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Rome's Executioner: VESPASIAN II [Format Kindle]

Robert Fabbri

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A hero forged in battle. A legend born.

Thracia, AD30: Even after four years military service at the edge of the Roman world, Vespasian can't escape the tumultuous politics of an Empire on the brink of disintegration. His patrons in Rome have charged him with the clandestine extraction of an old enemy from a fortress on the banks of the Danube before it falls to the Roman legion besieging it.

Vespasian's mission is the key move in a deadly struggle for the right to rule the Roman Empire. The man he has been ordered to seize could be the witness that will destroy Sejanus, commander of the Praetorian Guard and ruler of the Empire in all but name. Before he completes his mission, Vespasian will face ambush in snowbound mountains, pirates on the high seas, and Sejanus's spies all around him. But by far the greatest danger lies at the rotten heart of the Empire, at the nightmarish court of Tiberius, Emperor of Rome and debauched, paranoid madman.

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  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 3325 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 368 pages
  • Editeur : Corvus (1 mai 2012)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00795G9QI
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Amazon.com: 4.3 étoiles sur 5  27 commentaires
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A bit different, and just as good... 28 août 2012
Par JPS - Publié sur Amazon.com
First posted on Amazon.co.uk on 2 May 2012

This is the second volume of Fabbri's series on Vespasian, who ultimatly became emperor and reigned from 69 to 79 AD. It has the same ingredients that made volume 1 (Tribune of Rome) so successful, but also a few differences.

The main originality of this series is the choice of character, with Vespasian as the main hero. This volume (when compared to the previous one) also gives much greater importance to his elder brother Sabinus to the extent that I wondered, at times, whether there was one or rather two heroes in a Simon Scarrow kind of way (Cato and Macro, of course). Another parallel is that, just like in Scarrow's Praetorian, Rome's Excutioner is mostly about Rome's horific and ruthlessly competitive politics. The main difference is the time setting: the story here takes place under the reign of Tiberius (AD 14 to AD 37 and, more precisely for this book, between AD 29 to AD 31) and tells about the fall of Sejanus, Tiberius' praetorian prefect and right-hand man. Scarrow's piece was taking place during the last months of the reign of Claudius (AD 41 to AD 54). Both books describe the atmosphere of paranoïa and terror that exists in the higher circles, including all of the Senate, and the ruthless fights between various factions for supreme power, but Fabbri's focuses more on the terror, horrors and depravity of Roman high society.

Another deliberate originality of this book is that Robert Fabbri has chosen to maximize dramatic effects and has systematically picked the worst possible interpretations he could select for the characters of Tiberius, Caligula and even Claudius. To some, these choices may seem somewhat of a caricature, although they are grounded and extracted from the written sources. This is because, to a large extent, the sources on the reigns of these three emperors were written after the deaths of the respective emperors and may, as was very often the case in Rome, have a clear tendency to "blacken" the name of the deceased predecessor. So Tiberius - one of the most maligned Emperors is all of Rome's history - is painted as paranoïd, sexually depraved, undecisive and a madman that tends to have anything and anyone unexpected put to death. Caligula is also paranoïd and Robert Fabbri has had a bit of a field day with both his sexual excesses and his incest with his sisters, and the (alleged by his opponents) sexual excesses of Tiberius. Claudius, pretending to be the fool that he is not, is ruthless, over-ambitious, but not as clever as he think he is.

These interpretations, while adding a good deal of drama, may also raise a bit of a plausability issue. First, any of Rome's Princeps (and any of the following Emperors right to the end) would need to be - and overtime became - somewhat paranoïd. This was one of the job's requirements if you wanted to survive in it, although there were others, such as an intimate knowledge of all of the main players (the senatorial families) and their respective ambitions (to buy them of and play them of against each other), and the ability to be decisive. For instance, Tiberius, however unsympathetic he may have been, managed to remain Emperor for 23 years - that is longer than any other Emperor during the first 250 years of the Empire (up to, and including Septime-Severus) with the exception of Augustus himself. So, he very probably wasn't as awful as the book makes him up to be.

Another (very good in my view) interpretation has been to show the ambivalence of Antonia (the mother of Claudius and the daughter of Marc Antony and of Octavia - sister of Augustus). She is the archetype of the noble Roman, ready to sacrifice everything for the greater good of Rome. However, her other side is also shown. Antonia seems to have been just as power-hungry, ruthless and realistic as any of the others, as opposed to only motivated by stopping Sejanus. In reality, she is a realist and the sacrifice she makes is the price to pay to ensure the survival of the rest of her children and grand-children under the reign of Tiberius.

On the plus side, also: the book is fast paced, with something happening every 20-30 pages at least, although, contrary to what another reviewer seems to imply, there is only one battle in the whole book (the storming of a fortress on the Danube). However, it is griping because of the multiple plots and intrigues as one side tries to gather evidence against the other side which will use any means to prevent it from succeeding. Another plus is that this book has been thoroughly researched by the author. Regardless of whether you agree with the author's interpretations or not, and his tendency to give credit to all of the slanders levelled at the various members of the imprerial family, he certainly has done his "homework".

One glitch, however, which turned out to be annoying at time: there were quite a lot of typos in the copy I read. It didn't, however, stop me from finishing the book in 9 hours of solid reading. Note that this is one of these books that you should start on a Friday evening. Otherwise, you are definitly running the risk of serious sleep-deprivation!
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Not as good as the first, but still good 13 décembre 2014
Par Staten Islander - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
Fabbri writes excellent prose. His battle scenes are intense and thrilling, his descriptions brilliant, and his vocabulary never improper. His treatment of Roman history is admirable, and he embellishes Vespasian's life in a way that is captivating and entertaining.

