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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cato and Macro are back and in the Praetorian Guard
Cato and Macro are back! It is A.D. 51 and, fresh from their last adventure in Egypt, we open with the treacherous murder of Balbus on the Appian Way and the stealing of two million sesterces that was bound for the pay chests of the imperial legions. It is the motive behind the theft that has Narcissus, the freedman of Claudius and one of the most powerful men in Rome,...
Published on November 23, 2011 by travelswithadiplomat

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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sadly dissapointing
Being a Scarrow fan I looked forward to this latest adventure of Macro and Cato, but I would have to say I was sadly let down. More a whodunnit than the usual blood and guts fable of the Roman Legions, I found it contrived, booring and a little too puerile. As Macro says "lets get back to the real army"!
Published on November 28, 2011 by the fang


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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cato and Macro are back and in the Praetorian Guard, November 23, 2011
This review is from: Praetorian (Hardcover)
Cato and Macro are back! It is A.D. 51 and, fresh from their last adventure in Egypt, we open with the treacherous murder of Balbus on the Appian Way and the stealing of two million sesterces that was bound for the pay chests of the imperial legions. It is the motive behind the theft that has Narcissus, the freedman of Claudius and one of the most powerful men in Rome, coerce Macro and Cato, as they kick their heels in Ostia, into infiltrating the Praetorian Guard. A unit known more for parade gloss and carousing than serious military action is about to get the wisdom and action of our dour, hard-headed centurion and newly promoted (though unconfirmed) intelligent prefect. With alibis as Capido and Calidus they find themselves in the Guard under the command of Optio Tigellinus, Centurion Lurco, and Tribune Burrus. Narcissus communicates with them through his agent Septimus instructing them to begin a mission to find the bullion, work out if the shadowy Liberators are plotting to murder Emperor Claudius, and understand where the disappearing grain supply is going. Tasks better suited to Cato's questing mind than Macro's blunt force.
Whilst undertaking the mission the pair is forced to deal with the imperial politicking of Narcissus and Pallas; tiptoe around the naked aims of the Empress Agrippina to advance her son Nero against those of Claudius' true son, Britannicus. The action commences soon enough with Macro and Cato coming up against a gang headed by the giant Cestius. The first skirmish in the streets of a rioting Rome has our heroes save the imperial family and work their way into Sinius' confidences as co-conspirators against Claudius. Having established their position all that remains is to work out who is really controlling the strings of the plot and where the grain supply is going. Having got the inept Lurco out of the way with a kidnap that also has the satisfaction of the annoying Vitellius from previous novels knocked cold and bound up, Cato and Macro find themselves being swept away by a burst dam, fighting gladiators at the Naumachia and then working out where the missing grain is being hidden just in time as Rome threatens to descend into a greater riot. A sodden trip into the Cloaca Maxima and a confrontation with Cestius leads to Cato and Macro racing back to the palace to thwart a final attempt on Claudius life and a denouement that reveals much, concludes little, of the politics of Rome and grants our protagonists a trip back to Britannia for their next outing.
I have liked Scarrow's novels ever since a fresh faced Cato appeared on the pages of the Augusta II with a crusty, plain-speaking centurion named Macro. The author's language is direct, he is clearly at his best when writing action scenes - though there is a five page philosophical almost-soliloquy by Cato around page 250 of the hardback version when he considers is legacy and the futility of the present... "The leaden sense of despair that it engendered weighed down upon Cato as he thought that this is how it was, is and would be for as long as those few with power were more concerned with accruing it for themselves rather than using it to better the lot of those they ruled." - and he keeps the `fill' to a minimum as Cato becomes the sleuth puzzling out who did what, when and where. Scarrow chooses to deliver his prose in modern format so we get words like "rake", "gangster" and "rabble" freely used amongst Macro's endearing soldier slang. There was only one typo that made it to the version this reviewer has read; somewhat amusingly Macro comments on the delights of "proper soldering" rather than "soldiering" on page 251.
Blacksmithing aside, Scarrow hits the spot unerringly. Eleven novels in the Roman series give the proof of the brilliance of what the author has achieved. As a reader, Cato and Macro have as much as place in the pantheon of Roman characters as Falco and Gordianus. Scarrow is as good as Davis and Saylor. Different in style, equal in success. The adventures of Cato and Macro are enjoyable and this latest instalment is as good as the rest. I hope the author continues with this pair for as long as he can.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sadly dissapointing, November 28, 2011
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Being a Scarrow fan I looked forward to this latest adventure of Macro and Cato, but I would have to say I was sadly let down. More a whodunnit than the usual blood and guts fable of the Roman Legions, I found it contrived, booring and a little too puerile. As Macro says "lets get back to the real army"!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cato and Macro ride again, May 12, 2012
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This review is from: Praetorian (Hardcover)
OK, so gthey don't really ride. This story puts them in the center of palace intrigue shortly before the rise of Nero. Very good weaving of actual history into an action story. Well worth the money.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Macro and CAto true to form, but in a different context..., March 15, 2012
This review is from: Praetorian (Hardcover)
First posted on Amazon.co.uk on 16 November 2011

Simon Scarrow has been true to form with book 11 of his series on two Roman officers during the reign of Emperor Claudius (first century CE). The story is well-written, fast-paced and gripping. Simon's historical research is top notch, as usual. Even some of the secondary characters, such as Praetorian tribune Burrus and Tigellinus are historical. The first indeed became Praetorian prefect and remained at that post during the first years of Nero's reign. The second replaced him and survived Nero, only to be killed the year after, during the "Year of the Four Emperors".

