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The Siege

With no experience of war A mere scattering of divided and demoralized legionaries remain backed up by some fractious Syrian auxiliaries and a drunken Praetorian Guardsman With the Palmyrans just days away Cassius must somehow find the discipline resourcefulness and courage to organize the garrison save Alauran and secure Rome's eastern fronti. Having started with number 6 in the Agent of Rome series I ve gone back to the beginning and the first posting for a young and callow Cassius Corbulo Two thirds of the elements that will make this a great series are already there Cassius himself and his slave Simo ever punctilious for his master yet careful to conserve the small dignity afforded to him as a slave in Imperial Rome What s missing in this first book is the third member of the team the bodyguard Indavara who makes his debut in the next novel However even without him this book serves to introduce an unusual for historical fiction hero and his even unusual slave Cassius is not much good with a sword relying on his brain rather than muscles although he does match up with the male wish fulfillment element of historical fiction in that he is unfeasibly handsome and attractive to women Simo is potentially an even interesting character I hope Brown will look deeply into how a slave might attempt dignity when he is literally property The story itself rips along As soon as I d finished The Siege I started on The Imperial Banner the next in the series

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270 AD Rome has ruled Syria for than three centuries but now the weakened empire faces a desperate threat ueen Zenobia of Palmyra has turned her Roman trained army against her former masters and the once invincible legions have been crushed Arabia Palestine and Egypt have fallen and now Antioch Syria's capital stands exposed A young intelligen. I got rather excited by the idea of this book when I saw it an actionadventure about a secret agent traveling to exotic locations where he faces off against outlandish villains for the benefit of king and country What No not James Bond It s some Roman called Corbulo Cassius CorbuloActually the book isn t nearly as much Bond in a toga as I had expected Cassius is young and inexperienced and while he is a secret agent frumentarius he mainly operates as a common soldier The Palmyrans are coming and he needs to assume control of a fortress since there s literally no one else in the area who can see to its defense As such the book is far of a knockoff of Harry Sidebottom s Fire in the East the first of the Warrior of Rome books which also concerned a soldier sent to assume command of a Syrian fortress in that case a whole city and defend it against an Eastern army in that case the Persians Heck it s even set in the same era and given that there are a grand total of three other books that I know of set in the mid third century and none of them are military fiction that cannot be a coincidenceThis book suffers greatly from that comparison Sidebottom is an excellent writer and also an actual ancient historian so his book feels very realistic and bloody This book is fantastical with shallower characters and rather over the top battles I found the cultural observations to be rather thinly drawn as well The Romans never have any real personality The Palmyrans even less soLike Sidebottom s book the story suffers from the restrictions of siege warfare Sieges are frankly not all that exciting At least not for the defenders They stand in one place and react to the enemy s plans And since 23 of the book concerns the siege you spend an awful lot of time watching characters react to things If there is an example of a siege done right I ve yet to read it but I suspect it would derive most of its strength from contrasting the tactics of both sides The combat scenes also show the limitations of the author s knowledge The siege sounds like a Fantasy battle than a historical one Sniper bowmen keep soldiers off the walls while many of the key moments involve one on one duels Roman tactics don t really reflect how they fought and the Palmyrans seem a faceless horde than an armyThe character journey is at least interesting even if the most interesting bits happen before the siege even begins Cassius never wanted to be a soldier He joined the secret service since it offered him prospects for advancement So when he finds himself posing as a regular centurion and assuming command of a legionary detachment he has to conuer both his subordinates doubts and his own fears Most of the visible signs of this occur as I said before the battle begins Once that starts his role diminishes and you forget the whole conflict between being a secret agent and being a soldier This seems as good a place as any to note that I fundamentally disagree with Sidebottom s view of the frumentarii as an organized force of spies and assassins Brown takes that exaggerated portrayal and dials it up to eleven which wouldn t be so bad if this was just an absurd actionadventure but really brings nothing to a low key conflict like this oneI m still interested in the idea of James Bond in a toga Iacobus Adligatio so I may continue with further books in the series which sound rather less bound to a single location However as the initial book in a series I thought this was rather a letdown The lead character s development was good though rather simplistic but the adventure he was placed in felt limiting and repetitive Supporting characters were distinguished by one or two character traits but generally proved to be fairly bland If anything in this sounds good to you check out Sidebottom s book instead The scale is grander a whole city rather than a small fort the writing is better characters have depth and accuracy is through the roof

