Review: The Earthly Gods – Nick Brown

5 of 5 stars

Series: Agent of Rome 6

My version: Hardback
Historical Fiction Rome
Hodder & Stoughton

Imperial agent Cassius Corbulo is about to go rogue. His body guard, Indavara, has been kidnapped and has seemingly vanished off the face of the earth. Having spent weeks trying to discover his fate, Cassiusøs time is up: his superiors want him to return to duty.

But when an old ally’s daughter is enslaved, he feels obliged to repay a long-standing debt. Refusing the offer of a prestigious post, Cassius – and his Christian servant Simo – join nomadic chieftan Kabir and a trio of warriors, determined to rescue the girl. Now operating outside the law, the unlikely band journey across the perilous, plague-ridden hinterland of Asia Minor, hunting the slavers. But these are no common criminals, and Cassius finds himself up against ruthless, cunning men with powerful friends and a lot to lose.

Historical Fiction novels aren’t in my experience usually edge of the seat, ‘page turners’ (hate that description, along with the idea of someone ‘devouring’ a book. Just no!) This is. Big style. Absolutely absorbing, forget what’s going on in the real world, is this book. I’d be loath to say that it’s the best of the lot, as they all have had so much to recommend for them – however, this is the best of the lot. So far…

Apart from the description from the cover up top here, what’s it about? Well, let’s say ‘brains over brawn.’ Pretty much as they have all been. Cassius is an investigator for the Roman (equivalent of the) Secret Service. He was chosen for his brains, rather than his fighting ability. In true you don’t keep a dog and bark yourself tradition, the fighting and the dealing with threats side of things, has always been taken care of by his ex-gladiator bodyguard, Indavara. Though he too, has been coming more and more to the fore as the series has progressed, developing into a ‘strong’ well-rounded character of his own. As has the religious (amongst other things) counter-balance figure of the servant/slave, Simo. And then there’s Patch. There can only ever be one Patch. And Patch in turn, mirrors the friendship values at play in the rest of the book, involving the other characters. Maybe I’m over-thinking this. But I’m not. If ever a character needed a backstory of his own, it’s Patch. Read the books and see if I’m not right. I’m right.

All the above angles and themes come gloriously together in The Earthly Gods. In a way, as I’ve touched on before in my reviews, it is a very modern book. Bursting out of the more traditional (for us blokes, anyway) Hist Fic genre. It is a detective novel, set a thousand-ish years ago. The dates may have changed, but the problems haven’t. It’s also different, in that Nick isn’t having his characters shoe-horn themselves into unalterable historical events. The background, the environment and feeling, is 100% Roman, the research clearly unimpeachable, however the characters and the story, are totally new. A much more creative ‘problem’ possibly more difficult to do, kind of problem solving in a book, if you ask me. I know what I mean, anyway.

Let’s face it, if you think you like Historical Fiction, you’ll love Nick Brown’s Agent of Rome series. If you think you like Roman period Historical Fiction, you’ll love Agent of Rome. If you love superbly-written, character driven, addictive fiction, you cannot avoid reading Agent of Rome.

Can’t say fairer than that.

You can and should buy The Earthly Gods at

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