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The Last Caesar: Roman Historical Fiction

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AD 68. The tyrant emperor Nero has no son and no heir. Suddenly there's the very real possibility that Rome might become a republic once more. But the ambitions of a few are about to bring corruption, chaos and untold bloodshed to the many. Among them is a hero of the campaign against Boudicca, Aulus Caecina Severus. Caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow Caesar's dynasty, AD 68. The tyrant emperor Nero has no son and no heir. Suddenly there's the very real possibility that Rome might become a republic once more. But the ambitions of a few are about to bring corruption, chaos and untold bloodshed to the many. Among them is a hero of the campaign against Boudicca, Aulus Caecina Severus. Caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow Caesar's dynasty, he commits treason, raises a rebellion, faces torture and intrigue - all supposedly for the good of Rome. The boundary between the good of Rome and self preservation is far from clear, and keeping to the dangerous path he's chosen requires all Severus' skills as a cunning soldier and increasingly deft politician. And so Severus looks back on the dark and dangerous time history knows as the Year of the Four Emperors, and the part he played - for good or ill - in plunging the mighty Roman empire into anarchy and civil war...


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AD 68. The tyrant emperor Nero has no son and no heir. Suddenly there's the very real possibility that Rome might become a republic once more. But the ambitions of a few are about to bring corruption, chaos and untold bloodshed to the many. Among them is a hero of the campaign against Boudicca, Aulus Caecina Severus. Caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow Caesar's dynasty, AD 68. The tyrant emperor Nero has no son and no heir. Suddenly there's the very real possibility that Rome might become a republic once more. But the ambitions of a few are about to bring corruption, chaos and untold bloodshed to the many. Among them is a hero of the campaign against Boudicca, Aulus Caecina Severus. Caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow Caesar's dynasty, he commits treason, raises a rebellion, faces torture and intrigue - all supposedly for the good of Rome. The boundary between the good of Rome and self preservation is far from clear, and keeping to the dangerous path he's chosen requires all Severus' skills as a cunning soldier and increasingly deft politician. And so Severus looks back on the dark and dangerous time history knows as the Year of the Four Emperors, and the part he played - for good or ill - in plunging the mighty Roman empire into anarchy and civil war...

30 review for The Last Caesar: Roman Historical Fiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mieneke

    When in Rome... But in 68 AD Rome is far larger than the modern metropolis and there is a huge difference between the philosophical ideal of Rome and the reality of Rome, so doing what the Romans do has become far less attractive than it should have been. With all of what is wrong with Rome and Roman politics and society embodied in the latest heir of Julius Caesar to sit the throne, it is inevitable that before long a conspiracy rises to depose Nero and put a more deserving man on the throne, o When in Rome... But in 68 AD Rome is far larger than the modern metropolis and there is a huge difference between the philosophical ideal of Rome and the reality of Rome, so doing what the Romans do has become far less attractive than it should have been. With all of what is wrong with Rome and Roman politics and society embodied in the latest heir of Julius Caesar to sit the throne, it is inevitable that before long a conspiracy rises to depose Nero and put a more deserving man on the throne, one who'll take Rome back to what she should be. But who should sit that throne? In The Last Caesar we discover that that question isn't so easily answered and that which was given by the Senate and the legions, can just as quickly be taken away. The Last Caesar is told as a memoir by Aulus Caecina Severus or Caecina as he is known to his friends. It's not just a memoir, it's an apologia, written by Caecina to explain, and in some measure justify, his conduct during the events told in the book. As a consequence, he often breaks the fourth wall and addresses his reader directly. While I enjoyed these breaches, since they give glimpses of the older Caecina and his sense of self and humour, they might not work for everyone, especially if you're expecting a straight narration. Because this is written as a memoir, the book is told in first person, which lends the narrative an immediacy and intimacy that compensate for the lack of tension as regards the safety of our main character, since we know he'll survive whatever is thrown at him, as he's there to tell the story. Caecina is a likeable fellow, who balances his sense of honour and duty with a healthy dose of self-interest and isn't above playing the system, as is illustrated by his essentially committing fraud as a Quaestor to finance his later career, because it's the done thing. I especially enjoyed his time spent among Vindex's Gauls, in which his world is turned upside-down, not just by what he has to do, but by the realisation he's come to care for some of these 'barbarians', who in any other circumstance would have been either beneath his notice or his enemy. Caecina is surrounded by a varied cast of secondary characters, my favourites of which were Quintus Vindex, the old Vindex himself and Totavalas. Quintus is so young when Caecina first meets him and has to do so much growing up in a relatively short time. He turns into a good man, a loyal friend and a good leader and I loved seeing him grow. The older Vindex may not have been such a positive figure in the book, but I loved how Venmore-Rowland portrayed him as a man balancing between two cultures, wanting to belong to the new one and at the same time having a hard time letting go of the old. He's a man who desperately wants to be better than he is, to be capable of things he just can't manage and in trying to prove he can do them anyway makes some horrible decisions. Despite his actions, I don't think Venmore-Rowland portrays him as evil, just misguided and incompetent. Then again, there are many more people who will lose their lives to misguidedness and incompetence than to true evil. Totavalas just stole my heart with his dry humour and his unbreakable spirit. He seems so accepting of his fate as a slave, but at the same time he isn't afraid to speak his mind and contradict his master. Venmore-Rowland writes some very cool battle scenes, both using Roman tactics and Celtic/Gaul ones and deftly intertwines political strands with the straight-up military decisions. The Last Caesar is very much a political beast populated by politicians of both the honourable and the not-so-honourable kind. Politics in Rome were a life-and-death affair and seemingly never more so than in the period covered in The Last Caesar. So while I enjoyed Venmore-Rowland's battle scenes, it is in the political arena where this narrative shines. The book is filled with conspiracy, double-crosses, triple-crosses, betrayal and lies, but also with courage, friendship, loyalty and love. The author juggles all of these expertly, never dropping any of them and occasionally bringing elements back into play that completely change the pattern he's weaving in the air. My one gripe with the book was its ending. The story seems to end in medias res, though the cut-off point seems logical if this was the first of a sequence of books. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find out if this is the first in a series or whether it is a standalone. I do hope it's the first in a series as Caecina's story doesn't seem finished and I'd love to be able to return to the world of this novel. Venmore-Rowland has managed to write an engaging debut novel and I look forward to seeing how he grows in his craft, as this first taste is very promising. The Last Caesar is a book about Romans, but not Rome and I loved its focus on the edges of the Empire, even if these edges influenced the heart in a major way. If you've an interest in the Roman Empire, this is a historical novel well worth your time. This book was provided for review by the publisher as part of the Transworld Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Robin Carter

