Monday 18 October 2021

Discovering Diamonds Reviews of: Antonius: Second in Command and Antonius: Soldier of Fate by Brook Allen

Ancient Rome
(The Antonius Trilogy Book 2)

"After proving himself as a formidable cavalry commander, Marcus Antonius finally earns a position at his kinsman Julius Caesar’s side. However, Caesar is an exacting general, demanding complete allegiance from his staff, even when his decisions put him at odds with the Senate. Marcus’s loyalty to Caesar comes at a cost, and he soon finds himself embroiled in mob violence and military mutinies. As civil war brings Rome’s Republic crashing down, many a relationship is torn asunder, including Marcus’s marriage. Determined to rise triumphant in Rome’s new era, Marcus faces his fears, his failures, and his enemies—not the least of whom is himself. Amid the crisis of the Ides of March, Marcus must don the mantle of ruthlessness to carve his own legacy in Rome’s history. Enemies have been made, wills have been read, and heirs proclaimed.
But in Rome’s civil unrest, blood answers only to blood."

After the first book in the series, where we meet Marcus Antonius (Mark Anthony) as a young boy and see his character forming, here he is a man, a soldier, the character we know from history, and you'd think this is the story that we all know well. But do we? 

He's a character who usually comes bursting onto the pages/screen when Julius Caesar is at the height of his powers and about to be taken down in the most bloody and brutal way. And we all know what happens: Antonius stands up, comes not to bury him but to praise him etc, and then gets to step centre stage, for a while. 

Not so here. Here we see how the complex relationship between the two men develops, how Caesar begins to wonder if his faith in his deputy is misplaced, while Antonius at once loves and despairs of Caesar. No easy friendship this, and Brook Allen portrays these two characters extremely well, showing that nothing is as clear cut and straightforward as the history books might have us believe. 

If you're looking for battle/fight scenes, they're here, and they're well done, from the sheer misery of life on the road in the army, to the depiction of the battle of Philippi. The complicated politics are explained with a light touch, too. But the personal stories are what shine through: Marcus' difficult relationship with Antonia and with Fulvia, his love for his family, the demons he still carries from his youth, and his growing mistrust of his supposed ally Octavian.

This sets us up nicely for Volume Three, of course...

© Lucy Townshend

Antonius: Soldier of Fate 
    (The Antonius Trilogy Book 3)

Ancient Rome

"Marcus Antonius has it all—power, prestige, a heroic military reputation, and the love of Queen Cleopatra. But as master of Rome’s Eastern provinces and kingdoms, he must maintain peace, and in so doing, he sacrifices his own happiness, yoked within a loveless marriage and an eroding alliance. As Octavian’s star rises, Marcus must compete with his rival’s success, though it leads to an embittered struggle threatening to end their unity. Once Marcus finally takes matters into his own hands, his fate becomes tied to the East—and Cleopatra. Far from Rome and his seat of power, a horrific campaign to fulfill Julius Caesar’s vision will forever alter him. He is a man torn between two countries and two families, and ultimately—a soldier fated to be the catalyst transforming Rome from Republic to Empire."

The final part of the trilogy about the life of Marcus Antonius (Mark Anthony) sees him, unsurprisingly, in Egypt. No doubt it's a familiar story to all, for don't we all know what happened to Anthony and Cleopatra? 

Perhaps we don't all know, though, about what else he was doing in the east when he wasn't with his love, and the depiction of his fight against the Parthians is told in stark and graphic detail. The suffering of his own army is poignantly written and very moving. The mighty Roman army is put under a microscope to show us the individual soldiers who were, lest we forget, just ordinary human beings. Even in Egypt, Marcus can't escape the machinations of the Roman political behemoth and we are reminded that any notion of power-sharing was but a fantasy. 

Octavian is determined that it shall be he, and not Marcus, who prevails. Marcus knows, and he also knows that he is not as strong as he once was, and this is portrayed very movingly. Of course, we know it can't end well and it doesn't, but Ms Allen produces a twist at the very end, which takes nothing away from the legend, but adds another layer of emotion to what is already a powerful ending. 

She is to be congratulated on taking on a subject so seemingly well known and adding new dimensions to the story. A series to be read and savoured; highly recommended. (I cried at the end.)

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Lucy Townshend
 e-version reviewed

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