The Racing Factions by Robert Fabbri
Review by Jacqui Slaney
Having read all the current books in the Vespasian series and enjoyed them, I bought this novella without hesitation. The racing teams are mentioned a great deal by Magnus in the stories especially his favourites the Greens, so it was good to read a story about them.
This is the description:
Marcus Salvius Magnus is a fanatical supporter of the Green Racing Faction and expects a wager to be honoured. Although he does not presume honesty from anyone, he does believe that a bookmaker at the Circus Maximus should record each bet scrupulously and pay the full amount due. However, Ignatius, the bookmaker, is foolish enough to attempt to cheat Magnus out of his winnings, incurring not only his wrath but that also of the South Quirinal Crossroads Brotherhood of which Magnus is the leader. In the shady realm of Rome's underworld Magnus will use the full resources of his criminal fraternity to exact appropriate vengeance. However, Magnus also has a problem: his patron, Gaius Vespasius Pollo, is attempting to get his nephew, Sabinus, elected as a quaestor. To do this he feels that the support of the senior consul, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, would be more than useful. He asks Magnus to ease the consul - a man known for his extreme violence - in the right direction. Ahenobarbus has a passion: the Red Faction at the circus. Could it be that Magnus might wash two tunics in the same tub, bringing Ignatius down and securing Ahenobarbus' support by attempting to fix a chariot race in a manner that has never been done before?
Again, like the last novella, the main characters are Magnus and his crossroad brotherhood. Magnus is an amusing character in the main series, and I have really liked reading the back-story that the writer has created for him.
In this story, you find Magnus successful in a win at the races but when going to collect his winnings, he finds himself cheated by his bookmaker. Definitely not the smartest thing to do you would think against a group such as the brotherhood, but the bookmaker thinks he is untouchable, wrong! What follows is an elaborate plan of revenge, which assists Magnus’s patron as it unfolds and so helps Magnus even more.
This is not a long story, it’s quick and fun to read, but you get a real taste of the Romans enjoyment of these races and the joy and fury that they lead to.
Read this is if you have tried some of the other Vespasian books and definitely if you are new to the series as these novellas are a great introduction to some very good writing skills.
8 out of 10