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The Forgotten Legion (The Forgotten Legion Chronicles) Hardcover – March 3, 2009
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Set in the late Roman Republic, in the first century B.C.E., The Forgotten Legion is a tale of the greatest empire of the ancient world from the perspective of those on the lowest rungs of its society. Romulus and Fabiola are twins, born into slavery to a enslaved mother who is much beloved by them, and much abused by their owner. At 13 years old, they and their mother are sold: Romulus to gladiator school, Fabiola into prostitution, where she will catch the eye of one of the most powerful men in Rome, and their mother into obscurity and death in the salt mines.
Tarquinius is an Etruscan, a warrior and soothsayer, born enemy of Rome and trained by the last haruspex in the forgotten arts of divination. A runaway slave, then an AWOL Legionaire, he has a long foretold destiny that will take him to the very ends of the known world.
Brennus is a Gaul from the Allobreges tribe. In the battle against the Roman army, his entire family, perhaps his entire tribe, is slaughtered, and only he survives to be sold as a slave to be trained as a gladiator. He rises to become one of the most famous and feared gladiators of his day - and mentor to the boy slave, Romulus, who dreams night and day of escape and of revenge.
The lives of these four characters are bound and interwoven in a marvellous story which begins in a Rome riven by corruption, violence and political enmities, but ends far away, where Romulus, Brennus and Tarquinius find themselves fighting against the Parthians and overwhelming odds - survivors of one of the most legendary battles in Roman military history and destined to become part of one of the most compelling, enduring legends: The Forgotten Legion.
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From Publishers Weekly
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- Publisher : St. Martin's Press (March 3, 2009)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 544 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0312536712
- ISBN-13 : 978-0312536718
- Item Weight : 1.75 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.51 x 1.72 x 9.59 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,672,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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is a ruthless period and soon our characters have been brutally shaken by ill fortune: fugitive from a brutal landowner, enslaved by the roman legions or sold to a ludus and a brothel, respectively. Propelled by the desire of vengeance and cryptic prophecies, Tarquinius, Brennus and Romulus will converge in the ill-fated expedition of Crassus against Parthia, while Fabiola prospers in the best brothel of Rome.
The character of Fabiola acts as the link of the story with the developments in Rome. Perhaps the character of Tarquinius is too powerful as an all-knowing soothsayer that seems impervious to every misfortune in his way.
The description of the great defeat at Carrhae doesn't dissapoint and Crassus gets his well earned reward (Remember Spartacus!). At the end of the book our three heroes face an uncertain future at the other side of the known world, while Fabiola has accomplished her objective not without some bloodletting.
As always, Kane's writing is enticing and addictive, excelling in the battle scenes.I rate this first book with four stars because historical ambientation is not as seamless as the Spartacus books (Crassus execution scene is impressive, but quite possibly apocryphal). In any case, The Forgotten Legion is a compelling and powerful tale, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in historic novels of the roman period.
1) It has a lefty view of history in which the world is divided up into two groups: exploiters and victims. You see, one day the Gauls were out traipsing through the woods, picking flowers, as was their wont. The only downside to this idyllic existence was that they often had to spend too much time away from their wives and babies. Then one day the evil Romans came along and burned their village... The same for the Etruscans, poor fellows, another group of traipsing flower-pickers done in by the nasty Romans. Kane goes so far as to attempt to paint the Carthaginians as victims too. Yes, the poor Carthaginians, happily tending their empire, which they called Happy Valley, when one day...
Yes, we get it. American Indians, Etruscans, Gauls, Neanderthal Man...the list of history's victims is endless. Then, (dim lights, cue ominous music): Romans, Americans, pre-socialist British, Cro-Magnons...history's heavies. Enough already. We get it. How tiresome!
2) From the "what hath Steven Pressfield wrought?" department. Gritty realism in the form of, mainly, modern profanity. Lots of it. Personally, I read historical fiction to be transported to another time, the more exotic the better. I enjoy a good hero now and then, larger than life characters. Kane's minions are all in the gutter. Kane's Roman world is no more exotic than the worst parts of a modern every-city. Spell broken. Personal taste on my part.
3) Bloat, the most damaging. I realize that publishing houses no longer use editors. But it seems writers are incapable of editing their own works. This book is probably 30% too long. It's the first of a trilogy and it shows. Consider these scintillating passages (from Chapter 15. I could have thrown my dart anywhere and found other examples.):
Chapter starts off with gladiators waking up. (Every chapter should start with characters waking up, right? Start at the beginning, I say.) Then, get this, they eat breakfast. Let's join the action...
"Brennus covered a piece of bread in honey. "Want some?" he asked, shoving it into his mouth.
(You'll never believe the response, dear reader. Wait for it...Wait for it...)
On the next page, this riveting gem:
"Be careful." Astoria seemed worried as she kissed the blond warrior. "Stay together."
"Stop fussing woman!" Brennus gently squeezed her backside. "Cook me more of those mice."