    Review of the book: This is a book I had been eagerly awaiting for, for a few months. The story is set in AD68 leading into AD69 the year of 4 Emperors an era the more you look at it the more amazed I am that it has not been written about. " The Year of the Four Emperors was a year in the history of the Roman Empire, AD 69, in which four emperors ruled in a remarkable succession. These four emperors were Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian." When ever you get a debut author there is always some tr Review of the book: This is a book I had been eagerly awaiting for, for a few months. The story is set in AD68 leading into AD69 the year of 4 Emperors an era the more you look at it the more amazed I am that it has not been written about. " The Year of the Four Emperors was a year in the history of the Roman Empire, AD 69, in which four emperors ruled in a remarkable succession. These four emperors were Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian." When ever you get a debut author there is always some trepidation in the purchase. Is this person good enough for my money, how does he stack up against the giants of the genre? is he the next Christian Cameron, Conn Iggulden, Ben Kane, Anthony Riches, Simon Scarrow, Douglas Jackson etc? All authors at the top of their game, but with unique differing styles. So how did Henry do? I will admit that at first I was worried, the style is very modern, there are no pretences to Latin vernacular in the book, this is very much told for a modern audience by a modern writer, and I know this is going to jar with a section of the historical fiction buyers market. BUT: The book quickly picks up its pace and the characters hit their stride very very fast. Its clear that the author knows his Romans and knows his locations. What you have to apply to the book is who wrote it, The author is 21, and wrote the majority at the age of 19, the list of established authors above are *cough* a little older *cough*. The age difference is apparent in the writing because this book is chock full of enthusiasm, a sort of breathless excitement at the subject and the era, and it soon comes across to the reader and sweeps you along with the plot. I found Caecina not only a likeable main character but someone who I could personally relate too, Totavalas the slave, a character that I think will really come to the fore in the next book, I just wish he had been a little more in the slave mold, I don't think he would have lasted long with many masters with his sardonic cocky attitude, but you have to accept these character types as part of the enthusiastic pace of the book and the writing slant of Henry Venmore-Rowland. Is there some innocent naivety to the writing? Yes for me there was, but a naivety of the market its being sold to. This genre is littered with people who will crucify an author for the cover art (usually they have little input into the cover, this article from Gollancz gives some very interesting insight into the cover process http://www.gollancz.co.uk/2012/03/emp... ) , they will also simply throw their arms in the air in mock / feigned and sometimes real disgust at the wrong buttons on a jacket, or a pilum being called a spear etc. Its a shame that so many readers cannot see the joy in a story well told with enthusiasm. Henry's writing will age and change and improve, how could it not, this is a person aged 21 at the start of a great and I hope long writing journey. Think on this, how many of the great authors named earlier were published at such a young age? None, and their books get better and better as they spend time in the writing world, learning from the editor and the fans and their peers, and become more widely traveled and life experienced, I'm a big believer in the " A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts": King James bible, the more we age the deeper and more rounded the thoughts. This book and the writing style is fresh, it felt like a blending of Historical Fiction and Action Thriller, both genres I love to read. So the big question, Do I recommend this book, should you part with your hard earned cash? Yes, very much recommended, We need to support new talent and as readers review and feedback and help this great talent grow, do our part as the reader, and I'm sure the author and the publisher will do theirs and give us many more fantastic reads, especially from Henry. (Parm)

  3. 5 out of 5

    Richard Myers

    Wonderful book A very well written historical novel about Rome’s emperors. Many of the characters in the book are real people who were in the places during that time. I recommend this book for everyone.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Codex Regius

