private guards. The rest of the story-line seems like a mere back drop for the main story line of the love affair, and it seems totally unbelievable that humanity could develop space flight but at the same time permanently revert to political and social structures consistent with ancient Rome. The setting is clearly strongly modeled on ancient Rome, and the story-line and characters would fit a historical romance far better than they do a science fiction novel. Plus, the view point is that of the captain of the guards, and the references and thinking portrayed are so heavily paternalistic and male-dominated, it really got on my nerves.
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on 24 March 2014
Started off wondering if I would like. Present day, few years before and then flashbacks to before that. Not the best structure. Few science fact mistakes as well and hero's just a bit too perfect. Add a villain where you wonder why anybody would follow him and so incompetent he would have difficulty making the tea right and you start to question.

But as it happened, I found myself enjoying the ride and will quite happily buy part 2. The story is engaging. The writing style easy to read and story pretty fun. I won't be expecting any Hugo awards just yet but am happy to see where the author takes me next.
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on 12 December 2012
I would have given this book a 5* but the very poor editing let it down badly. However I put up with it because the storyline was excellent. I was fully engaged with all the Characters and I fully intend to get the next books in this trilogy. I just hope they are better edited (would recommend using a freelance editor such as A J O'Donovan)
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on 19 July 2013
Jon Radec the Emperor's Head of the Praetorian Guard is sent on a 'routine' mission to take the Emperor's daughter, in his personal space yacht the Eternal Light, Unfortunately before the yacht can reach FTL flight Jon is told that the Emperor is dead and to bring the Princes back to the Starship from which they had set out. Jon senses trouble, and as he had given his word to the Emperor, decides to carry on. What then happens to his Praetorian Escort leaves him in a damaged ship with the princess.

The book is set in Jon's new life on Terra Nova a flashes back 5 years to their adventures.
The book is great fun with a handsome and noble hero and eventually two ladies who wish he was theirs. (This part does not detract from the adventures). A thoroughly good read - I have already bought part 2!
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on 23 October 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was much better than the usual free Kindle books. I am tempted enough that I will probably buy the next book though I have a sinking feeling that it will not be a happy ever after ending. Really refreshing to find a writer who can create a fantasy world and populate it with believable characters. The central romance storyline seems somehow secondary to the rest of the plot and is developed without the usual unbelievable "perfect" couple theme so prevalent in many books today. Even this old romance-cynic enjoyed it. I recommend you give Mike Smith a try - you have nothing to lose on Kindle free books.
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on 10 May 2014
OK lets start with the fact that I enjoyed the read.

I liked the Humour, the action and the Characters. The Creation of a new Roman Empire gives a firm foundation and instantly allows you to understand the rivalries and loyalties between the different groups.

We also have that developing white knight love theme.
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