Book Review: The Emperor's Silver

The Emperor's Silver by Nick Brown, Agent of Rome #5

Still recovering from his previous assignment in Arabia, imperial agent Cassius Corbulo has been spending most of his time and money on women and wine. Unfortunately for him, word of his achievements has reached the emperor Aurelian's deputy and he is sent north, tasked with smashing a counterfeiting gang.

Cassius tracks the criminals to the city of Berytus, where his investigations are hampered by civil unrest and uncooperative officials, not to mention the personal problems of his servant Simo and bodyguard Indavara. Despite this - and intense pressure from his superiors - the young officer eventually closes in on the gang.

But his enemies will do anything to protect their profits, and Cassius and Indavara soon find themselves fighting not only for the emperor, but for their very survival.

If you have been following my review of Nick Brown's Agent of Rome series (including short fiction pieces), you know that I am a big fan of his writing. And it is with a reason, he writing is catchy, fast paced and his vision of the Roman Empire is just as it had to be, beautiful yet brutal at the same time. From the first book, The Siege, Nick Brown has never missed a beat in his writing, I kindly urge you to pick up this series asap if you haven't done so. 

The Emperor's Silver picks up after the events of The Black Stone, and just as if Cassius thought he could catch a break from running around and solving problems (which kind of comes with the job of the frumentarii), he is called on another mission. But first I have to note that before this mission arrives you see a picture of Cassius where his far from a happy man, he has witnessed a lot of hurt and pain. If you think about it anyone with emotions would be taken by this and so is Cassius. He takes relief in other means and knows it isn't really the right way to go. After this introduction Cassius is presented with a serious case, where he has to track counterfeit money. The case being, Emperor Aurelian has issued new coinage in the Roman Empire, since the Roman Empire is big, many criminals try to work this in their favor and one particular criminal gang is doing such a good job that they have been noted. However this new mission isn't the only motivation, Cassius is being persued and they have already gotten very close to him personally... a desperate break is needed. And so Cassius is send to put them to a halt in the city of Berytus. Of course he is always accompanied by two of his friends, servant and bodyguard, Simo and Indavara whom we already have gotten to learn in the other books. Anyway, what might sounds like a fairly easy mission, soon turns out into a giant undertaking as Cassius is presented with more than one challenge in trying to find the criminals and navigating his way through the local populace and convincing them to help him. What we also see is that Cassius' is young and perhaps naive and is being led astray by other motivations. But it in end Cassius is being presented with a "smack in the face" wake up call as soon as he finds out that he wasn't able to shed his persuers and that his life now hangs in the balance. Again a challenging task for Cassius both for his job and that of his life.

I actually wanted to quote the last two sentences of the book but that would be too much of a spoiler, anyway I won't do it now. But as with many of the other review, this ending, WOW, Nick! how dare you totally unfair. I hope you promise to publish the next book in a few months and not let us sit around and wait until next year June! 

When it comes down to character development, "evolution" so to say is remarkable. As I said before, Cassius shows emotions, he has gone through a lot and gradually you see that everything is catching up with him. It is impossible to witness what he has and stay cool about it, you have to find a way to let steam off or something in that sense. I really liked how Nick Brown is showing his protagonist. He is part os the secret frumentarii group, Roman's Secret Service, like spy, but not your James Bond type. He is flawed, his personality is but this is a good thing because we all aren't perfect and this is what makes him a wonderful protagonist because it allows you to connect with him much, much better than if he would be invincible and solve everything and win from every criminal. Cassius is learning. And trying to be better. Similar things count for Indavara and Simo, the former might not be the smartest of all, but I don't think you will be able to find a bodyguard as loyal as he, if it hadn't been for Indavara, Cassius would have been long gone by now. If you add all three characters together you get something much more intricate, the relation between Cassius, Indavara and Simo is a triangle, they need each other to stay alive and get further and in this you see a lot of dynamics. Each personality is different but despite some extremes they work, not always fluently though, but in a way that delivers a great dynamic. which makes you laugh at times and makes you feel a lot of sorrow at the same time. 

Next to the characters, the world building is just as amazing. To be honest, there aren't any lush descriptions of the exotic surroundings. Nick Brown stays to the point and tells what is necessary and mainly by sticking to the to the point writing he creates a very nice pace in his story. And you won't miss a beat of anything, because if you read all the other books you know the surroundings and you have all seen Roman movies so your imagination should be triggered here and there. If you compare the setting to the first four books one thing is noticeable and that is that The Emperor's Silver is written with a much darker tone. Cassius' past is catching up with him and it isn't pretty, he has to face a lot of demons of his own. The events that happen in the ending of the book, I am going to say it again, wow, that cliffhanger. Brilliant stuff, I am curious to see just how this will impact Cassius' action I think we will be in for a treat in the next installement. 

I think I am going to repeat myself for the gazillionth time but the Agent of Rome series is a winner. With The Emperor's Silver Nick Brown once again proves his worth and no wonder that Hodder and Stoughton keeps on buying more books in this series, they are well worth it. From the great story dynamics, character building, story line and writing all down to the accuracy of Roman history these books are just amazing. Period.


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