Hammer of Rome: Gaius Valerius Verrens 9

Written by Douglas Jackson
Review by Clare Lehovsky

Hammer of Rome is the final novel of the Gaius Valerius Verrens series, legate of the Ninth legion Hispania and a Hero of Rome. Valerius is determined to raise his legion’s reputation and win success in Britain against the forces of the Brigantes, in spite of governor Agricola’s quest to achieve sole glory for himself. Valerius is trying to defeat Calgacus, ‘The Swordsman’, otherwise known as King Cathal of the Brigantes. The legate is mindful of the attacks against himself and his family from the new Emperor of Rome, Domitian, who achieved power by having his brother Titus poisoned and is now striking out at his enemies, starting with Gaius Valerius Verrens.

Jackson is successful in bringing both his fictional and true characters to life in his use of public and private life in both Rome and Britain. By doing this, he brings out the real personalities of army officials and tribes people living, working and dying on the Northern frontier of the Roman Empire. The suspense of each skirmish or battle is palpable; the author helps us understand what is at stake for King Cathal’s people if the formidable swordsman loses: complete subjugation under foreign leaders who are determined to take away their power, culture and identity.