    I really enjoyed that part about Mogontiacum, beginning with chapter XVI! "A dismal place" indeed - I assure you that it still is! Fortunately, that "someone" who "decided it was big enough to become the provincial capital" according to your story can be named: It was emperor Domitian, about 20 years after the story of this book is set. For, alas, in the time of your narrative, our land was not a province yet. And I have marvelled at the fortress gate at times in the same way as Severus does her I really enjoyed that part about Mogontiacum, beginning with chapter XVI! "A dismal place" indeed - I assure you that it still is! Fortunately, that "someone" who "decided it was big enough to become the provincial capital" according to your story can be named: It was emperor Domitian, about 20 years after the story of this book is set. For, alas, in the time of your narrative, our land was not a province yet. And I have marvelled at the fortress gate at times in the same way as Severus does here. That this gate did not exist in his time any more than the province did is but a minor detraction. Never mind. Back in 69 A.D., there was at least a wall of wood and earthwork around the "Castrum Mogontiacum, as it ought to be called". (It ought to be called Castra Mogontiacense, but actually, the locals referred to it as the Hiberna, or Winter Camp. But how would you know, since the relevant source text is available only in specialised literature and not in Wikipedia which you honour as your main reference?) But it is true that Severus had even then a "villa" at his disposal as he deserved by rank (they used to call it a "praetorium"), and he definitely had walls to climb on and look far at the "great German forest beyond the Rhine", which he does in chapter XVIII. I believe I am supposed to take offence here. You see, Henry, I am living in that German forest of yours. And I am afraid your poor Salonina will never forgive you that you deprived her of a visit to our thermal baths which had been very popular with the governors and generals of Mogontiacum (and their wifes). She might even have bought a set of Pilae Mattiacae in our township which had been our most requested commodity, known to everyone in Rome for its unique hair-colouring power. True, our region was not exactly pacified: a few months after the events in your book, our townspeople laid siege to Mogontiacum. But we were far from growing a great German forest in the Roman age. Our noble Aquae Mattiacorum was in a couple of respects a more civilised place than the dismal city of Mogontiacum! In short - investing a minimum of research might have done this book better.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Beorn

    A compelling read set around 'The Year Of The Four Emperors' or, as the author points out in the historical note at the rear of the book, the eighteen months of the five emperors. This reads with a style very reminiscent of how Angus Donald tackled Robin Hood in his Outlaw series only, obviously, with the action placed at least a thousand years earlier. You'll find yourself in the head of the main character who is portrayed as a little brash - as befits his station in society - but as far from coc A compelling read set around 'The Year Of The Four Emperors' or, as the author points out in the historical note at the rear of the book, the eighteen months of the five emperors. This reads with a style very reminiscent of how Angus Donald tackled Robin Hood in his Outlaw series only, obviously, with the action placed at least a thousand years earlier. You'll find yourself in the head of the main character who is portrayed as a little brash - as befits his station in society - but as far from cocksure or infallible as those with his social status are often portrayed as in Romani fiction. There isn't a great deal of all out bloodshed, brutal grit or swagger to this, it concentrates more on giving the often serpentine politics most of the limelight. There are battles that take place, insurrection and more, they just take far less prominence than they do in say a Conn Iggulden, Ben Kane or Anthony Riches book. Overall a solid, promising start as a debut novel for an author and the potential is undeniably there for some fantastic, captivating reads. I just hope that once this particular story concludes with the next book, this year's The Sword and the Throne, that the author is given the ability to stretch his wings with a further book or series afterward. It's by no means perfect or the kind of book I would instantly recommend to someone wanting to get into either historical fiction or the Roman sub-genre thereof but it was nonetheless a thoroughly enjoyable read and I already have the conclusion lined up as I type this.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    I am covering the whole duology in my review on The Sword and the Throne. One volume flows seamlessly into the next. I am covering the whole duology in my review on The Sword and the Throne. One volume flows seamlessly into the next.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Political intrigues and multiple personalities shape the destiny of Rome. A directory of people, positions, and backgrounds would have helped the reader to appreciate the multiple concerns addressed in the complex plot. Fast moving with broad sweeping decisions seem to lack adequate character development.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kenny

    Wow. This man actually wrote a good story for no other reason that there was never a boring part. Was he the best writer no. Was it the most descriptive no. Were the characters the most interesting no. Did I have a great time reading it yes. That’s all that matters and you won’t be disappointed with this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    James Backus

    Good read The plot was based on a point in history of Rome Post Nero where there were several emperors in a year. The main character is rounded out and is written almost from his point of view.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jay Chalmers

    A worthwhile read Kept me interested and eager for more. If you’re interested in the stories about Rome, I think you will find this book worth your time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jasper

