Rome’s Executioner (Vespasian) by Robert Fabbri
Review by Jacqui Slaney
As I mentioned in my review on book one, I actually bought this one before starting the series, just based on the product description. Luckily, the first book turned out to be enjoyable so started this one with some enthusiasm.
A hero forged in battle. A legend born.
Thracia, AD30: Even after four years military service at the edge of the Roman world, Vespasian cannot escape the tumultuous politics of an Empire on the brink of disintegration. His patrons in Rome have charged him with the clandestine extraction of an old enemy from a fortress on the banks of the Danube before it falls to the Roman legion besieging it.
Vespasian's mission is the key move in a deadly struggle for the right to rule the Roman Empire. The man he has been ordered to seize could be the witness that will destroy Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard and ruler of the Empire in all but name.
Before he completes his mission, Vespasian will face ambush in snowbound mountains, pirates on the high seas, and Sejanus's spies all around him. However, by far the greatest danger lies at the rotten heart of the Empire, at the nightmarish court of Tiberius, Emperor of Rome and debauched, paranoid madman.
We find the main character Vespasian, changed from the first book, gone is the inexperienced youth, now he is a Tribune in the Roman army and has become skilled in fighting and in leading men. He still has Magnus, looking after him and is looking to return to Rome so that he can further his career.
His brother Sabinus is less of a background character as well in this one and it is interesting to see the interaction between the brothers with Sabinus trying to be the older more experienced brother, while knowing that the auspices of Vespasian’s birth showed that he has a great future.
The story here revolves around the destruction of Sejanus and stopping him from becoming the next Emperor and shows that Antonia- the character of whom is more developed as well in this instalment will stop at nothing in her aim to do this.
There is a lot of action with fights both on land and sea, and of smaller conflicts with attacks on the households of Antonia’s supporters. One of which involves a quite gruesome description of the damage lampreys can do to flesh- though having seen this recently in a programme I was watching on Sky, I think reading about it was actually worse.
This book does not have the slow start of the first, which shows that the author has become more skilled and confident in his writing. It is fast paced and has more of a plot line and shows to a great degree the ruthlessness and blood bath that was normal Roman politics.
The author describes well the intrigue that has developed around Tiberius due to the type of emperor that he has become and the excesses that he indulges in and you start to see what Caligula will also become in the future.
I still found some of the dialogue a little stilted at times between the different characters, but overall this is a much better book than the first and I look forward to reading more of the series.
8 out of 10