His dialogue, however, leaves much to be desired. Many characters in the story have the same method of speaking, and it sometimes it would be impossible to tell who is talking, because the manner of speech for many characters is similar. Antonia and Caenis for example seemed like the exact same character when they were speaking. When a character is differentiated through their manner of speaking, it's something blatant, over-the-top and silly, like one character who is constantly referring to the testicles and tits of deities. Moreover, the characters do seem a bit two dimensional and stale, and often act in predictable manners. I also find it strange how every single character in the story is OK with murdering people who surrender. Sure, the Romans had different morals than us, but it got tiring having just about every single character outright murder someone when they got the chance. The problem is when too many characters act in a certain way, it makes it difficult for that trait to become a characterization of a character. If Vespasian for instance, is supposed to have a dark and vicious side, how can that be showcased when every single character treats wounded enemies in the same "kill them for the hell of it" attitude?

Speaking of caricatures, besides the titular character and his brother, every other character that is based on a historical figure is a caricature himself. Claudius, who would go on to become the conqueror of Britain, is portrayed as a bumbling, stuttering buffoon. Caligua, who was definitely a respected figure before he became Emperor, is creepy and perverted. Gaius (uncle of Vespasian) is an open pedophile. Rhoteces, the Thracian priest, has sharpened teeth and looks like a rat and is cowardly. Antonia has a sexual appetite where she demands boxers screw her, including the (well formed and well rounded) Magnus, one of Fabbri's original creations. Even if the Roman sources tend to hint at these personality traits, in this context these are stereotypes at best, caricatures at worse, and it gets quite tiring. Now Fabbri did base most of these characters on real historical figures, and he is well read and versed in Roman history, but it is a shame that he did not read up on scholarly articles of these historical accounts - he seems to lacks the historical eye in dealing with ancient sources, that were not written like today's history books. Ancient historians did not have the same standard of what is accurate and unbiased history telling. For example, Caligula's insanity and debauchery probably was amplified due to his poor administrative skills, rather than reality. But then again, given Caligula's reputation, what reader wants a Caligula that just sucks at micromanagement and has no people skills instead of the guano-crazy-let's-make-my-horse-a-senator Caligula we all know and love?

The treatment of religion in this work is also quite disappointing. We get to see little of the religions of antiquity except for, again, caricatures of them. Characters are constantly calling out to the balls of Mars and tits of Minerva, while funny at first, quickly got old and winnowed the immersion. Sabinus, who follows Mithras, speaks of him exactly like a modern Christian speaks of Christ (of course there are similarities, but the situation is more complex than that). The Thracians are hopelessly superstitious. You come along with the feeling that the characters don't really believe in these deities, or that the author cannot fathom that these deities were once accepted as real and worshiped by millions. Little is mentioned of how the mortals view the Gods, and how this belief affects what they do more than just omens and premonitions. Little is said of what they actually mean to the characters, and what they mean for Roman civilization (and Greek, Thracian, etc). As someone who has studied Roman history and archaeology, I am quite disappointed at how the author treated this huge aspect of antiquity.

The most fierce criticism I can lobby is that the book falls flat where it relies on dialogue to drive the plot, and this occurs far too often. When the plot of Claudius is revealed, it's pedestrian pages upon of dialogue that feels like it will never end. It's a shame, because the plot is well formed and based in historical reality, but the way it has been disseminated to us through this novel is just well, boring. What's even more of a shame is that probably the most well written, and even daunting scene in the book, when the ship Vespasian is on is attacked by pirates, has nothing to do with the plot of the book, and could have been omitted without having effect on the story, or putting a damper on character development. That being said, the author's strength is when he is describing physical and mental anguish that the characters are going through, such freezing to death in snowy Thracian mountains or watching slaves get bored to death by lampreys (taken from Roman sources, but still going to give me nightmares!).

Finally, the character of Vespasian just feels too passive in this work. I really enjoyed the first half of the first book, when we got to know Vespasian, his family, and his life. Now Vespasian just goes along with the flow for the most part, even though its his story.

For its faults, it still is an enjoyable read, and an excellent embellishment of the life of Emperor Vespasian and purported Roman historical events.
4.0 étoiles sur 5 A price for advancement 19 mai 2014
Par Blue in Washington - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
This is the second installment in the Vespasian series, and a rather good one it is. The still young tribune (and future emperor) is in the service of Antonia, the most powerful woman in Rome, bent on guaranteeing that her family continues to rule the city and expanding empire.
"Rome's Executioner" is full of well-detailed and authentic feeling battle scenes and historic context. This author has done a lot of homework on the latter, but his true gift is for character portrayal and free flowing action. Vespasian is still many years away from ascending to ruling Rome, but his apprenticeship is well underway with lessons in serpentine politics and the use of power. Toward the end of this novel, he is appointment to a public position that makes him the city's chief executioner of those judged by the Senate and judicial system as enemies of the state. It's not a pleasant job, but one that serves up its lessons for a future emperor.
This is a good, fast-moving read.
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Maddening Author 2 février 2013
Par msculati - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
As in the initial book of this series, the first half is dreadful--one series of relatively unneeded/who cares attacks/escapes after another. Skim through it until page 210 or so when Antonia is hammering Caldius's freedman Narcissus--from here the book gets good, very good. The pages outlining Caligula living in depraved isolation with Tiberius are absolutely chilling (many historians have postulated that it was this period that put Caligula over the edge). I almost hate to say it--but I am looking forward to Vespasian III. Perhaps the third time will be the charm and we will get an entire book that is outstanding--rather than half which has been the case so far.
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Great Historical Fiction 15 mars 2013
Par Davey - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Robert Fabbri continues with the Vespasian books in great form. You won't want to wait to download the next in the series. Enjoy.
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