Saturday, 2 July 2016

The Black Stone, Nick Brown

Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 470

Main Characters:

Cassius, Indavara, Khalima

When the sacred Black Stone of Emesa is stolen by a mysterious enemy of Rome, Cassius is set the task of recovering it for his Emperor.  The identity and location of the thieves are unknown. Nevertheless, Cassius must create a small task force to gain information from an imperial spy in Petra and then use that information to track down the stone. However, the Corn Man soon finds out that the theft of the sacred object could be linked with Rome’s allies the Tanukh: a confederation of Arabian tribes that traditionally guards Rome’s frontier. Cassius must come up with a plan to return the stone to Rome and ease relations with Rome’s old ally, ensuring another rebellion does not spark in the Empire’s eastern provinces.

Yet again Brown has managed to create a captivating and thrilling historical fiction book. I think the Agent of Rome series is by far my favourite Roman series out there at the moment. This is because Brown creates excellent characters and actually gives them personalities that make them feel human. 

Typically in Roman novels of this type, there are always two main ‘chalk and cheese’ protagonists that really shouldn’t get along. Usually it’s a young buck that has been thrust into leadership and throughout the books that follow, the youngster grows into an amazing warrior and leader. Then there is the old veteran, who has distain for the young officer because of his quick elevation to command, but then over time gains a sense of respect for the young man as he develops into this great leader.

I believe Cassius and Indavara aren’t like that. Sure, Cassius was thrown into his position but he was literally bred from birth to deal with these situations as he comes from a rich family. Nevertheless, he is no hero and honestly not a character I like, as he is cowardly and very self-centred. However, this makes him a great character to read about as he is someone different from the usual zero-to-hero protagonist that defines this genre of historical-fiction. His partner in the books is also unusual because at times I don’t think he even likes Cassius. In addition, there is an air of mystery around Indavara, which I’m excited to learn more about in future novels. This again makes him interesting to me because he is not the two dimensional character you usually see in this genre. We don’t really know what his motives are because we don’t know that much about him, which is great for the reader as this factor sometimes makes him unpredictable.

Finally, another character that shone in this book was Gutha, the German mercenary working for the Arabians. I thought the small parts in the book about his past were very interesting and I would love to read more about him in a short story, so Nick if you’re reading this, please consider it because I’d be the first to review it!

To conclude this was a great edition to the Agent of Rome series and I can’t wait to read the next two books. I would suggest it to fans of authors like Ben KaneAnthony Riches and Simon Scarrow. If you are a historical fiction fan please check out this series, it is a true gem in a genre that I am starting to feel more and more disillusioned with.

For the author's offical site click here.

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