The Last Caesar

The Last Caesar by Henry Venmore-Rowland, Aulus Caecina Severus #1

AD 68. The tyrant emperor Nero has no son and no heir.
Suddenly there's the very real possibility that Rome might become a republic once more. But the ambitions of a few are about to bring corruption, chaos and untold bloodshed to the many.

Among them is a hero of the campaign against Boudicca, Aulus Caecina Severus. Caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow Caesar's dynasty, he commits treason, raises a rebellion, faces torture and intrigue -- all supposedly for the good of Rome. The boundary between the good of Rome and self preservation is far from clear, and keeping to the dangerous path he's chosen requires all Severus' skills as a cunning soldier and increasingly deft politician.

And so Severus looks back on the dark and dangerous time history knows as the Year of the Four Emperors, and the part he played -- for good or ill -- in plunging the mighty Roman empire into anarchy and civil war.

The Last Caesar is the debut of Henry Venmore-Rowland and also features as the first book in the Aulus Caecina Severus series. The Last Caesar is a work of historical fiction that takes place in the A.D. 68 in the last years of reign of Nero and the beginnings of the "Year of the Four Emperors". Historical fiction has always been a genre of my interest, it offers either retelling of historical events, but can in alternate setting be re-imagined as well. The Last Caesar is based on the real historical events in Nero’s reign. Historical fiction always   always inspire this feeling of grandness and how amazing the what-has-been is for me.The Last Caesar is no exception in this either.

The first thing that falls to notice in The Last Caesar is how the main protagonist Aulus Caecina Severus is used and how the narration is done. The story in shown from the first person narration of Caecina as he is writing it down in a journal to shows what truly happened in history. The decision of showing the story in this way really made this book come a life for me. As Caecina is writing all the things that he done down in his journal, the brutal and viscous battlefield moments, the harsh times on the roads and the happy times with his family really gave a strong human and relatable feeling and feels like he somehow wants to make amends for things that he has done as well. To write in all a better understanding of the past events that shaped many histories. But the story doesn’t only follow the past re-tellings, there are also several moments when Caecina talks to you as a reader of his journal directly. These short moments further bolster his personality as they most went about how dire his current situation has become and that his life can be forfeit any moment.

I was also very pleased by how the younger version of Caecina was shown. His story picks up in the battlefields of Britain and he comes out as a warhero. Being dedicated to the heart of the Roman Empire, Caecina shows the typical honor and valor that is expected of a soldier. Now that he gets another job on the continental side of Europe he is drawn in a vast conspiracy. In this latter part, Ceacina did show for me a bit of naivety that some of you might discard as dedication to his new cause. But there are some interesting things that will make the young warhero Caecina think twice about his actions. In using both the viewpoints of the older and younger Caecina to tell this story, Henry Venmore-Rowland has created a very captivating read. In the back of the book Henry Venmore-Rowland explains more about Caecina’s character and that he is was a real character but that most of his history, his origins remain obscure, this in turn made him a great protagonist to be used in The Last Caesar and, he known history can be used as well as his more imagined history.

The storyline in The Last Caesar mainly revolves around the action of Caecina, even though he is not set out to be an emperor he does has a strong influence in several events that were set into motion. The Last Caesar mainly focuses on a more diplomatic and smaller scale approach in showing how the overthrowing of Nero came to pass. The happenings in Rome are hardly shown instead you have Caecina rising the rebel threat that forces a reaction of the Romans. Up to this point it was mostly dialogue and this wasn’t bad at all since it fitted spot on in the backdrop of the story. But it is not only talk and intrigue, there are actually quite some battle that really help to shape the storyline into a better whose. The Battle between the Gauls with Vindix against the Romans just captures the harshness and the superiority of the Romans in a perfect manner and that battling against them is most likely a lost cause… The mix of political affairs and the threat of battle really balance the whole story out to create an even more gripping read.

From start to finish, The Last Caesar is an interesting and intriguing read, as soon as you have read the first words of the book your in for the whole. From writing style to the story, Henry Venmore-Rowland is on top of his game. The most impressive part for me was how Henry Venmore-Rowland used the main protagonist Caecina to, in fear off his own life, retell his story for going into the history books correctly. The whole way that The Last Caesar is written, in the first person narration with even an occasional mentioning that addresses the reader itself just shows that Henry Venmore-Rowland knows what he is doing and creates a very intense and engaging story. Showing first hand the harsh and brutal times of Caecina but also addressing the happy moments with his wife and son, just beautiful. The Last Caesar captures the Roman times spot on, from the viscous times on the road, bloody battles and rebellion, political intrigue and betrayal, it has it all. The second book in the series The Sword and the Throne was published last June 2013.

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