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Traitors of Rome, by Simon Scarrow review

Norfolk-based author Simon Scarrow continues to produce spellbinding historical fiction with his latest novel in the Eagles of The Empire series.

Titled Traitors of Rome, the story centres around two battle-hardened veterans of the Roman army, Cato and Macro.

Set in AD56, Scarrow's latest work covering the military veterans at war is a tale of suspense, distrust and deceit.

Simon Scarrow, author of Traitors of Rome, is pictured on the left during a book signing at Downham library for a previous book
Simon Scarrow, author of Traitors of Rome, is pictured on the left during a book signing at Downham library for a previous book

Scarrow is well in his element when painting a picture of the main characters at the beginning as the reader is taken into the heart of a Roman wedding in which Macro's special day with Petronella is detailed.

Given that the protagonists are about to embark on a military campaign to wage war on Parthia, these peaceful scenes juxtapose the ensuing harsh realities of military life.

Scarrow informs us about who will be left behind if death occurs.

The crux of the novel is centred around tension and suspicion within the ranks of the Praetorian Guard at a time when unity is needed to conquer enemies of Rome.

Suspense is created as it is only in the final chapter of this engrossing page-turner that we find out who is the real traitor responsible for causing mutiny which potentially could have shattering consequences for Rome.

Growing hunger and vicious rumours leave a divided camp at risk of being completely pulled apart.

After urgent necessity suddenly forces the army to unite in order to prevent disaster, the ensuing battle against Parthia at the city of Thapsis feels somewhat rushed and condensed into the final few chapters.

The story is after all based around the discontent within the army ranks and a diplomatic mission rather than the ebb and flow of a battle. Nevertheless Scarrow is rich in descriptive writing throughout.

Sub-plots include Cato's diplomatic mission which sees him come face-to-face with Parthian king Vologases in the heart of the enemy's palace.

Distrust, bordering into paranoia, forms a large part of this engrossing novel which keeps the reader fully engaged and attuned to the characters at the heart of the drama.

In the end however, it is someone not at the heart of the action, but rather someone peripherally mentioned, who turns out to be the real traitor.

The 464-page book is on sale now in hardback having been published in late November.

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