'The Forgotten Legion'. Published in 2009 (US). Read in 2013.
I've read most of Ben Kane’s books and have enjoyed each of them. My bookstore has carried 'Forgotten Legion' for a while now, and I've even sold it a number of times based on the strength of his other books. But I haven't read it until now. Please don't be like me. Read this book. Read this book now.
If you enjoy historical-fictional stories with Rome as the backdrop, then this should be your next book. Yes it has your to be expected showering of blood, guts, and abject brutality. But what keeps your face buried in these pages are the way he tells you about the blood, guts, and abject brutality. This book is easily one of the books that you will hate to put down. I had more than a few 2 AM nights reading this puppy.
Rome is in a precarious state. Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus all want power and each has a "legitimate" claim to the throne, per say. There is a lot of story going on here with a few very interesting "I'm taking literary creativity with a few things and if you don't like it you can suck it out a straw" twists. Julius Caesar... every writer has fun writing about this guy and Ben is no exception. But in this case Caesar is not a nice guy. Ben writes him as an ambitious man but an ambitious man that has a very dark side. A very dark side.
They saying goes, “control the mob and you control Rome”. So while Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus are busy playing ‘Stratego’, the real story is found in the gutter. The smelly, putrid, disgusting, fetid smelling gutter. Slaves, legionaries, prostitutes, thieves and murderers all play their part in this very exciting Roman tale.
Romulus and Fabiola are brother and sister. Both are born into slavery and both have suffered enough pain and seen enough cruelty to make Caligula say “damn”. Despite their lowly stature as slaves the gods still see fit to play Tiddlywinks with their lives and that is the meat of the story. From the gladiator arena, to the brothel, to the battlefield, to Gaul, to lands never seen by Roman eyes, Ben takes us on one hell of a story during one hell of a time.
I am deliberately not reading the books in this series (there are three total) back to back to back because I really want to savor the way this man tells a story. And I want it to last for more than a few days. Yeah… this book WAS that good and based on his other works, I have no reason not to believe the others won’t be the same. Oh… one more thing. ‘The Forgotten Legion’ is an interesting title. Interesting because, well I don’t want to say anything and spoil it for you. I mean I know why it was named ‘The Forgotten Legion’ but I would love to hear the story behind it.
Anyway… stop reading this and get to reading that.