False God of Rome- Vespasian III by Robert Fabbri
Review by Jacqui Slaney
I did not intent to read this instalment in the series so quickly. However, after enjoying the second and not wanting to read a fantasy book quite so soon after thoroughly enjoying the last one I read (author of which kindly lets me review books on his site- it’s a brilliant book by the way and I thoroughly recommend it!). I thought I would just give in and read this one.
Vespasian is serving as a military officer on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, suppressing local troubles and defending the Roman way. However, political events in Rome - Tiberius' increasingly insane debauchery, the escalating grain crisis - draw him back to the city. When Caligula becomes Emperor, Vespasian believes that things will improve. Instead, he watches his leader deteriorate from Rome's shining star to a blood-crazed, profligate madman. Lavish building projects, endless games, public displays of his incestuous relationship with his sister, Drusilla, and a terrified senate are as nothing to Caligula's most ambitious plan: to bridge the bay of Neapolis and ride over it wearing Alexander's breastplate. And it falls to Vespasian to make the long journey to Alexandria to steal the legendary armour. Vespasian's mission will lead to violence, mayhem and murder - and in the end, to a betrayal so great it will echo through the ages...
This book right from the start is excellent, Vespasian is now a junior senator serving in the dusty outskirts of the empire when he is asked to go out to rescue a Roman citizen who it appears has vanished into the desert and captured by slavers. The request is from an attractive woman, so Vespasian agrees with the idea that this woman may end up extremely grateful to him. There is violence and bloodshed as Vespasian battles tribes, sandstorms and wild animals.
Later he returns to Rome, where Tiberius dies and Caligula becomes emperor. Vespasian quickly sees what Caligula has become in the six years since he last saw him and over the coming days sees this madness become even worse. There is a great bit when Caligula recovering from an illness confronts a senator who promised the gods his life in return for the emperors’ – I will leave it to you to imagine what the outcome was!
The author has really now got into his stride with his writing. The dialogue between the characters works well, especially between Magnus and Vespasian and the plot is fast paced with plenty of action. As you can imagine some of the scenes regarding Caligula and his actions are not for the faint hearted, but anything about this emperor is going to be bloody so it is to be expected.
Vespasian in this book is shown to be a real character that has dropped many of his lofty ideals, as he now knows the reality of living in this world. At times he is not proud of his actions- especially when he realises that he caused men to die just on the possibility of bedding a woman. He takes bribes and though appalled by Caligula, he and his family become sycophantic towards him just so they can survive.
To me this book is the best so far in the series, in the first two books there was always something that could have been improved, with stilted characters or just a slow start to the book. Here though these faults have been corrected I am pleased to say and the reader now has an engrossing book to enjoy
9 out of 10