Rating: 4 stars
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Drusus Tuscus has spent seventeen years serving in the Roman army. Conscripts must serve twenty years before receiving a small plot of land and a few coins to serve as their retirement. It’s a retirement many men never live to see, but Drusus has luck and skill on his side and both have seen him rise to the level of Centurion, and one who has the respect of his men. Fate brings his younger brother, Calpurnius, under his command, and along with Cal comes his friend, Caius, a man who takes Drusus’ breath away. Over the following months, Drusus and Cal have a chance to reaffirm their brotherly bond, while Drusus and Caius begin a love affair.
But war is on the horizon. The Germanic tribes have grown restless under the yoke of Rome and, despite numerous warnings, the Legions may not be prepared for their enemy’s explosive next move. The history of Rome will forever be altered and the lives of Drusus, Caius, and their brothers at arms may be lost to the violence of a war far from home.
Just a quick piece of historical reference — Sons of Rome is loosely based on actual event in Roman military history. In 9 AD, Quinctilius Varus led three Roman Legions (an army that included approximately 15,000 fighting men, supports, and even families) into the Teutoburg Forest. There they were attacked by a united collection of Germanic tribes and slaughtered almost en masse. Only a few survived and it is considered one of the largest military disasters in history. Sons of Rome approaches this brutal event from the well imagined view of the men who fought and died. There are historical facts peppered throughout the book, but nothing is overwhelming and I’d say it’s easily accessible for those who may not be aware of much Roman history. The author does an excellent job of breaking things down and giving readers a set of characters to whom we can easily relate. The book is generally well written and I felt the plot was strongly paced throughout. I’d say that having Caius end up in his brother’s Legion was a bit of forced plotting and it seems wedged in, but it doesn’t disrupt the overall mechanics of the book.
A lot of authors today write conversations between Roman characters as if they were straight from an episode of “Spartacus” — somewhat formal and even a bit stilted. That’s the case here too. This way of speaking isn’t how I learned to speak Latin (many, many moons ago) and while there may be some historical support for it, it can be a little frustrating to read. The conversational language on whole is too purple and excessively dramatic for belief. And while this is annoying as a reader, the wider story makes Sons of Rome worth the read. While the overall plot is fairly strong, Sons of Rome does lack some depth. There are times the events and emotions read as formulaic rather than with real emotion. It would have been nice to have another layer of overall gravity to the story as a whole.
Sons of Rome was a generally strong piece of fiction about a terrible moment in history. The author has done a great job of making the event understandable and believably rendered. The battle scenes are probably the strongest parts, but there’s plenty of romance here as well. If you’re a history buff or just want to learn a bit more, then I’d say Sons of Rome is for you.