Defender of Rome

Written by Douglas Jackson
Review by Gordon O'Sullivan

Gaius Valerius Verrens returns to Rome from the campaigns against the Britons a changed man. He is a Hero of Rome but remains disfigured mentally and physically by the bloodshed he has seen on the battlefield. Seeking refuge in his family, instead he finds his disgraced sister is mortally ill and his father disappeared into exile. And worse, Rome is in turmoil, with the Emperor Nero seeing enemies in every shadow and fixated on a new religious sect that he seeks to obliterate. Nero nominates Valerius as a Defender of Rome, and orders him to capture the leader of these followers of Christus, a man known as Petrus. Failure will mean not only his death and that of his family but the deaths of the 20,000 Judeans living in Rome. As Valerius begins his search, a task that will take into the subterranean world of the city and bring him into terrible danger, can he rekindle his faith, his faith in himself, to save these innocents from the evils of his emperor?

Defender of Rome is a book that handles its action and political intrigue in an equally impressive manner. Its combat scenes are pacy and gripping while remaining technically accurate, and the political landscape is subtly but clearly drawn, enabling Douglas Jackson to ramp up the tension when Nero in particular appears. The decision to use multiple viewpoints is especially useful in gaining a panoramic view of events. The characterisation is also very strong with almost all the minor characters clamouring for your attention when they cross your path.

This was an excellent read and warmly recommended.