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Hero of Rome

(Gaius Valerius Varrens)

By Douglas Jackson

This is the story of the young tribune, Gaius Valerius Verrens.  As an officer in the Roman legions, he has been posted to Britain to gain experience and begin his political career.  After completing his tour of duty, Valerius is awaiting transport back to Rome where his experience is badly needed to defend the newly established Roman colony of Colonia.

I find it interesting how over thousands of years things really haven’t changed.  Valerius is from an “old money” senatorial family, he enters the legions as an officer who doesn’t know one end of the sword from another.  He is placed in command of men with many years of fighting experience.  This is something that is seen reflected even to this day.

The story for me was divided into two parts.  The first half was the build-up, we are introduced to the characters and the backdrop for the action is set.  For my taste, this part contained far too much “swoon” and not enough action.  But at the same time it allowed us to really delve into Valerius’ character.  He is a young man trying to figure out who he is and who he will be in this world.  We see his hopes, his fears, and his internal struggles with his duty and his desires.

The second half is the hard fighting action that I look for in historical fiction.  What was truly different about Hero of Rome is that it gave one of the most realistic depictions of war.  It is filled with gruesome death, sacrifice, and betrayal.  It is not the typical Roman good guys versus barbarian bad guys.  There are people on both sides who want peace, but as always, those who stoke the flames of war prevail.

For a different, more introspective look at Roman Britain, Hero of Rome is a great choice.  I am looking forward to further adventures with Gaius Valerius Verrens.

*4 Stars