Arrow, 2011. ISBN 978-1-8480-9016-3. 540 pages.
Third in the Forgotten Legion trilogy, The Road to
Rome is set in Egypt, Asia Minor, North Africa and in 48 to 44 BC, against the background of the Roman civil wars and the plot against Julius Caesar. Caesar, Decimus Brutus* and Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) are important secondary characters, and various other Roman senators and military officers have minor parts. The main characters are fictional. Rome
The Road to Rome is the third book in the trilogy that began with The Forgotten Legion (reviewed here earlier), describing Romulus’ adventures with Crassus’ ill-fated invasion of Parthia and then serving the Parthians in Central Asia, and continued in The Silver Eagle (reviewed here earlier) as Romulus fights battles in India and joins a wild beast hunter procuring animals for the Roman arena in East Africa. Like the first two, The Road to
is a larger-than-life all-action adventure. The narrative cuts back and forth between the storylines involving the different lead characters, and every chapter ends on a cliffhanger with one or more of the main characters facing deadly peril. It reminded me of an action film in book form. Rome
Caesar’s campaigns in the civil war provide the opportunity for numerous graphic blow-by-blow battle scenes, especially in the first two-thirds of the book where
Romulus is fighting with Caesar’s legions across Roman North Africa and Asia Minor. Readers who want to imagine fighting scythe-wheeled chariots or battle elephants will find much to enjoy. A wild beast fight against a rhinoceros in the arena provides another spectacular set-piece action sequence. In the last third or so of the book, the scene switches to and the conspiracy against Caesar. Even in Rome , street brawls and gang warfare provide plenty of scope for violent action. Rome
A big plus for me was that there seemed to be much less mysticism in The Road to
than in the previous two books (especially The Silver Eagle, which I thought tipped over into historical fantasy). The characters believe in gods and omens, and Mithraism is present as a sort of first-century freemasonry, but there is little in the way of actual supernatural events. Another big plus for me was that although the civil wars lasted four years, the book doesn’t artificially compress events, instead making use of the ‘Three months later’ technique to skip over time periods that are not directly related to the plot. Rome
The book is written in modern English, e.g. Fabiola thinks of Marcus Antonius as ‘…an alpha male from his head to his toes….’, with a sprinkling of Latin terms. Readers unfamiliar with the period may like to bookmark the useful glossary at the back of the book that explains the Latin terms. I only found the glossary after I finished the book, although that didn’t matter as I found I either recognised the terminology or could work it out from context.
A map at the front shows Europe and Asia, though oddly it doesn’t show the locations of some of
Romulus’ important battles such as and Ruspina. A helpful Author’s Note summarises some of the underlying history and explains where fictional events and characters have been slotted in. Most of the plot threads from the preceding instalments have been resolved by the end, though one question remains open and there may be potential for another adventure (though not for all of the characters) in the future. Thapsus
All-action historical adventure set against the background of the civil wars and the plot to assassinate Caesar in first-century
*A relative of Marcus Brutus, of ‘Et tu Brute?’ fame, who also makes an appearance as a minor character.