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Ce agent fresh from officer training Cassius Corbulo is the only ranking Roman officer left in the line of the Palmyran advance He must take command of the fort of Alauran the last stronghold still in Roman hands and hold it until reinforcements arrive What Cassius finds at Alauran would daunt the most seasoned veteran let alone a 19 year old. This review was first published in the Historical Novel Review270 AD ueen Zenobia of Palmyra has turned on her erstwhile master Rome She has sent her armies across Arabia Egypt and Syria to sweep away the weakened Roman forces Antioch now stands exposed with only the small garrison at the fort of Alauran standing in her armies pathCassius Corbulo is new to the Roman ranks He s the privileged son of a noble family untested unbloodied and ill prepared Nevertheless his rank in the secret service agents derisively known as the grain men ualifies him to act as a centurion and he is sent off with only his Gallic servant to organize the fort s defense and hold off Zenobia s forces until troops can be brought forwardBrown has given this Roman militaryadventure story a great twist in having Cassius hail from the secret service ranks These men part bureaucrat and part secret police were answerable to the emperor himself and were despised by Roman soldiers Much than a simple military story The Siege is also a character study and offers a rare glimpse into 3rd century Rome and her occupation of Syria I enjoyed watching Cassius growth as he met with myriad challenges and I appreciated that the carnage didn t set in until the last third of the book though I enjoyed the battle which was worthy of Scarrow and Sidebottom even if smaller in scaleThe Siege is book one of Brown s new Agent of Rome series and I look forward to the next installment


10 thoughts on “The Siege

  1. says:

    Cassius Corbulo is a poor warrior; he is young and inexperienced As an imperial security service agent he expected to spend his service years behind a desk organising supplies To the surprise of him and the reader he is thrust into the prestigious role of Centurion His task is to organise the defence of Alauran a stronghold in the Syrian dessert and rein in its wayward defenders who have been leaderless for too long The problem

  2. says:

    What stood out for me was the character growth of Cassius Corbulo the young sensitive inexperienced Security man l

  3. says:

    I got rather excited by the idea of this book when I saw it an actionadventure about a secret agent traveling to exotic locations where he faces off against outlandish villains for the benefit of king and country What? No not James Bond It’s some Roman called Corbulo Cassius CorbuloActually the book isn’t nearly as m

  4. says:

    I am going back in time by reading this one I was lucky enough to be sent the latest as it was at the time 'The Black Stone' which was actually number four in the series I’d seen the name and some of the covers before that but not got onto reading any But having been solidly impressed by TBS I’m making up for lost time by starting again at the beginning with ’The Siege'And maybe time travel is perhaps not at all a bad metaph

  5. says:

    Story “The Siege” is set against the backdrop of Emperor Aurelian’s reign during the Palmeryan revolt led by ueen Zenobia The main character is a young security service officer named Cassius Corbulo who by chance gets sent far off into the desert south east of Antioch to the fort of Alauran so as to coordinate the defense against a potential invasion force – strategically important due to its water source Corbu

  6. says:

    This review was first published in the Historical Novel Review270 AD ueen Zenobia of Palmyra has turned on her erstwhile master Rome She has sent her armies across Arabia Egypt and Syria to sweep away the weakened Roman forces Antioch now stands exposed with only the small garrison at the fort of Alauran standing in her armies’ pathCassius Corbulo is new to the Roman ranks He’s the privileged son of a noble family untested unbloodied

  7. says:

    Cassias Corbulo is a fresh grain officer who has been dropped into the role of defending a key resource with a r

  8. says:

    35 starsI liked the refreshing original setting of the novel the Romans in Syria at the time of the revolt of uee

  9. says:

    Having started with number 6 in the Agent of Rome series I’ve gone back to the beginning and the first posting for a young

  10. says:

    When ever you get a new debut author in a genre its potentially a mixed blessing could this be a new giant of the genre? could he she be a turkey? There are the subtle parts of a new writer like will they be a writer of explosive action or slow

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