The twist of the book is that all of the action happens in Rome and it is more of a mix between a political thriller full of intrigue and plots and a spy story - no campaigns against "barbarians" somewhere on one of the borders this time! Simon has been doing this over the last few episodes, dropping campaigns in Britain for a episode against pirates in Illyria, then a couple of episodes in the East, also laced with conspirations that could threaten the Emperor, a slave revolt in Crete and an invasion of Egypt by the Nubians. The next hotspot, in this episode, is Rome and the aging Emperor whose life, reign and family seem threatened by all sides.

Two additional things make this book outstanding for me. One is the descriptions of Rome and of its inhabitants, which are not only historically accurate but also make the place and people almost come to life. The other is that Simon has managed to make us feel how gasthly it must have been to live in the Palace or among the senatorial class, with constant suspiçion and multiple plots to overthrow the Emperor (there were quite a few under Claudius). I particularly appreciated the character of Narcissus (I cannot say "liked", of course) because this is just how I imagine him to be as the Emperor's unofficial head of security: ruthless, cruel, devious, somewhat paranoïd (but surviving under such conditions made all of htem into paranoïds, more or less!) but devoted to the Emperor because his life depended on it.

One (very minor) grip perhaps: the book sometimes seems to hesitate between showing
Claudius as a half idiot, just like some of the previous episodes tended to do, and showing him as more intelligent than he looks. What it doesn't show is that Claudius was an extremely knowlegeable scholar (among many other things a historian of the Etruscans, who were the real ancestors of the Romans and NOT the Trojans). By and large, however, Simon seems to be more attracted to the portray of the idiot although Claudius was a survivor and very likely to have been more intelligent than he cared to show. It is also possible that his afflictions could mask this intelligence, especially to people who only had glimpses of him. What is sure, however, is that he did not at all cut an impressive figure and would all too easy to make fun of.

There are in fact two views of Claudius and this emperor remains a bit of an enigma to this day. One, largely propagated under Nero's reign, was that he was a a half-idiot and a cripple, who was chosen by the Praetorians just after his nephew Caligula had been murdered because they needed to put a pliable candidate on the throne in a hurry, before anyone else came up with one.

The other view can be found in Robert Grave's I, Claudius and Claudius the God, and is also shared by a number of modern historians: he did stammer (but so did a modern King of England, and that didn't make him into a bad monarch, did it?), he was a cripple and had a number of defects which could give a rather poor image of himself, especially if under stress. There is also a chance that he used these defects to ensure his survival during the reigns of his uncle Tiberius and his nephew Caligula at a time when little was needed to be purged and a relatively high number of members of the imperial family and of the Senate died in suspicious circumstances, starting with Claudius' own brother (Germanicus, father of Caligula).

A highly recommended book: buy it. You won't be able to drop it and, as you finish it, you'll already be asking for more of the same! At least I am...
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5.0 out of 5 stars From soldiers to spies..., January 28, 2012
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This review is from: Praetorian (Hardcover)
As a booklover first and a book seller second, one of the things that grates me more than anything is the person who comes up to me in the bookstore with a new hardcover and asks, "does this come in paper"? If there ever was a case for modern day flogging, that would be it. If you want a book, then you'll GET the book! I only say that to say this: It took some juggling and a lot patience to get this book. And while it wasn't super expensive it wouldn't have mattered anyway, because there was nothing that was going to stop me from getting this book. Nothing. Now that I've completely bored you with information that you could truly give a flying fig about, let me get to the book...

Only in Rome could politics be as dangerous and bloody as the battlefield. Macro & Cato return to continue their forced servitude, care of the infamous snake, Narcissus. These two have survived using their wits, their courage, their gall, their brutality, and their luck. This time they'll need all of that to work in concert in order to make it through the next Narcissu's "Mission Impossible: Rome" adventure. Basically there is a plot to murder the Emperor, Claudius, and our two soldiers are asked (yeah, right) to help uncover the conspiracy. Of course the mission is never as straight forward as that, so while trying to figure out THAT simple mission they must also find out who is hoarding all the grain and starving Rome. Yep. How's that for a to-do list?

They must stop being soldiers for a while and become spies. This involves interesting things happening to their rank and names. Simon himself says that this isn't the usual battlefield blood and gore that we've come to love but the adventure is still there. I did miss reading about the legions cutting through bone and gristle to slaughter the enemy, but this book is in NO WAY a dud or boring. I found myself feeling that paradox of loving this book and hating myself for flying through it because I'll only have to patiently wait like Job for the next one.

