Saturday, August 23, 2014

'Vespasian 1 - 3' by Robert Fabbri

A few weeks ago I was on FaceBook lamenting the fact that I couldn’t get any of Robert Fabbri’s books in digital format here in the U.S. Oh I could get the printed books from across the pond, but I was looking to read his books NOW! As typical of most book lovers, I have zero patience for waiting when I set my mind to reading something. Not to mention a distaste for certain (ahem) book-hating company. Robert actually responded and said that he was sorry but it looked liked I would need to sell my soul and get it from the book-hating company.

So just for giggles, I opened a window to check and see if his books were available in digital format… and would you believe that the first three books in the Vespasian series were available as a set!? It took me all of four seconds to head over to iTunes and buy it. Roman-fiction is what I enjoy reading the most and I’ve heard Robert Fabbri’s name come up more than a few times, but his books were always just out of reach to us U.S. folk. 

Not anymore! The flood gates have opened and all I can do is rejoice! 

And trust me, this series is as good as you’ve heard. Maybe even a little better. I can always tell when I’m into a book when I must force myself to stop and when I get excited when I know I’ll be able pick up reading it again. Since I bought this as a set I’ll write it up as such…

The principal character is this series is Vespasian and just to let you know how vast this series is, ‘Tribune of Rome’ starts out with his birth. Of course the story moves along and by chapter 1 Vespasian has aged greatly. But still…

I read these books with the same fervor like a fat kid at a candy buffet that serves caramel Kool-Aid. As we follow the life of Vespasian, we find that each book has it’s own style and flavor. Each book also has a cast of characters with more color than an exploding rainbow that gorged itself on skittles. Wait… that’s not a good reference. Each book also has a cast of characters with more color than a skittle taking a rainbow shower. (OK never mind, these are just getting worse)

You have the main characters like Vespasian, Sabinus, Gaius, Titus and Caligula who provide the porterhouse portion of the story. Then you have Magnus, Pallas, Claudius, and Antonia who provide the potato slathered in butter. Caenis provides the dessert. Among the many things that drew me to this story, one big part was how you could never guess where the story was headed. Matter of fact, if they hadn’t titled this series ‘Vespasian’, I doubt I would have known he was the focal point based on the first book. 

One of my buddies came in our book-office today and I was telling him about this series. I told him that it rivaled another famous Roman author we both enjoy. In each book there is the ideal blend of blood, politics, and brutality. There were times, though, where one would overpower the other. Book #2 (‘Rome's Executioner’), there were some very heavy political overtones. Not “bad”, but after reading book #1 (‘Tribune of Rome’) and the action that had, it just felt different. And to be fair, it wasn’t the whole book, just certain parts.

After those small hiccups we’re back in the glorified brutality of Rome. Travels to Egypt, dealing with psychotic emperors, lusting after slave cunny, battles in blood, and a little controversy thrown in. Yeah, not sure if Fabbri was trying to rankle the Christian population on purpose, but he has some very interesting theories on Christ, Christianity, and the Disciples. Especially Paul. Oh I had a good laugh with how he was portrayed. I enjoyed how the crucification played a part in this series but didn’t overshadow the story. Very well played Robert. 

Want to know what really shook the hell out me? The ending of book #2. Easily one of the most savage endings of a book that I’ve read in a LOOOOOOONG time. I went back and had to reread that entire section because it was just… damn. At the end of each book Robert gives us his ‘author’s notes.’ He tells us where he took liberties and where he used actual history. It didn’t help me at all to find out that the end of #2 was true. Double damn.

I mentioned earlier that this series is like a porterhouse. And as impossible as this is going to sound, Caligula, was the seasoning for the potatoes. This demented soul makes his entrance in a very normal manner… by the time we get to book #3 (‘False God of Rome’), Caligula is FULL BLOWN! We’ve heard of his repulsive depravities… but still. Robert doesn’t hold back in the least. Oh and about that… I’ve read a ton of Roman-esque books and I’ve noticed that the first book is always the most brutal, the most rapacious, the most blood soaked. Then it seems that someone complained it was too severe and the next book was watered down. I’ve seen this more than a few times and it drives me NUTS!

Not so with this series.

Robert started with gory assault and didn’t let up. Did I mention the ending of book #2? I did? OK. Caligula doesn’t disappoint and he will make your heartbeat match those of the characters. I very rarely read a series back-to-back-to-back but I couldn’t help it with this one. There are some books I recommend, some books I highly recommend, and others I wish I had the money to buy everyone I know a copy. This series is one of the “buy a copy for the masses” one. If you even remotely enjoy Roman fiction, put this series immediate on your ‘to read’ list. 

The fourth book in this series is called ‘Rome’s Fallen Eagle’ and is available now. ‘Masters of Rome’ is book #5 and is not available here in the U.S. quite yet. But you can believe that I will keep an eye out.
  1. ‘Tribune of Rome’
  2. ‘Rome's Executioner’
  3. ‘False God of Rome’
  4. ‘Rome’s Fallen Eagle’
  5. ‘Masters of Rome’

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