Vespasian: Tribune of Rome by Robert Fabbri
Review by Jacqui Slaney
One advantage of being off work is that you can catch up on books that have been sitting in your reading pile for a while. This one, I bought a while ago, and as it sounded promising, I purchased the sequel (you can tell how long I had this book) as well.
This is the description:
"ONE MAN Born in rural obscurity ONE DESTINY to become one of Rome's greatest Emperors 26 AD: Sixteen-year-old Vespasian leaves his family farm for Rome, his sights set on finding a patron and following his brother into the army. However, he discovers a city in turmoil and an Empire on the brink. The aging emperor Tiberius is in seclusion on Capri, leaving Rome in the iron grip of Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard. Sejanus is ruler of the Empire in all but name, but many fear that is not enough for him. Sejanus' spies are everywhere - careless words at a dinner party can be as dangerous as a barbarian arrow. Vespasian is totally out of his depth, making dangerous enemies (and even more dangerous friends - like the young Caligula) and soon finds himself ensnared in a conspiracy against Tiberius. With the situation in Rome deteriorating, Vespasian flees the city to take up a position as tribune in an unfashionable legion on the Balkan frontier. Even here, rebellion is in the air and unblooded and inexperienced, Vespasian must lead his men in savage battle with hostile mountain tribes. Vespasian will soon realize that he can't escape Roman politics any more than he can escape his destiny..."
As you have probably noticed, lately I have been reading quite a few books about the Roman Empire, all different times and all very different in style.
This one shows Vespasian’s early days long before he became well known and details his childhood experiences, how he joined the army and his discovery of the danger of Roman politics.
I read some reviews about this book and there is a very strange split of opinion, the majority of people seem to love it, but a few seem to think it is the worse thing ever printed. I must admit after reading 50 shades I take a lot of reviews with a pinch of salt, they are not helpful and find fault with strange things such as typos from books being put into the E-book format, which is really noting to do with how good the book itself was.
Having thoroughly enjoyed the Anthony Riches and Simon Scarrow novels, I was genuinely a bit doubtful if this series could be as good, this book after all was a debut novel, so I half expected to be disappointed especially with some of those negative reviews at the back of my mind but I need not have worried though.
The style of writing shows some inexperience, especially at the start, but this does improve as it goes on. Characters are not quite as developed as you would like, but again this is a debut novel and the first in a series, so this is not unexpected. Vespasian is well described as is his relationship with his brother, his man Magnus is a great character who I really liked, I also found the dialogue between characters grow more natural by the end of the book.
The plot maybe a little far fetched at times, in-depth conversations about power struggles in front of naïve youths did seem a little odd, but I still found the story enjoyable as there is plenty of action to keep the reader entertained with fights, chases and battles, not to mention the politics of the day.
So I would recommend this book, yes it starts a little rough, but I have high hopes for the series as a whole.
7 out of 10