There are also a number of funny passages in this book when listening to Emperor Claudius and you will crack up at some of the things that Macro says to Narcissu's face... and back. Both of these legionaries have grown throughout this series and after eleven books, they are as family. I don't reread a lot of books, and I can name the ones that I have reread on one hand. If I'm blessed to live a nice long life this will be a series that I will look forward to rereading in my golden years. If I don't live a long time, at least I've read them now. Melodramatic? Yeah... well who asked you? Well done Mr. Scarrow... well done.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Caught in the middle, danger everywhere..., March 6, 2012
By 
John "John75222" (Leeds, Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Praetorian (Hardcover)
I like Scarrow's well drawn and fleshed out characters, the chalk and cheese legionaries Cato and Macro and have been a fan since Under the Eagle: A Tale of Military Adventure and Reckless Heroism with the Roman Legions. Scarrow's ability to richly describe the backbreaking and violent daily life of the Roman legionary is well done throughout the Eagle series and to this he now adds the complex political intrigue at the end of the reign of Claudius as well.

However, Scarrow hasn't let up on the blood and guts in this book. You can still hear the clash of sword on sword, the screams of the injured and dying, the smell of blood and sweat and the immediacy, proximity, desperation and tension of the fights. This is Scarrow at his descriptive best.

Rome is starving and the overt and covert infighting now taking place in the first family and their supporters in the Roman civil service is now coming to a head and this is one Narcissus will loose eventually to his rival Pallas. Cato and Macro need to get out and away from this and the resolution to Praetorian gives them the opportunity to escape the upcoming infighting that was synonymous with regime change, with the added bonus of Cato earning a `get out of jail' card from Nero along the way as well.

I can't wait for the next three or four books in the series, let alone book XII, as there is so much potential still to be tapped.

A welcome addition to the series, an enjoyable read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Scarrow's Best, March 20, 2013
By 
Stephen F. Malin (CORNVILLE, AZ, US) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Praetorian (Roman Legion II) (Paperback)
I jave read all of the books in this series and thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Cato and Macro. This story was slow never really taking off, totally lacking in energy and almost boring. I do not recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Great series and hoping for many more, March 27, 2013
By 
David Wilkin (La Habra Heights, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Praetorian (Hardcover)
This is still a great series. In the back notes, Simon, the author talks of returning to two old friends, and that is how the series is now.

Macro has softened a bit, though still rough and tumble and a better fighter than Cato. Cato is still the brains that keeps Macro away from the trouble he is prone to get into.

Here is the closest we have been to the Imperial Purple, Claudius, who is near the end of his tenure. And we see the seedy underside of politics as all prepare for what is to come when Claudius is gone. It is a shame that we do not see the craftiness of Derek Jacoby in the time when Claudius appears. That would have elevated the story I think.

Also, there are times when we can see what Cato needs to see two, and three times before he realizes that there is not one simple plot to follow, but many and, well it's complicated. As Imperial politics should be where all are scrambling for power to come.

Yet that complexity and the background make this a great read. Though still troubling is that Cato, so close to his lover, would not send some form of communication to her. A subplot we have been exploring for the previous three books.

One hopes that having met Vespasian at the beginning of the series our two heroes will continue on for the next reign and the turmoil and then be on hand to aid that Emperor when he comes to power. Many more tales, please!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Another Macro and Cato adventure!, September 21, 2012
By 
N. Trachta (Colorado Springs, CO United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Praetorian (Hardcover)
Mr. Scarrow's books of Macro and Cato have been a love of mine for a while now; currently my favorite historical fiction series overall (I'm sorry Mr. Sharpe). The character development and stories have been interesting. I've also enjoyed seeing young Cato mature (though slightly disappointed that Mr. Scarrow hasn't paid the same attention to Macro).
Praetorian has Cato and Macro now in the Praetorian Guard, working for Narcissus to expose a plot against the Emperor. Rather than being a nice simple affair, Mr. Scarrow has our heroes learn the underside of Roman politics and why it's sometimes safer to be on the frontier than in Rome. Mr. Scarrow does give us our fight scenes but there's more description of Cato and Macro uncovering plots and surviving adventures than the military maneuvers of earlier books (yes, I miss the simple days when Cato was an Optio, Macro was the Centurion, and we were interested in how their century would survive the fight. While this is a departure from the normal for Cato and Macro, it really just rolls them back from the big scheme to a smaller unit view. An enjoyable read, solid 4 stars for me!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another good one, June 28, 2014
This review is from: Praetorian (Roman Legion II) (Paperback)
As a reader of all the Scarrow books in this series, and one who always looks forward to the next one being published, I thought this was his second hit in a row. The previous one was excellent and so was this. Scarrow seems to have picked it up a notch or two in his recent books. I personally thought he had hit a little drought until Cato and Macro landed on Crete but since then the books have been as enjoyable as the early ones.

It is always nice to get the occassional view of Rome. Going inside the Praetorian Guard was a nice touch. Narcissus always makes for good reading also. Looking forward to the next one set in Britannia.
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Praetorian (Roman Legion II)
Praetorian (Roman Legion II) by Simon Scarrow (Paperback - July 5, 2012)
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