    Originally posted at: http://thebookplank.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-last-caesar.html The Last Caesar is the debut of Henry Venmore-Rowland and also features as the first book in the Aulus Caecina Severus series. The Last Caesar is a work of historical fiction that takes place in the A.D. 68 in the last years of reign of Nero and the beginnings of the "Year of the Four Emperors". Historical fiction has always been a genre of my interest, it offers either retelling of historical events, but can in a Originally posted at: http://thebookplank.blogspot.com/2013/08/the-last-caesar.html The Last Caesar is the debut of Henry Venmore-Rowland and also features as the first book in the Aulus Caecina Severus series. The Last Caesar is a work of historical fiction that takes place in the A.D. 68 in the last years of reign of Nero and the beginnings of the "Year of the Four Emperors". Historical fiction has always been a genre of my interest, it offers either retelling of historical events, but can in alternate setting be re-imagined as well. The Last Caesar is based on the real historical events in Nero’s reign. Historical fiction always always inspire this feeling of grandness and how amazing the what-has-been is for me.The Last Caesar is no exception in this either. The first thing that falls to notice in The Last Caesar is how the main protagonist Aulus Caecina Severus is used and how the narration is done. The story in shown from the first person narration of Caecina as he is writing it down in a journal to shows what truly happened in history. The decision of showing the story in this way really made this book come a life for me. As Caecina is writing all the things that he done down in his journal, the brutal and viscous battlefield moments, the harsh times on the roads and the happy times with his family really gave a strong human and relatable feeling and feels like he somehow wants to make amends for things that he has done as well. To write in all a better understanding of the past events that shaped many histories. But the story doesn’t only follow the past re-tellings, there are also several moments when Caecina talks to you as a reader of his journal directly. These short moments further bolster his personality as they most went about how dire his current situation has become and that his life can be forfeit any moment. I was also very pleased by how the younger version of Caecina was shown. His story picks up in the battlefields of Britain and he comes out as a warhero. Being dedicated to the heart of the Roman Empire, Caecina shows the typical honor and valor that is expected of a soldier. Now that he gets another job on the continental side of Europe he is drawn in a vast conspiracy. In this latter part, Ceacina did show for me a bit of naivety that some of you might discard as dedication to his new cause. But there are some interesting things that will make the young warhero Caecina think twice about his actions. In using both the viewpoints of the older and younger Caecina to tell this story, Henry Venmore-Rowland has created a very captivating read. In the back of the book Henry Venmore-Rowland explains more about Caecina’s character and that he is was a real character but that most of his history, his origins remain obscure, this in turn made him a great protagonist to be used in The Last Caesar and, he known history can be used as well as his more imagined history. The storyline in The Last Caesar mainly revolves around the action of Caecina, even though he is not set out to be an emperor he does has a strong influence in several events that were set into motion. The Last Caesar mainly focuses on a more diplomatic and smaller scale approach in showing how the overthrowing of Nero came to pass. The happenings in Rome are hardly shown instead you have Caecina rising the rebel threat that forces a reaction of the Romans. Up to this point it was mostly dialogue and this wasn’t bad at all since it fitted spot on in the backdrop of the story. But it is not only talk and intrigue, there are actually quite some battle that really help to shape the storyline into a better whose. The Battle between the Gauls with Vindix against the Romans just captures the harshness and the superiority of the Romans in a perfect manner and that battling against them is most likely a lost cause… The mix of political affairs and the threat of battle really balance the whole story out to create an even more gripping read. From start to finish, The Last Caesar is an interesting and intriguing read, as soon as you have read the first words of the book your in for the whole. From writing style to the story, Henry Venmore-Rowland is on top of his game. The most impressive part for me was how Henry Venmore-Rowland used the main protagonist Caecina to, in fear off his own life, retell his story for going into the history books correctly. The whole way that The Last Caesar is written, in the first person narration with even an occasional mentioning that addresses the reader itself just shows that Henry Venmore-Rowland knows what he is doing and creates a very intense and engaging story. Showing first hand the harsh and brutal times of Caecina but also addressing the happy moments with his wife and son, just beautiful. The Last Caesar captures the Roman times spot on, from the viscous times on the road, bloody battles and rebellion, political intrigue and betrayal, it has it all. The second book in the series The Sword and the Throne was published last June 2013.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Speesh

