Publisher: Headline (Trade Paperback – 9 November 2021)
Series: Eagles of the Empire – Book 20
Length: 431 pages
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
One of the best authors of Roman historical fiction, Simon Scarrow, returns with another exceptional adventure back in time with The Honour of Rome.
2021 has been a particularly good year for Simon Scarrow readers, as this acclaimed historical fiction author has released two fantastic novels. The first of these, Blackout, was a clever historical murder mystery novel set in pre-war Nazi Germany, which contained a fantastic and impressive story. While I deeply enjoyed Blackout, I was a little more excited for the next awesome entry in Scarrow’s long-running Eagles of the Empire series. The Eagles of the Empire books follow two officers in the Roman army, Centurion Marco and Prefect Cato, as they fight in multiple battle fields across the Roman Empire. I have been a major fan of this series for years and have had the pleasure of reading every prior entry in it, while also reviewing some of the latest entries, including The Blood of Rome, Traitors of Rome and The Emperor’s Exile. As such, I was very excited when I received the latest entry in this series, The Honour of Rome, a couple of days ago, and instantly started reading it. The Honour of Rome is the 20th novel in this series and takes its great protagonists on another intense adventure.
Britannia, 59 AD. After retiring from the Roman Legions, former Centurion Marco has travelled back to Britannia 15 years after he helped conquer it. Now a married man, Marco is hoping for a quiet life, enjoying the fruits of the successful inn in Londinium that he half-owns with his mother. However, not everything is as calm as he hoped. There are rumours about the tribes being restless once again, and the streets of Londinium are alive with criminal gangs.
Upon arriving at his mother’s inn, Marco discovers that she is being extorted for protection money by a ruthless gang. Determined to stop this, Marco attempts to resist the gangsters, only to find himself outmatched and a potential pawn into the middle of a vicious gang war. At the same time, Marco finds himself drawn into the defence of the colony, especially when one of the local tribes refuses to pay any more taxes.
After a bloody punitive raid with a group of veteran reserve soldiers, Marco returns to Londinium, only to face the consequences for his defiance. Beaten and bloodied, Marco is unsure how to fight back until his old friend Cato appears. Cato, who has left Rome without leave to hide Nero’s exiled mistress, is always willing to back Marco up in any sort of fight, and he has an ambitious plan to end the gang problem once and for all. Will the team of Marco, Cato, and their veteran allies be enough to overcome the city’s vicious gangs, or have these proud war heroes finally met their match?
This was another awesome novel from Scarrow, who has once again produced an exciting and fast-paced historical fiction read that perfectly envisions the landscape of Roman-occupied England. The Honour of Rome is a great read, and I loved the cool combination of historical and crime fiction elements throughout it. I ended up reading this book in only a few short days and loved every second of it.
Scarrow has come up with another amazing and entertaining story for this compelling book, which takes his long-running protagonists on another intense and bloody adventure. One of the things that I have always enjoyed about the Eagles of the Empire series is the range of different subgenres that can be blended with its historical fiction elements. The Honour of Rome is a great example of this as Scarrow utilises a crime fiction based storyline that blends with the overarching historical elements extremely well. The protagonist is swiftly drawn into a vicious confrontation with two warring gangs of criminals upon his arrival in Londinium, which proves to be an outstanding basis for the main storyline. At the same time, he once again becomes involved in the Roman garrison’s ongoing conflicts with the local Britons. This combination of crime and military elements is very effective throughout the novel, and I liked seeing the conflicts with both gangsters and rebellious natives. This also allows Scarrow to bring in several solider characters into the main crime-fiction storyline as backup as the story progresses, and it was pretty fun to see a bunch of retired soldiers taking on the antagonists. The author really sets up everything extremely well in this book, and there isn’t a moment of calm or quiet throughout the entire novel, as the protagonist gets involved in several intense and well-written fights and battle sequences. I found the last third of the novel to be particularly exciting, especially as the protagonists attempt an ambitious and risky strategy. This results in the predictable satisfying, if bloody, conclusion, and Scarrow has made sure to set up some cool new storylines that will no doubt be the basis for the next few books. An enjoyable and action-packed thrill-ride from start to finish, I had a fantastic time reading this latest historical adventure.
One of the more interesting things about The Honour of Rome was the noticeable change in character focus that helped set it apart from the other Eagles of the Empire books, namely that it spent most of the narrative focusing on only one of the series’ protagonists. This is not too surprising, especially as the previous book in the series, The Emperor’s Exile, focused on Cato to such a degree that I kind of assumed that Scarrow was planning to permanently retire Marco. However, I’m pleased to say I was wrong about this, as two-thirds of this latest book is exclusively told from Marco’s perspective. I had a great time following Marco in this novel, and it is always a lot of fun to see the gruff and hard-headed Centurion in action. There are some great moments surrounding Marco in this novel, from being out of his depth when it comes to combating criminals rather than enemy soldiers, to his great camaraderie with the fellow veterans in the colony. You also have to love the fun interactions that occur around him as he finds himself stuck between his strong-willed wife and his equally strong-willed mother. This ended up being a really good Marco novel, and I deeply enjoyed it. Of course, Cato does show up towards the end of the book, and the novel is soon back to its typical dynamic, with Cato taking tactical lead. There are also some interesting long-term storylines surrounding Cato, especially as he has fled from Rome with the Emperor’s exiled mistress. It was great to see this team in action once again, especially as they enact another madcap scheme, and I had another fun time following them.
I also rather enjoyed the cool historical setting featured within this great novel, as the protagonists once again return to Britannia. Historical Britannia is a well-utilised setting in the Eagles of the Empire books, having been the location of several of the earlier novels, including the first five entries in the series. It made me a little nostalgic to see this damp and gloomy setting once again, especially as it proves to be just as chaotic and violent as ever. This book makes full use of its clever move from the more traditional battlefields of Britannia to the city of Londinium, and I loved the inclusion of a crime-ridden, early London, especially as Scarrow tries his best to show it in all its dark and rapidly expanding glory. I also enjoyed the inclusion of the veterans’ colony that was a major secondary setting for much of the book. It proved to be fascinating to follow these characters who have chosen to settle in this harsh country and spending time conquering it, and I liked their inclusion in the novel. It was pretty cool to see these retired soldiers in reserve taking on enemies, both on a proper battlefield and against the criminal element, and I thought it was a fun and compelling inclusion to the story. I also appreciated that, after several books, we finally get a continuation of the Boudica storylines that were set up in some of the earlier novels. Scarrow is also clearly setting up Boudica’s rebellion for later in the series, and I cannot wait to see how our protagonists, with their established history with Boudica and her people, will fit into it.
With this awesome 20th entry in his amazing Eagles of the Empire series, Simon Scarrow continues to highlight why he is one of the absolute best authors of historical fiction in the world today. The Honour of Rome has a brilliant and compelling story that perfectly blends historical and crime fiction elements together into one thrilling tale. I had a wonderful time reading this great book, and I deeply appreciated the way in which Scarrow continues the adventures of his compelling characters by once again returning them to the familiar setting of occupied Britannia. The Honour of Rome is another highly recommended historical read, and I cannot wait to see what happens next in this series.