Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Book Review - The Forgotten Legion

The Forgotten Legion (The Forgotten Legion Chronicles) - by Ben Kane

The Forgotten Legion

By Jacqui Slaney

I found this book when browsing for something new to read. I really enjoy reading about ancient Rome, though normally it is about the army or about the rulers of Rome so the description of this one caught my eye:

Romulus and Fabiola are twins, born into slavery after a drunken nobleman rapes their mother. At thirteen years old they are sold - Romulus to gladiator school, Fabiola into prostitution, where she will catch the eye of one of the most powerful men in Rome. Tarquinius is an Etruscan, a warrior and soothsayer, born enemy of Rome, but doomed to fight for the Republic in the Forgotten Legion. Brennus is a Gaul, his entire family killed by the Romans, and he rises to become one of the most famous and feared gladiators of his day. The lives of these characters are bound and interwoven in an odyssey, which begins in a Rome riven by political corruption and violence, but ends far away, at the very border of the known world, where the tattered remnants of a once-huge Roman army - the Forgotten Legion - will fight against overwhelming odds, and the three men will meet their destiny.
As I said most of the books, I have recently read such as the Simon Scarrow series are set in the army and revolve round the officers and elite of Roman society. This novel is different though, you see a different side of Rome, the less glamorous side. The characters are different; they are from the lower classes and are the ones who actually make the Roman society work, you also get a different perspective on the wealthy nobles.  

You have four main characters in the story: Romulus and Fabiola, taken away from their mother at a young age, Fabiola is sold into prostitution and Romulus to a gladiator school. They are the children of a slave who was raped by a noble, now this man is not named but the clues become obvious as the story goes on, which is a good sub plot. There is Brennus who becomes one of the best gladiators in the school and befriends Romulus. The two of them are then forced through events to join the army where they meet Tarquinius the soothsayer who has visions of the future.

Each of these characters is introduced individually so have their own part before the different lines of the story come together. It sounds confusing, but thanks to the skilful writing, you do not become confused. The characters are given depth and their own history, so the reader can identify with their actions and keep track of what has happened to each of them.
Fabiola is one of my favourite characters, it would be easy to assume that she would be a weak add on character, mentioned only now and then, especially when the three male characters stories all join up. However, the author does not do that, he makes Fabiola strong and her story interesting. The description of the brothel and the characters of the women and men there are entertaining.

The history of the time is very accurate and there is plenty of action, very well described with the battles of Crassus in Parthia.

Through the excellent writing, you get a real feel of what the legions went through and the horrors of the desert.

This is a new author, and it is a worthy debut. The characters are enjoyable and seem real so you actually care about them and the plot is fast paced and holds your attention. I read this book quickly, and though I would normally wait before going on to book two I have also read that, which I will shortly review as well.

 10 out of 10