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Watchmen of Rome by Alex Gough
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Watchmen of Rome

by Alex Gough

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Recently added bypaulmccormack, janerawoof

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Another mesmerizing Roman adventure set in the times of Tiberius, 27 AD! Carbo, newly discharged from the legions after his 25 years tour of duty, returns to his home in the Subura slums of Rome to find his mother is dead and a new family living in his boyhood apartment. So, lonely and at loose ends as to what to do now, he enters a neighborhood tavern. A neighborhood gang member appears to extort money from the owner, Carbo throws him out and soon finds himself the owner. In the course of the novel, with the aid of the local vigiles tribune, Vespillo, Carbo attempts to save Rufa, the now enslaved daughter of a fellow soldier from her evil mistress. The latter plans to destroy Rome, with sacrifice of Rufa's daughter to ancient Carthaginian deities and a monstrous fire. Also he and Vespillo fight the gang, evade a slave hunter, foil the plot, and overcome the final conflagration. My heart was in my mouth several times and the ending was most satisfactory. I would have been disappointed had the story ended any other way.

I felt right in the middle of the Subura, with its fetid smells and squalor; the author did a marvelous job of conveying the atmosphere. Characterization was done very well, especially Carbo, who displayed every emotion. At crucial times he suffers panic attacks, from his experiences as a captive at the Teutoberg disaster. After torture at the hands of the victorious Germans, he had been fortunate to escape and make his way home.

I appreciated the author's showing us a glimpse into the lives of some of Rome's humbler citizens, instead of the usual super-rich elite or the military. All of the action was well done and exciting. I enjoyed learning about the vigiles and their duties, especially their fire-fighting techniques. I liked the details of fighting the three big fires. There were common homophone errors, such as "he wheeled the broom" [he wielded the broom] or "nervous tick" [nervous tic], at which I sighed; but at least they didn't spoil reading the novel for me. I do wish proofing had been more meticulous....

All in all, very highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | Sep 29, 2015 |
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