Adventures in Bookland: The Last Battle by Nick Brown

Sometimes, one despairs of the fickle wiles of the gods of literary success. It applies in all genres (can anyone really explain how something as poor as 50 Shades of Grey became the most embarrassing literary phenomenon since, well, The Da Vinci Code) but a good example in historical fiction is Nick Brown’s Agent of Rome series. This has been, hands down, one of the best Roman-era series written through the last decade, a decade that has seen an explosion of stories set in the Empire. But where many others have gone on to big sales on the back of basically transplanting 21st-century people into the first couple of centuries AD but dressing them in togas, Nick Brown’s carefully crafted and wonderfully characterised series has, according to Nick, achieved only disappointing sales. So much so that his publisher declined to publish this, the seventh and final volume of the adventures of the Agent of Rome, Cassius Corbulo, and his bodyguard Indavara and his personal slave, Simo.

But while the series might not have gathered the sales it deserved so far, those of us who have discovered it have realised that in its portrayal of the relationship between these three individuals, Nick has imaginatively put us back into the third century, during the reign of the Emperor Aurelian. He examines the dynamics of this fundamentally unequal relationship between a young Roman nobleman, a hired bodyguard who has managed to escape the gladiatorial arenas with his life and the slave, born to slaves, who looks after them all. Brown has skillfully developed the relationships between Cassius, Indavara and Simo through the previous six books and int this final book, written for we faithful fans of the series and its characters, he brings their stories to a deeply satisfying conclusion, one that remains true to the motivations and characters of each of them.

Thank you, Nick, for finishing the story for we fans and I hope that your next work will reap the financial rewards that your literary talent deserves.


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