Sword of Rome

Written by Douglas Jackson
Review by Nancy Henshaw

‘I am a soldier.’ This is the answer Valerius gives to himself and others. A young but scarred veteran who has lost his right hand in the service of Rome, he still has few equals in combat in battle at close quarters; as a commander his strategy is clear-sighted and his tactics are quick-thinking. In the hectic days following the death of Nero, Valerius is ready to serve Rome and the new Emperor. But who is it? Galba, Otho and Vitellius are an unimpressive trio willing to let loose the unsparing slaughter of civil war. Valerius has a talent for turning forlorn hope into triumph. His comrade, ex-gladiator Serpentius, survivor of a hundred fights, is sly, savage and pitiless. They are a formidable team. But Valerius has unwittingly acquired an enemy, Claudius Victor of the Batavian wolf pack, who is determined to see Valerius doomed to prolonged torment and begging for death.

This splendid book wonderfully clarifies the first part of the so-called ‘Year of The Four Emperors’, and readers are led every mile travelled by his valiant hero, from squelching through bogs to burial by avalanche. The thrilling siege of Placentia shows Valerius displaying his unconventional talents. There is an alluring magnificence in the sight of Roman legions in battle formation, but nothing is spared by this author of ruined countryside where burned and rotting flesh demonstrate the reality of war.