    Is there room in the Roman market for another author writing fiction set in Ancient Rome? When you're as good as this, there is. When your name's as big as Henry Venmore-Rowland - you better create a lot of room. And he does, he has. Henry Venmore-Rowland (so good they named him thrice?) was a new author to me - and reading his biography and looking at his picture, he’s a new author to him as well! He is powerful young, that’s for sure. But, as James Aitcheson (Sworn Sword, Splintered Kingdom, Kni Is there room in the Roman market for another author writing fiction set in Ancient Rome? When you're as good as this, there is. When your name's as big as Henry Venmore-Rowland - you better create a lot of room. And he does, he has. Henry Venmore-Rowland (so good they named him thrice?) was a new author to me - and reading his biography and looking at his picture, he’s a new author to him as well! He is powerful young, that’s for sure. But, as James Aitcheson (Sworn Sword, Splintered Kingdom, Knights of the Hawk) has proved, age is no barrier to writing absolutely tip-top Historical Fiction. And it isn’t here either. The Last Caesar is a really good, readable book. An engaging, accessible and maybe even surprisingly confident first effort. If someone popped up half way through and said HV-R was a wizened professor of Romeology at some ancient university, you’d believe them. The main character, who tells the tale, is Aulus Caecina Severus. He's a likeable chap, just into his 20s as his tale starts. He is writing his story as an older man remembering how it was. So he is able to add some hindsight. Like Alan Dale in Angus Donald's Outlaw Chronicles. But this is much more of a conversational style. He’s writing, it seems, as though this story will be read by a person from the same period, not later generations. So there isn’t the need for so much explanation, as he presumes you know what he’s talking about. It all creates a much more conversational, open, accessible style. There are nods and winks and things taken for granted, as someone would who was writing for people who knew his world, because they were living in it. Makes for a really open and inviting sort of style, I felt. His story starts with Severus seeing action in Britain, the last days of the defeat of Boudicca. This caught my attention, as I’d just come off the back of an exceptionally good novel by Anthony Riches, set roughly in the same period and part of the Roman Empire. Though his recollections actually begin in the reign of Nero, with his posting to Hispania and his intention to use this as a way to return to Rome a wealthy man. He gets invited to a meeting, which turns out to be a meeting to plot the overthrow/removal of the Emperor Nero. Which puts him over a rather Roman-type barrel really. There’s no real way back after you’ve been to an ‘overthrow the Emperor’ party. The story does, of necessity for staying withing binocular distance of the historical facts, move on to Spain, to France to Germania and the massed Legions of the Rhine. As HV-R points out at the afterword, he sticks close to what facts are known about the year of the four emperors (as he says, the eighteen months of the five emperors doesn't have the same ring), so the journeying and the people met are in keeping with what actually happened. And given the fact that I can tend to glaze over at the use of too many Roman names and lose track or even interest - in the case of the last Harry Sidebottom I read - in who Severus Aquilla Maximus was or who he's double-crossing (insert Roman word here) with his (insert Roman name of instrument here), this never feels like you really should have paid more attention because I'm gonna be testing you at the end and you'll be kept in after school if you're not 100% correct (hello Harry Sidebottom again). The Last Caesar is a really good, solid, enjoyable story, with characters that are easy to care about and care enough about to care about what might happen to them in their future. And with enough other, more minor characters, to keep one more than intrigued as to what fate might have planned for them in their future. This book is - as yet - one of two and, as these things usually get written in threes, we can only hope that we shall be spending a lot more time in the exciting company of AC Severus et al. There is a lot of politicking as the action his lead character could have taken part in, is of course limited. So it isn't staggering from one pitched battle to another. But the politicking, the back-stabbing etc doesn't descend into cliche, as you find in some Roman stories, but rather backs up, compliments and makes understandable the characters actions. A thoroughly coherent, believable and interestingly enticing read. I look forward to getting stuck into the second (and hopefully more) novel(s) from Henry Venmore-Rowland.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    AD 68. The tyrant emperor Nero has no son and no heir. Suddenly there’s the very real possibility that Rome might become a republic once more. But the ambitions if a few are about the bring corruption, chaos and untold bloodshed to many. Among them is a hero of the campaign against Boadicea, Aulus Caecina Serverus. Caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow Caesar’s dynasty, he commits treason, raises a rebellion, faces torture and intrigue – all supposedly for the good of Rome. However, the boundary AD 68. The tyrant emperor Nero has no son and no heir. Suddenly there’s the very real possibility that Rome might become a republic once more. But the ambitions if a few are about the bring corruption, chaos and untold bloodshed to many. Among them is a hero of the campaign against Boadicea, Aulus Caecina Serverus. Caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow Caesar’s dynasty, he commits treason, raises a rebellion, faces torture and intrigue – all supposedly for the good of Rome. However, the boundary between such selflessness and self-preservation is far from clear, and keeping to the dangerous path he’s chosen requires all Severus’s skills as a cunning soldier and increasing deft politician. And so Severus looks back on the dark and dangerous time that history remembers as ‘The Year of the Four Emperors’, and recalls the part he, and those around him, played – for good or ill – in plunging the mighty Roman Empire into anarchy and civil war… When the novel begins Severus is a young war hero who has already proven his worth as a solider on the bloody fields of Britain. Full of ambition, but very much on the periphery of events, he is keen to prove himself. He is given the opportunity to take on a far safer posting on the European mainland, but as the plot unfolds he is drawn further and further into the shadowy conspiracies that start to appear everywhere. As Severus becomes more embroiled with the various factions that are all vying for power, his influence slowly, but steadily begins to grow. Like the old saying goes “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and I noticed a definite change in Severus as story continued to unfold. Though perhaps not totally corrupted by the power plays that are going on around him he does still find something almost intoxicating about the influence that he gets to wield. It’s nice to see a character driven by less than altruistic motives for a change. Severus realises he is in the prime position to have direct control over the events that are shaping the entire Roman Empire but at the same time make something of himself. Meanwhile there is also a conflict that develops within Severus himself as he tries to hold true to his own ideals. Is there really a place in a man for honour and loyalty whilst being complicit in a rebellion? This internal dialogue makes for an interesting counterpoint to main plot. While he is perhaps not always the most likable of protagonists Severus does come across as realistic. He makes mistakes, sometimes lets anger cloud his judgment but always tries to stay true to himself. Most of the other characters fall into exactly the same group as Severus. They share the same drive to gain as much for themselves as they possibly can. The air of decline in the Empire is almost palpable and in the vacuum left by the fall of Nero senators plot and scheme against one another viciously. Severus is forced on numerous occasions to think on his feet in order to try and turn a potentially disastrous situation to his advantage. This is where I think the novel excels, all the political machinations and Machiavellian infighting are engrossing to read. Recently I read Rome – The Eagle of The Twelfth by M.C. Scott and like that, The Last Caesar takes time to explore the differing very structured, levels that existed within Roman society. Your station in life was very much defined by who you were and what was expected of you. Breaking through these barriers was a nigh on impossible task. Those strict class divisions work as an effective backdrop to a story that is all about the corruption that comes with power. This is Venmore-Rowland’s first novel and I have to admit I was quite impressed with how easy it was to get caught up in the drama. If you are looking for a story that captures the essence of these turbulent events, I’d check this out. The Last Caesar is published by Bantam Press and is released in the UK on 21st June 2012.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Richard Abbott

