There seems to be a plethora of books with a Roman history theme going about and if that is your type of reading material then you must be very happy! This book is the third in a series about Gaius Valerius Verrens, Hero of Rome. It is a cracker of a tale and takes the reader directly to the heart of politics in the times of Emperor Nero.
Verrens is summoned to Rome to meet the Emperor’s henchman, Paulinus where he is promoted and sent as second in command to General Corbulo who is defending the Empire’s borders against the Parthians. Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo is a real figure from history and this story has been written round what is known about him and the battles he fought. At the time he was Rome’s most famous and successful General – enough to raise the jealousies of other men and the fear of the Emperor. Our hero’s task is to report back on General Corbulo, especially if there are any negative things to report, such as treachery and treason. Not the sort of task Verrens is used to but saying ‘No’ to an emperor in Roman times was not a path to longevity.
He travels to his new position by sea in the company of the General’s daughter and on the way are attacked by pirates and shipwrecked on a desert shoreline. With the help of a young Tribune being sent out to learn his trade in the army Verrens keeps the party alive and together. Following mutiny by the crew which is violently quashed, the party are rescued by the son of General Vespasian and taken to the General’s headquarters in Alexandria. Here Verrens discovers that his secondary role as spy on Corbulo is more or less general knowledge thus placing him in more danger.
Verrens eventually reaches the headquarters of General Corbulo and, although everyone knows his task, he is accepted by the General for what he is as Corbulo says he is loyal to the Emperor and to Rome so there is nothing to hide! Anyway, the background to all this is the fact that the Parthians have two kings, brothers. One of whom is currently in Rome pledging allegiance to Rome while the other, back home, is planning to take control of his brother’s kingdom and thus all of Parthia. Corbulo ‘s job is to stop this happening whilst giving up parts of his army to help put down a resurrection in Judea assisting General Vespasian in this. So Corbulo is under strength, shows things don’t change all that much with time! He makes his plans, including a vital task for Verrens who is to lead a holding force to hold and contain the advancing Parthian army until General Corbulo’s main force can join them. By now Verrens has realised that General Corbulo is a loyal man and an excellent General and determines to put that in his report. However, politics and the truth are often not bedfellows and more intrigue is at hand.
The author does say in his historical notes that he has taken a bit of licence with General Corbulo but that the overall theme is historically accurate. The scenes of battle and how Roman infantry, cavalry and artillery worked are extremely well done and the battle scenes are very descriptive, taking the reader right into the centre of the line. The tactics of how Legions worked with each other is well shown also and this book is worth reading just for the battle scenes themselves. There is plenty of blood and gore in this novel, but it is not there to fill in parts of the story, it is an integral part of life as a Roman soldier.
If you like Roman themed stories then this is an excellent book for you to get and read. It is descriptive, gripping in the telling and easy to read; it did not take me long to get through this book as it was hard to put down. Written into the story are twists and turns, political intriguing and historical events. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a good book based on the fighting man, be it Roman or modern. When it comes to face-to-face, I doubt the modern fighter is any different from the Roman or Parthian of old.
4 out of 5 Mr MRHs.
Auld-Yin Avenger of Rome
by Douglas Jackson published by Bantam Press Ltd Click here to buy from Amazon