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Robert Fabbri
Vespasian VII, the continuing tale of the rise of Emperor Vespasian. This part of the series finds Vespasian in more of a political role than that of out and out soldier. The book is basically in two parts with our hero having to duck and hide while Nero bullies, murders, assaults at will the people of Rome while keeping the ruling classes on their toes with the occasional execution! While a necessary part of his story I found the political backstabbing bits a bit exasperating, showing this man who would stand up to anyone on the battlefield, hiding behind the skirts of his lover and putting his trust in other politicians. It is well written and describes life on the Forum very well but I prefer the scenes of Vespasian leading his Roman legions.

The second part of this book therefore is the bit I prefer, taking me back to my ‘comfort zone’ Vespasian goes to Britain, ostensibly to ensure that loans laid out by his Patron are called in before the Emperor calls in all loans, thus reducing their worth. The Iceni tribe under Boudicca are insulted by one of the Roman rulers in Britain with Boudicca being wiped and her daughters raped by Roman soldiers in front of the tribe. This sets off a rebellion in which Boudicca sacks the East of England down to London, burning all north of the River Thamesis to the ground, killing all Romans and their slaves.

The Roman commander in Britain, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, notes the strengths of the rebelling Iceni and sends for help, which is not forthcoming. He therefore decides on a fighting withdrawal, luring them onto ground of his choosing. There follows what we now call the Battle of Watling Street.

This is where Fabbri excels, the description of this battle, the use of the Legions in a tight controlled space and Vespasian’s role in this are fascinating that at times it is difficult to believe that this is fiction, albeit based on fact. The Romans thrashed the Britons killing tens of thousands, forcing them back onto their own wagon train giving them no scope to use their usual brutal crushing charges. For the loss of only a few Legionaries, the Romans beat the Britons seeing off the majority of their fighting men and putting down the rebellion for all time. Boudicca is last seen riding off in her chariot and later kills herself. Vespasian is then sent to seek out the commander of the Roman legions in south west Britain who refused to come to Paulinus’ aid to invite him to fall on his own sword for cowardice, which he does. Pretty harsh TACOS for Roman officers in those days!

And all of this came about because of greed and the want for more money; plus ca change ...!

Overall a cracking book which improved greatly, for me, when it reached the action stages. If you have been following the Vespasian series by Fabbri, and I suggest you do, then this is a must read addition which just leaves me looking for the next book in line.

4 Mr MRHs from me.
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