The Earthly Gods

The Earthly GodsI’ve written about the Agent of Rome series of novels before, but for some reason not since the second book which is rather remiss of me since I’ve just finished book six.

So, by way of a catch-up, Cassius Corbulo, the reluctant imperial agent has continued to make a name for himself in Rome’s eastern provinces, solving some of the empire’s trickier problems with intelligence, tenacity and a degree of luck.

In the previous book, The Emperor’s Silver, Cassius is trailed by a shadowy group who seem intent on doing him harm. It is only on the final page we discover that they want to kidnap not Cassius, but his bodyguard Indavara for reasons unexplained.

Which is where The Earthly Gods picks up the story. We find Cassius in a state of frenzy as he tries to discover who has kidnapped Indavara and why. A month has passed since it happened with no useful leads to follow and his boss, Abscantius, is impatient for him to return to work with a posting in the west.

I should explain that Cassius is a ‘grain man’, the security arm of the Roman army. He is a reluctant recruit, having been forced into the army by his father as punishment for misdemeanours in his home in Ravenna. But however hesitant he might be to become embroiled in the intrigues that beset the provinces, his natural intelligence and resourcefulness prove their worth to the authorities.

In this he is helped by Simo, his Christian slave and servant and Indavara, the taciturn former gladiator assigned to him. Part of my enjoyment of the books has been to see the development of these characters and the genuine bonds of friendship that grow between them. Cassius may no be able to shake off his arrogance, but he is growing up and learning to value the qualities of those around him.

But back to the plot. Before Cassius can proceed, he is contacted by Kabir, the leader of the Syrian tribesmen who we met in the first novel, The Siege, when he and his auxiliary slingers aided the Romans at the siege of the desert fort of Alauran. He is in a desperate state as his daughter and two friends have been stolen by slavers and he desperately wants the Roman’s help to find them.

Now with four missing people to find, the Cassius risks the wrath of his superiors by going rogue, crossing plague-ridden Asia Minor, ultimately coming up a group of men who are far from being common criminals. And I will say no more to avoid spoiling the plot, other than to say this is Nick Brown’s best read yet and with another cliff-hanger of an ending.

This is an adventure novel in the best tradition and Brown writes with a confidence and knowledge of his subject that easily lets you experience the taste, smells and feel of the eastern Roman Empire in the third century. I really can’t recommend the Agent of Rome series highly enough.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

7 comments… Add yours
  • Yorkshire Pudding 4th September 2016

    Never mind that. Where’s The Sunday Round Up?

    Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 6th September 2016

    I admire your ability to get through books with some speed, Mr P. Sadly, I am hampered by a slow reading habit which sends me off to sleep most evenings. The current victim is “The Black Dahlia” by James Ellroy, which got rave reviews at the time but I am really struggling with it. He uses lots of Americanisms (perhaps understandably) but also lots of police jargon, which surely can’t make much sense to Joe Public. Nonetheless, I’m getting through it, even if it is only a few pages a night. Roll on bedtime.

    Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 30th September 2016

    Well, I eventually managed it and finally finished “The Black Dahlia” towards the end of last week and returned it to my local public library earlier this week, a couple of days before the loan period would have expired. The slow reader that I am, I had to extend the loan period twice to enable me to get to the end but I was determined to get there come hell or high water (well, perhaps not literally).

    What a difference we two are, Mr P. You, zapping through your novels at a speed of knots and me plodding along at the back, finding it almost impossible to keep up with the front runners. Reminds me of “Cut across, Shorty” by Eddie Cochran and the line, “Shorty must have had something boys that can’t be found in books.” Eh,eh!!

    Reply
    • Mr Parrot 30th September 2016

      I rarely read in bed for the reason you give – it sends me to sleep! Much better to read when you’re alert and can concentrate in my opinion. I can recommend the Promise Falls trilogy that I wrote about today though.

      Reply
  • Nick Brown 29th November 2016

    Thanks very much for the review, Ian, which I’ve linked to on Twitter and FB. Great to hear you’ve followed the series. Cheers, Nick.

    Reply
    • Mr Parrot 30th November 2016

      It’s a pleasure Nick. And it isn’t just me who enjoys your books – my wife is a big fan as well.

      Reply
      • Nick Brown 30th November 2016

        Great 🙂 Thanks again.

        Reply

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