    This was a book selected item at the book club I go to, and I found The Last Caesar to be a profound disappointment. Henry Venmore-Rowland had, I think, carried out a considerable amount of background research, but the end result was, to me at least, rather uninteresting. Most of the book could easily have been presented as a wiki entry or series of blog posts rather than a historical novel, and there were very few places where I had a sense of a unique insight into the past. The writing is solid This was a book selected item at the book club I go to, and I found The Last Caesar to be a profound disappointment. Henry Venmore-Rowland had, I think, carried out a considerable amount of background research, but the end result was, to me at least, rather uninteresting. Most of the book could easily have been presented as a wiki entry or series of blog posts rather than a historical novel, and there were very few places where I had a sense of a unique insight into the past. The writing is solid and uninspiring rather than delightful or poetic. Conceivably this reflects The Roman Way of Life, but I have read other books set in the classical period which have managed to portray a lighter and more delicate world. This story is set in a turbulent year, when the family line of Augustus Caesar spluttered to a halt with Nero. This triggered a struggle between several contenders for the imperial mantle, and the main character in this story – Aulus Caeccina Severus, apparently loosely based on a historical individual – is part of that struggle, supporting one or other faction in turn as his own ambitions and anxieties indicate. But do not be fooled by the title – the book is neither about the last emperor of Rome (which one might have thought), nor Nero himself (who technically was the last member of the Caesar family). Severus appears to be at best a marginal figure in the imperial struggle and spends the whole book in the provinces and nowhere near the heart of the action in Rome. The front cover image has essentially nothing to do with the story but has the appearance of a boilerplate Roman image from a photo stock agency. To my eyes the fictional Severus is a rather improbable figure, who succeeds in regularly rising above a whole series of problems and challenges without too much difficulty. This causes a mixture of admiration and envy in other people, but incredibly the surrounding characters who might have most reason to distrust or turn on him inevitably accept his unlikely explanations and receive him back into their collective fold. His chief flaw is a rather unwavering trust in his superiors (until they betray him), which leaves him vulnerable to their machinations. That book is totally dominated by male characters. The few women who appear are either buxom, conveniently available tavern wenches of uneasy virtue, or else extraordinarily beautiful wives, typically with slightly sinister ambitions. The overall effect is to give the impression of a laddish game being played out without feminine counter-balance, and without any real concern for the human impact following on from the rough and tumble. Again, this might possibly be a fair reflection of the Roman world, but it left me cold. The Last Caesar also stops quite abruptly, and you discover a page or two from the end that actually you only have half a book in your hands. The story continues in another volume (The Sword and the Throne), but I have not been wooed into acquiring it and will cheerfully let the story remain unfinished. Readers who like Roman history might possibly get more out of this than I did. Or maybe readers who like books which don’t involve women to any real degree. If you like subtle books with a good balance of the sexes, or writing of flair and beauty, it would be well worth looking elsewhere. For me, it just didn’t work as a book. I am, however, prepared to give it three stars despite all this, because it was well researched, well produced and friends who know the period assure me there are no glaring historical errors.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mike Pattrick

    This isa historical novel set in Imperial Rome during the reigns of Nero and his successor Galba. The hero is Aulus Caecina Severus an ambitious young man of senatorial rank who we follow from Ancient Britain, to Spain onto Gaul and then the Rhine border. The opening scenes begin with a battle against the troops of Queen Boudicca. This is important because his leading part in the victory establishes his reputation for bravery and as a soldier. After this we find him writing his memoirs and the st This isa historical novel set in Imperial Rome during the reigns of Nero and his successor Galba. The hero is Aulus Caecina Severus an ambitious young man of senatorial rank who we follow from Ancient Britain, to Spain onto Gaul and then the Rhine border. The opening scenes begin with a battle against the troops of Queen Boudicca. This is important because his leading part in the victory establishes his reputation for bravery and as a soldier. After this we find him writing his memoirs and the story is told by him looking back from old age. All of the story is told by him as the narrator. This is a device that makes for vivid story telling but means that we see the other characters only through his eyes. The plot is that Galba a very wealthy Roman nobleman living in Spain decides that Nero must be removed as Emperor and replaced by Galba. He takes Severus half way into his confidence and entrusts him with a mission to create unrest in Gaul as part of a plan to show Rome how unpopular is Nero. The leader of the Gauls is Vindex, a Romanised Gaul nobleman who is out of his depth. The unrest turns into a revolt and the Gauls go down to a heavy defeat by a Roman legion under Governor Rufus. This is after Severus has trained the Gauls and commanded them in battle. In between these two events he manages to meet with Rufus to sound him out about his loyalty to Nero. After the defeat Severus still acting as Galba's man makes his way to the Roman camp and teams up with Rufus. News comes very quickly that Nero is no more and that Galba is now Emperor. Galba appoints Severus to command a legion in Upper Germany. This creates a stir as Severus is only 29. Naturally it creates envy and resentment amongst some of the troops and some of their officers. Soon Galba relieves Rufus of his governor's post and Severus begins to wonder if Galba has lived up to his manifesto or is turning out to be another Nero. Evidence begins to pile up that Galba is eliminating those who helped him reach the Imperial throne. Severus' worst fears are confirmed when he receives a letter summoning him to Rome to face a trial for embezzlement during his time in Spain. Severus finally stops giving Galba the benefit of the doubt. Here then transfers his support to Vitellius for Emperor. Having done so he soon finds himself in a life and death fight with a soldier in his legion. Naturally he comes through this and kills his opponent having appeared to be very much up against it. This is a very easy to read book where the action and the tension is kept going over 400 pages. I am sure that readers of Simon Scarrow would enjoy it. It is an entertaining and enjoyable read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    S.J.A. Turney