Still awake? Next page, we get this high drama:
Sextus hefted the double-headed axe with a wink. "[I'll] Keep an eye out for you." (The author routinely lops off the beginnings of sentences in dialogue, intending to make it sound natural, but it usually only obscures the meaning.)
"You would do the same for me."
Go to any point in the book and you'll find this. Start at chapter 1.
Kane should learn to listen to his inner voice, because it's telling him to move things along. Again, from chapter 15, thrown in amidst the above lines of dialogue are these passages.
"The sooner we get to the arena, the better." (Couldn't agree more. How about skipping the whole waking up/eating scene?)
"It should be interesting today." (Yes, and hopefully soon!)
"Suddenly Romulus felt keen to get to the arena." (Me, too, pal...Me, too...)
These are 4 pages that should have been cut out entirely. But I shouldn't just pick on this book because there are plenty of culprits. The first 29 pages of River God should be cut by 20 pages, for example. There is a sentence in Ford's "Fall of Rome" that is 96 words long. Personally, I've had it with books that require me to edit them while I read. No more flipping ahead pages trying to find the story. A trilogy? Forget it. Do writers really think we readers have nothing better to do with our time than edit their bloated books?
Top reviews from other countries
The historical details concerning this period of history are superbly interwoven in this amazing Roman adventure.
Its the time of the Roman Republic, and its 70 BC and we find our four protagonists in very different circumstances in life within Rome.
There are the 13-year old twins, Romulus and Fabiola, born into slavery, and now they are being sold as kind of animals, Romulus to the gladiatorial school, Fabiola into prostitution, and their mother will live and die in the salt mines.
There's also, Brennus, a Gaul who's family is killed by the Romans, and who will become the most famous and feared fighter, and who will become mentor to the boy, Romulus.
Last but not least there's, Tarquinius, an Etruscan warrior and soothsayer, and who hates the Roman Republic, but due to unfortunate circumstances he will enlisted within the Forgotten Legion.
At first our four characters will find in Rome much corruption, violence, death and political intrigue, but as the story progresses, Brennus, Romulus and Tarquinius will find themselves in the East within the Forgotten Legion and fighting against overwhelming odds and the Parthians.
What is to follow is an amazing historical Roman debut novel, in which the Roman Republic is shown to us in a most lifelike and believable fashion, and where the actions between the Forgotten Legion against the Parthians are superbly pictured in a most dramatic way by the author.
Highly recommended, for this is a marvellous start of this great trilogy, and that's why I like to call this first episode: "A Tremendous Forgotten Legion Begin"!
I was wrong. I was a bit dubious due to the beginning being from 4 characters point of view, however, unlike GRR Martin’s Game of Thrones where he has to remind the reader what’s going on, the characters are so memorable it’s easy to keep track. I have fibromyalgia and I sometimes lose track, but not in this case. Rome is my fave place, apart from Scotland, obviously, so thank you for this beautifully written book.
The first in a series of books by Ben Kane focusing on a Roman legion who as it turns out did not fight for Rome. Ben Kane has written a number of books integral with Roman history, Roman military campaigns and Roman politics.
A young girl is raped by a rising political star in Rome and nine months later she gives birth to identical male and female twins. A warrior from Gaul witnesses the destruction of his tribe by the Romans before being captured and sold to a gladiator school. A young man taught in the art of soothsaying sets out on a mission that at that early stage he neither wants or understands.
In the years that follow all parties come together through a sequence of events that are perhaps coincidental or determined by the fates. Set against a background of a slave society where inhumanity constantly prevails and murder and bloodshed is the norm it has been a tough and cruel life for each of them.
Each of them has their own memories, aspirations and dreams. Haunted by their respective pasts and wary of their futures they seek to survive against a background of exploitation and fear. Tied to and involved in Roman power politics where the quest for power and control trumps everything they move towards an outcome which could be tragic for each of them and all of them.
Kane writes well of this period in history. The characters are integrated into a sequence of events and happenings that actually took place. He highlights well that the instinctive impulse within humans tends to be generally selfish and regularly evil. As man has evolved and moved forward even with the advance of technology it is depressing to note that some two thousand years later human instinct has not largely changed.
Its hard to believe that the Forgotten Legion is the first book that Ben has had published as its wonderfully written and gives you a real feel what life was like at grass roots level. As other people have already described the plot line so well, there is no point in me trying to elaborate further on the adventures of the twins, Fabiola and Romulus and the mighty warrior Brennus and the mysterious Tarquinius. Ben weaves the four stories into one over 400 brilliantly written pages. I wanted to pick up the second of the Forgotten Legion trilogy as I closed the last page, but I'm aware that I should be savouring these books, so will wait a week before starting book 2.
This is well written and an interesting take as well as being the start of a series. It doesn't really stand out enough though that I would want to get the rest of the series but if you enjoy Ben Kane's Roman Army stories then this won't disappoint.
Before anyone mentions that I say next to nothing about the contents, two reasons, a, the dust jacket does a pretty good job, b, I got a blast in another review for mentioning things that someone considered spoilers so, in fairness to the story and author who deserves buckets of respect, this is all you get from me.