Avenger of Rome is the third book in Doug Jackson’s series to feature the hero Gaius Valerius Verrens.
The Eastern Empire is in flames, Judea as risen up in rebellion and slaughtered its Roman garrison and the Parthian Empire, sensing Roman weakness has set it sights on placing its own puppet ruler on the buffer state of Armenia. Only one man can stop the Parthians, General Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo. Adored by his legions he has a plan to smash the power of Parthia once and for all. If he fails then the whole of the Eastern Empire could be lost.
In Rome, Corbulo is viewed with suspicion by the Nero and his court. He is too popular with the people and too powerful with the legions at his back, will he make an attempt for the throne? With Nero descending into madness and paranoia the Emperor needs someone to spy on and report back any treacherous actions or thoughts by Corbulo and his officers, that man is Gaius Valerius Verrens the Hero of Rome.
Valerius, our reluctant spy is sent out to the east as Corbulo’s second in command. With his mission compromised before he even leaves Rome, Valerius must contend with Pirate attacks, shipwreaks, Mutiny, hostile officers and the beautiful Domitia, Corbulo’s headstrong daughter. If he survives all that is thrown at him then he still has to survive Corbulo’s plan to defeat Parthia and the paranoia of Nero and his cronies.
I have to say right off that I am a huge fan of Doug Jackson’s Valerius series and this is the best of the series so far. After the more political settings of Defender of Rome it is good to see Valerius back where he belongs, leading troops and fighting Rome’s enemies. This isn’t to say that Jackson has completely jettisoned the political story. Between battles and fights we follow Nero and his court as fear and suspicion leads Nero to ever more brutal methods to maintain his tenuous grip on power and as madness grips him even his closest advisers start looking over their shoulders.
The main strength of this book are the battles scenes, Jackson writes them on an epic scale and the battle between Rome and Parthia is no exception. Throughout the book, the battles scenes are written with a pace and a realism and makes them very enjoyable to read. Valerius is a great character and he has a great supporting cast and I’m hoping Domitia is a character that sticks around.
This is a seriously good book and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series and as we edge ever closer to 69AD and the year of the 4 Emperors. It will be interesting to see where the author takes Valerius in this troubling time.