The Crossroads Brotherhood by Robert Fabbri
Review by Jacqui Slaney
Having enjoyed the Vespasian series so far and enjoyed the character of Magnus, when I saw the novella it was an easy choice to make to read it.
This is the description:
The prequel to Robert Fabbri's bestselling VESPASIAN: TRIBUNE OF ROME. Starring characters from the series, this novella delves into Rome's criminal underworld Rome 25 AD. Marcus Salvius Magnus, Patron of the Crossroads Brotherhood, has a problem. In fact, he has two. A rival Brotherhood has raided one of the brothels under his protection, and valuable... merchandise... has been stolen. He can't lose face and let the attack go unpunished, but how can he retaliate without igniting a gang war? At the other end of the social spectrum, Lady Antonia - the emperor's sister-in-law - has let has let Senator Gaius Vespasius Pollo know that she has a score that only blood will settle, and Magnus owes the Senator a favour. Now, a simple assassination wouldn't be a problem for a man like Magnus, but the instruction is that this death has to be a little more... inventive... than the usual knife-in-the-back-in-a-dark-alley. Perhaps the Patronus of the Crossroads Brotherhood can kill two birds with one stone?
I am wary of prequels, as they quite often do not add anything to the existing series. This one is slightly different though as it involves not the lead character but one of main supporting ones.
I had always found the character of Magnus to be enjoyable, a bit more rough and ready then the wellborn Vespasian, and though he was first seen in the series offering protection for a reasonable price, this was the only sight that reader really got of this side of the life in Rome.
Here you see him as the leader of the Brotherhood, sort of like the Godfather, being approached for help by people who look to him for protection against rivals. As the description states, the rivalry is over a brothel and not one where men go to see women.
He is faced with a problem of how to help his own people and please a senator who is working for the emperor’s sister in a matter of murder, and use an enemy’s spy that has been placed in his own house. He and his men work out that all these problems could be dealt with at once, so that to formulate a devious plan.
The story is not for the faint hearten or the squeamish, there is violence and quite violent death, but is still an enjoyable read (realised that actually makes me sound quite bloodthirsty!).
The writing is fast paced and does not take long to read, but it is a good introduction to the series as a whole and I would recommend it.
9 out 10