    I managed to secure an early proof of Henry's debut and set to reading it as soon as I could. My main concern before I started was not the unknown quantity of a new author, but more the fact that, being set around the end of Nero's reign and the year of the four emperors, the ground has been covered from several angles before by others. As usual, with my reviews, I won't go into too much detail as I don't like to risk spoilers - I hate having things revealed to me before I read a book. In essence, I managed to secure an early proof of Henry's debut and set to reading it as soon as I could. My main concern before I started was not the unknown quantity of a new author, but more the fact that, being set around the end of Nero's reign and the year of the four emperors, the ground has been covered from several angles before by others. As usual, with my reviews, I won't go into too much detail as I don't like to risk spoilers - I hate having things revealed to me before I read a book. In essence, the book follows the actions and journeys of a young Roman nobleman in relatively minor posts, and who yet plays a pivotal role in the end of a dynasty and the complicated succession. For me, the main character (from whose retrospective viewpoint the story is told) is solid and the reader can often empathise with him (he has a few flaws that give him extra interest), though he perhaps stands out less than some protagonists of other major Roman histfic novels. This didn't really matter, though, as I found Henry's supporting characters to be so lifelike and engaging and well put-together that I relished their every appearance. In addition to the cast of supporting characters, I would say the main strength of the novel for me was the narrative style. There is a 'stream-of-consciousness' to the main character that really worked for me. Sometimes he rambles off subject or peters out, and I really enjoyed that. It made the book very engaging. Add to this turns of phrase that often made me smile, a sprinkling of particularly powerful scenes (one of which was heart-wrenching and you'll know to which I refer when you come to it) and the solid descriptive, and it all pulls together into a rather excellent debut. If I have a concern with The Last Caesar, it is that the book is only half a story (or possibly less). Very clearly, a second book will pick up where this one left off, and might take us to a solid conclusion. When you reach the end of TLC, the final page might as well say "Next week, on The Last Caesar..." That's no bad thing, of course, but it leaves me grumbling about the fact that the sequel has only just undergone its initial completion and is a year or more away yet. Simply, I was suitably impressed with The Last Caesar, and I expect any lover of the era (particularly the principate period) will thoroughly enjoy getting their teeth into it. Roll on the next book, Henry. The First Flavian?

  17. 5 out of 5

    E.M. Powell

    This story of the uprising against the emperor Nero in AD 68 is in the form of a memoir by Aulus Caecina Severus. At the opening of the novel, Severus is the new quaestor of Hispania Baetica. His post is his reward for his pivotal role in the recent rout of the Britons. But from the off, Severus is not portrayed as a gilt-edged hero. He is content in relative obscurity, ‘milking his province’, but is candid in his memoir that he is never one to turn down an opportunity. So when the governor and This story of the uprising against the emperor Nero in AD 68 is in the form of a memoir by Aulus Caecina Severus. At the opening of the novel, Severus is the new quaestor of Hispania Baetica. His post is his reward for his pivotal role in the recent rout of the Britons. But from the off, Severus is not portrayed as a gilt-edged hero. He is content in relative obscurity, ‘milking his province’, but is candid in his memoir that he is never one to turn down an opportunity. So when the governor and ex-consul Galba approaches Severus to join a revolt against Nero, Severus agrees. Severus is tasked on two fronts- one to secure a political ally in Agricola, the other to serve as military adviser to Vindex in Gaul. Venmore-Rowland portrays the complex politics underpinning the revolt very well. Through Severus, we experience the intrigue and scheming first-hand, with the ever-constant threat of execution should his plans fail. But it is the portrayal of Severus in the role of military man where the author excels. The training of ordinary Gauls to become a fighting force and the battle in which they are fatefully engaged are superbly done, as is further conflict in Germania. Venmore-Rowland has a particular skill in conveying the sounds of an army, and there are times when it seems to echo from the page. Severus is supported by a large cast of secondary characters. Of these, it is the slave Totavalas that most intrigues, though his introduction was, disappointingly, quite late in the novel. It is to be hoped that this novel is the first of many for this talented debut author. Note:: my review appeared in the Historical Novels Review in August 2012

