The Siege by Nick Brown
270 AD. Rome has ruled Syria for over three centuries. But now the weakened empire faces a desperate threat: Queen Zenobia of Palmyra has turned her Roman-trained army against her former masters and the once invincible legions have been crushed. Arabia, Palestine and Egypt have fallen and now Antioch, Syria's capital, stands exposed.
Cassius Corbulo is a young intelligence agent fresh from officer training. He has been assigned the menial task of rounding up wounded legionaries but then urgent new orders arrive. He is the only ranking Roman officer left in the line of the Palmyran advance. He must take command of the fort of Alauran, the last stronghold still in Roman hands, and hold it against the enemy until reinforcements arrive.
The Siege by Nick Brown is the first book in a series of historical fiction centering around the Roman Empire in the beginning in the year of 270 AD. When I first read the synopsis of The Siege, I immediately thought that this would be a fresh story. Though set in the Roman Empire, there is this new idea where instead of going on the offensive wage war, the main protagonist Cassius must defend a stronghold against the Palmyran invaders. Similar to Insurrection, the book I read and reviewed prior to this book, I am pleasantly surprised by the richness and the historic feel this book gave me.
The Agent of Rome series is more than just a retelling of past events. The majority of the characters are fictitious and the only real historical event covered is the invasion by the Palmyran Queen, Zenobia. All the legionnaires may have been made up by the author, but, even though they are not based on real people, they still fit in well with the storyline.
In The Siege, we follow a young, just-out-of-academy, officer named Cassius Corbulo. On location in Syria, Cassius is charged with making sure the Roman stronghold of Alauran can withstand the invasion by the Palmyrans. This is easier said than done. It was nice to see how Cassius was received into the stronghold by the other legionnaires - some accepted him straight away as their superior officer, but others were more reluctant. In the end he manages to get almost everyone on his side and helping him out - even the auxiliaries. Everyone except for ‘The Praetorian’, who prefers a jug of wine every now and then. Cassius’ role as the protagonist in the story becomes quite engaging as you see him rallying the troops to make the stronghold ready for the coming assault.
Another strength of this story is getting a perspective of Palmyran force led by Azaf. We get to see how organized and well equipped the Palmyran force is, which gave me the feeling that the Romans were in for quite a daunting task. Secondly, we get to see the contrast in how Cassius prepares to defend the assault comparted to how Azaf is planning to conduct his assault. This style of narration to show both sides was pretty neat, and I thought that it gave an extra dimension to the story.
The Siege wouldn’t be a historical/military fiction without a great battle. In the last half of the book, after all the preparations have been made, the story becomes rapid in pace as we follow the defenders running around trying to eliminate any possible enemy breakthroughs. At the same time we get to see how Azaf is guiding his force strategically to take advantage of possible weaknesses in the stronghold. It is a great display of fighting scenes and a great payoff for all build-up leading to this moment.
At the beginning of the story, there was mention that Cassius only had to hold out until reinforcements would arrive. The author did a great job building this plot line, creating tension by questioning whether the reinforcements would arrive in time. In the last few pages there are only a handful of Romans left compared with eight times as many Palmyrans, along with their feared leader Azaf. I actually thought this would be it, the Roman defeated in the end, but then Nick Brown introduced a new person into the fray. Looking back I could have anticipated this, but I was so drawn into the last stand of the Romans I didn’t see it coming. Everything came together greatly for a nice, cool and bloody ending!
The Siege is good book showing an unlikely Roman officer forced into doing something that he was not fully trained for. The Siege has an engaging and unique writing style that allowed a nice build up from the preparations to the final clash between the Romans and Palmyrans.
Thanks to Hodder and Stoughton for kindly providing me with a review copy.
This The Siege book review was written by Jasper de Joode
All reviews for: Agent of Rome
Agent of Rome: Book 1
270 AD. Rome has ruled Syria for over three centuries. But now the weakened empire faces a desperate threat: Queen Zenobia of Palmyra has turned her Roman-trained army agai...
Have you read The Siege?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Siege reader reviews
8/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Death in St James's Park
Five years after Charles II's triumphant return to London there is growing mistrust of his extravagant court and of corruption among his officials - and when a cart lad...
Mystery in the Minster
In 1358 the fledging college of Michaelhouse in Cambridge is in need of extra funds. A legacy from the Archbishop of York of a parish close to that city promises a welcome ...
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have me...
Death of a Scholar
In the summer of 1358 the physician Matthew Bartholomew returns to Cambridge to learn that his beloved sister is in mourning after the unexpected death of her husband, Oswa...
Andersonville by Edward M Erdelac
Edward M Erdelac
Georgia, 1864. Camp Sumter, aka Andersonville, has earned a reputation as an open sewer of sadistic cruelty and terror where death may come at any minute. But as the Union ...
A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening
Mario de Carvalho
In the 3rd century AD, Lucerius Valerius Quincius, perfect of Tarcisis, an imaginary Roman City, begins his memoirs. His city is threatened from without and within. North A...
The Chelsea Strangler
In the sapping summer heat of 1665 there is little celebration in London of the naval victory at the Battle of Lowestoft. The King, his retinue and anyone with sufficient m...
The Lost Abbot
A Conspiracy of Violence
The dour days of Cromwell are over. Charles II is well established at White Hall Palace, his mistress at hand in rooms over the Holbein bridge, the heads of some of the reg...
The Piccadilly Plot
Murder by the Book
Summer, 1546. King Henry VIII is slowly, painfully dying. His Protestant and Catholic councillors are engaged in a final and decisive power struggle; whoever wins will cont...
The Language of Stones
The Realm is poised for war. Its weak king – Hal, grandson of a usurper – is dominated by his beautiful wife and her lover. Against them stands Duke Richard of ...
The Eagle Series
It is 42 AD, and Quintus Licinius Cato has just arrived in Germany as a new recruit to the Second Legion, the toughest in the Roman army. If adjusting to the rigours of mil...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the was...
A Tale of Time City
Diana Wynne Jones
When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside ti...
The Guns of Empire
As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace... After their shattering defeats at the hands of brillian...
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth....
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasu...
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the four...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...