Book review: Praetorian by Simon Scarrow

Eleven books, heart-thumping action in ancient Rome and her empire, two characters who mature and evolve with every story... Simon Scarrow’s Roman series just gets better and better.

Praetorian sees army veterans Prefect Cato and his bluff Centurion sidekick Macro up to their eyes in danger again in a thrilling plot that takes readers into new and exciting territory.

This is classic adventure fiction all right but with an ingenious, twisting-and-turning storyline that places politics, philosophy, history and intrigue into one big, satisfying melting pot.

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Scarrow maintains his gift for putting gripping action at centre stage but in Praetorian we are plunged into the political machinations amongst the ruthless factions who jostle for power in 50AD Rome as the ageing Emperor Claudius begins to lose his grip.

The harsh social realities of dwelling within the walls of the great capital city are juxtaposed with the principles of men like Cato and Macro who put their lives on the line for the empire, the subordination of the Senate to its Imperial rulers and the race by unscrupulous advisers to amass vast fortunes.

Add to this a shadowy Republican organisation which is plotting to kill the Emperor , a succession battle brewing between Claudius’s natural son Britannicus and his stepson Nero, a starving mob baying for blood and the scene is set for a real blockbuster.

All roads lead to Rome for battle-weary Cato and Macro who have recently returned from a perilous mission in Egypt and are awaiting new orders in the port of Ostia.

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Meanwhile, nearby Rome is a dangerous place. Treachery lurks on every corner and the Liberators, an organisation intent on assassinating Claudius, has spread its tentacles wide.

A huge consignment of freshly-minted silver bullion has gone missing and the grain supply has mysteriously run short, bringing chaos to Rome and leaving angry, desperate citizens ready to riot.

Imperial Secretary Narcissus, a man not afraid to resort to coercion and blackmail, believes that the heart of the latest plot lies in the ranks of the Emperor’s supposedly loyal bodyguards, the Praetorian Guard.

Cato and Macro, two men guaranteed to be loyal to the grave, must infiltrate them and find the traitors to prevent Rome’s return to the dark days of civil war and tyrants.

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But the two hardened warriors face a daunting challenge to win the trust of their fellow soldiers and no sooner have they begun to unearth the details of the Liberators’ devious plan than disaster strikes.

An old enemy, who could identify them with deadly consequences, makes an unexpected appearance. Now they face a race against time to save their own lives before they can unmask the mastermind behind the Liberators...

Scarrow paints a vivid portrait of ancient Rome in a time a political turmoil whilst delivering another top-class action thriller.

Roll on the next chapter...

(Headline, hardback, £18.99)

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