The Tyrant is dead. The Emperor Nero, after his bloody excesses has been declared an outlaw by the senate. Not wishing to be taken alive, he takes his own life thus ending the Julio/Claudian line.
Galba’s reign is short lived as he forgoes the option of paying his troop a bonus to getting him the throne and worse of all he makes an enemy of Otho, who promptly has Galba killed and takes the throne for himself.
In the middle of this whirlpool of politics and danger is our hero Valerius. Sworn to Otho but friends with the next pretender to the throne, Vitellius his loyalty is tested to the limits and Valerius knows that his life hangs in the balance.
Known to everyone for his bravery and loyalty and as a Hero of Rome, Valerius is the ideal man to attempt to make peace between Otho and Vitellius.
Getting to Vitellius to make the offer won’t be that easy. With his trusted servant Serpentius as company, they must travel across a land scared by war and mistrust already.
To make matters even more complicated, someone from Valerius’s past is out for revenge and only his painful and bloody death will do.
As matters move to their climatic end has Valerius backed the right man? Can he survive the upcoming battle and his revengeful enemy?
Whatever happens, Valerius knows he is the Sword of Rome.
I have been a huge fan of Douglas Jackson’s Valerius series since reading the first book Hero of Rome in 2010. I would defy anyone to find a better series set in the Roman period.
Douglas Jackson is a master of his craft and he has assembled a cast of characters that over the four books you learn to admire and truly care for.
Valerius for example is written as close to what I feel a true Roman officer would feel and think than in any other book I have read. He is kind and generous to his friends, has a tender side that we see with his dealing with his sister and Dominta but at the same time can be utterly ruthless and is capable of serious violence when he needs to. Killing and maiming are a necessary evil to achieve his aims.
In all of Douglas Jackson’s book there seems to me to be a theme that runs throughout the book. In Hero of Rome it was self sacrifice. How willing were the characters prepared to go to defend their way of life and their loved ones.
In Defender of Rome it seemed to be about power. How absolute power could corrupt and twist your view of your surrounding and the people around you but also how the power of religion could make people withstand the worst taht could be done to them.
In Avenger of Rome it seemed to be about how far were you prepared to go when ordered to do something you didn’t believe in. Would you commit an act that you thought wrong to save your own skin?
With this book the theme is loyalty and how far are you willing to go for that loyalty. Does loyalty to your friend outweigh your loyalty to your emperor? Does loyalty mean you stay to the very end even though it could mean death for you and everyone you care for?
This is what I love about these books. They explore in great detail what each theme does to Valerius and the agony he goes though as he tries to satisfy his honour as well as his duty.
This book also has one of Douglas Jackson’s trademark epic set pieces and in fact in this book we are treated to two. With a siege and a battle we really are spoilt and if you have read my previous reviews of the Authors book you will know just how could these can be.
This book will easily make my top five books of 2013 and I highly recommend the whole series.
Publisher: Transworld Books
Year of release: 2013