Wednesday, June 4, 2014

'Blood of Rome: Caratacus' by John Salter

I saw ‘Blood of Rome: Caratacus’ on Ben Kane’s FaceBook page as he was talking about his Romani Walk charity. I was in the mood for a Roman novel and I trust Ben not to recommend swill, so I decided to give it a shot. I’m glad I did.

Unlike a lot of the Roman books I read, this one is told mainly from the standpoint of the scouts. That was a unique turn. I’ve always heard from legionaries, slaves, citizens, and Generals, but rarely the scouts. Hearing about combat from their perspective gave me a different perspective.

This premise is one that we’ve all heard; Caratacus and his audacity to defy the might and power of Rome. This story is told through the eyes of Varro, Veranius, Decimus, Valerius, and Brenna, and it’s a Roman story through and through. Right down to the fighting, blood, brutality, loyalty, and a few (not enough) brown-chicken-brown-cow moments.

One of the things John Salter did well to show us how frustrating it was for Rome to keep getting bested by these “barbarians.” Hell, I could have told them not to ride through certain areas that were ripe for ambush! Rome is powerful on the field and the Britons are powerful in the trees and forest. Reading about the scouting mission from both sides that ended up with blood and torture are the stuff my dreams are made of.

I also enjoyed how John didn’t fall into the trap that so many first time writers do: he didn’t spare his main characters. From anything. Matter of fact there is one scene in here that is just… painful. But I was riveted because I just had to find out if he would go there. He did. Oh my goodness he did! I’ve always had the wish that I could go back in time, reading the adventures in this book only cemented that dream further. John paints a very vivid literature drawing and I enjoyed the trip.

However…

This book is a five-star read but I only gave it four. Why? The editing. I really hate harping on this but new authors MUST get it together. Mistakes happen, yes. But they shouldn’t happen frequently. If I catch a mistake then something’s wrong. Also, editing mistakes will ruin the flow of a story. I found myself having to reread passages in this story trying to figure things out. And this happened more than once.

Now John did say in his ‘author’s note’ that there might be grammatical errors and mistakes, so there is that. But my thing is any mistakes need to be few and far between. Like most indie authors he still pulls down a full-time gig, and maybe that’s why I’m a bit more forgiving than I have in the past. Being an indie bookstore bloke myself, I really appreciate the indie authors because I know and understand their struggle. That being said, indie authors must be held to the same standard as major publishing house authors. I don’t see Conn Iggulden putting a disclaimer at the end of his books asking us to be forgiving for editing errors, so I don’t want to see it from John. Or any other indie author.

Will that deter me from getting his second book, ‘Blood of Rome – Retribution’? Hell no. I’m slightly anal… not stupid. I can spot talent when I come across it and John has it. I will just trust that his mistakes will go the way of Veranius’s… never mind.

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