  18. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Neylan

    Prepare to be misled. This book isn't about the last of the Caesars (Nero) nor, as it claims, about the Year of Four Emperors (it finishes in the first week of that year, when the emperor count was still just 1). The story is really about the Vindex rebellion and Galba's bid for power, so all the action takes place in Gaul, apart from a couple of early scenes in Britain and Spain. Clearly the publishers are looking towards a series. The more important question is, is it any good? Yes and no, but Prepare to be misled. This book isn't about the last of the Caesars (Nero) nor, as it claims, about the Year of Four Emperors (it finishes in the first week of that year, when the emperor count was still just 1). The story is really about the Vindex rebellion and Galba's bid for power, so all the action takes place in Gaul, apart from a couple of early scenes in Britain and Spain. Clearly the publishers are looking towards a series. The more important question is, is it any good? Yes and no, but mostly yes. I enjoyed reading it and might well read the next book in the series when it comes out, so this review is essentially favourable. The story concerns the shadowy but real historical figure Aulus Caecina Alienus, who was intimately involved in the coups of Galba and Vitellius. It masquerades as his memoir, in the honourable tradtion of I, Claudius, and there are enough gaps in the historical record for the author to weave a fictional story without playing fast and loose with history. In that regard, he's done a good job. Less satisfactory is the writing style, which is a bit too much like an old soldier's memoir. It lacks flair and has a bit too much of the formality that artistic licence allows an author to jettison. But the book is well-plotted and the characters are varied enough to make it a satisfying read. It's by no means great, but it's good enough and should please fans of Roman historical fiction.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    c2012: ambitions, rebellion, self-preservation, dynasty, anarchy. I had a good chuckle in the opening chapters - great way to start a book and already you can tell the nature of the main character (Aulus Caecina Severus). They were a few little things that I found irksome in the plot and general construction of the story but in the main, I agree with Anthony Riches comment ie "This is a corking debut from a talent to watch. Oh - and in this particular book, the graffiti artist has been at it aga c2012: ambitions, rebellion, self-preservation, dynasty, anarchy. I had a good chuckle in the opening chapters - great way to start a book and already you can tell the nature of the main character (Aulus Caecina Severus). They were a few little things that I found irksome in the plot and general construction of the story but in the main, I agree with Anthony Riches comment ie "This is a corking debut from a talent to watch. Oh - and in this particular book, the graffiti artist has been at it again - this time with an actual commentary of just how bad an officer had behaved on P277. Recommended to the normal crew members who have a liking for Roman novels. "What do you think you are doing, you arrogant turd? Through your pride, you've condemned your army to death,'

  20. 4 out of 5

    Julie Andrews

    This book is based around the character of Aulus Caecina Severus. Caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow Caesar's dynasty, he commits treason, raises a rebellion, indulges in intrigue and all for the good of Rome. I don't want to spoil the plot so will not reveal much more. On the whole I very much enjoyed this book. Severus is a strong character and has strong military and political skills. He shows considerable self preservation skills. The style of the writing appears very stilted and formal. This book is based around the character of Aulus Caecina Severus. Caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow Caesar's dynasty, he commits treason, raises a rebellion, indulges in intrigue and all for the good of Rome. I don't want to spoil the plot so will not reveal much more. On the whole I very much enjoyed this book. Severus is a strong character and has strong military and political skills. He shows considerable self preservation skills. The style of the writing appears very stilted and formal. However, I feel it is written in the manner of a senior Roman officer so suits the story. Attention to detail is excellent and the story is relevant to the happenings of the time.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This book reads like Aulus Caecina Alienus's memoirs. At first I found the way he kept giving 'asides', as if he was on stage talking to the audience, annoying. However, as this lessened I found that I wasn't as interested in the politics of Ancient Rome as I'd expected to be. As it's the first book of this type I've read I'm unsure whether or not whether this was down to the writer or the subject matter. Either way, I won't be reading the next book of what is obviously a series, despite the mis This book reads like Aulus Caecina Alienus's memoirs. At first I found the way he kept giving 'asides', as if he was on stage talking to the audience, annoying. However, as this lessened I found that I wasn't as interested in the politics of Ancient Rome as I'd expected to be. As it's the first book of this type I've read I'm unsure whether or not whether this was down to the writer or the subject matter. Either way, I won't be reading the next book of what is obviously a series, despite the misleading title.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kenneth

    Not the type of genre i would normally choose, however on a recommendation i decided to give this book a go. I was very supprised how quickly i was drawn into the book and how endearing the main character is. This book is not as military biased as i thought it would be there is a genuine storey to be told that follows the outline of some military life. Can't wait to read the next one in the series. Not the type of genre i would normally choose, however on a recommendation i decided to give this book a go. I was very supprised how quickly i was drawn into the book and how endearing the main character is. This book is not as military biased as i thought it would be there is a genuine storey to be told that follows the outline of some military life. Can't wait to read the next one in the series.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Steven Rogers

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ronald Gardner

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jane

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katie

  27. 5 out of 5

    Henry Peter Egal

  28. 5 out of 5

    chuck roth

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ringel

  30. 5 out of 5

    mrs v. stubbs

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