Avenger of Rome

Written by Douglas Jackson
Review by Gordon O'Sullivan

Following on from Defender of Rome, Gaius Valerius Verrens, Hero of Rome in Avenger of Rome, is drawn further into the political maelstrom surrounding the Emperor Nero. The commander of the Praetorian Guard, Tigellinus, encourages Nero to believe that Rome’s greatest General, Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo covets the Imperial throne for himself. Corbulo commands the legions in the East and certainly has the ability, the popularity and the military might to topple Nero but is he a traitor? Verrens is sent by the Emperor to the East to discover the truth and to kill Corbulo if he is found to be disloyal. When he arrives in Antioch after a very eventful journey, however, Verrens sees that Corbulo is in fact more concerned with stopping the Parthian King, Vologases, from overwhelming the entire Eastern empire. While Verrens fights alongside Corbulo to save the empire from ruin, he must choose between completing his mission and incurring the deadly fury of his Emperor.

As with his previous novels, Douglas Jackson is in his element when writing of battles and bloodshed on a grand scale. He deals with multiple points of view with impressive facility, never lets the pace slacken while keeping the combat itself seemingly realistic. In addition, however, he is a thoughtful storyteller who adroitly balances these set piece battles with equally dangerous political intrigue whilst convincing in both arenas.

What sets Avenger of Rome apart from its predecessors, however, is its characterization, which is unusually strong for this type of historical novel. The characters of Corbulo and his daughter Domitia, for example, are extremely well written and at times threaten to put even Verrens in the shade.

This is an excellent book, the best in the series so far and warmly recommended.