AD166. Northern Italy.
Albinus, the son of a revered Roman veteran Silus, has always longed to be a farmer, not a soldier, living his days ploughing and reaping the harvests with his bride to be, Licina.
But Silus has other ambitions. For Albinus to follow in his footsteps in the Roman Army. As the conflict between father and son comes to a head, a growing threat builds from the vengeful Germanic tribes to the north.
Just as Albinus and Licina are about to marry, their settlement is raided by barbarians and Silus along with his veteran Army comrades, are brutally killed, while Licina is kidnapped by the raiders and taken to their king as a gift.
Not knowing, but believing her still alive, Albinus sets out on a quest to find Licina, finally fulfilling his father’s wishes and training as a soldier, now also spurred on by hopes of avenging his father’s death. As the barbarian hordes gather and plan a major rebellion against Rome, Albinus finds a new fighting spirit within him and Licina has a fight of her own – to escape from slavery and find Albinus. Time is running out, as the northern tribes head for Rome, decimating everything in their path…
Taking place a fair few years after the events in Ben Kane’s Eagles of Rome series, the cataclysm wrought by that shattering defeat for the once seemingly-unbeatable Roman legions, has led to a feeling of caution among the citizens of it’s northern borders and given the tribes and peoples outside Roman rule – and even those currently under Roman rule – new hope for a Roman-free future. And of course, open access to Rome’s riches, except that the tribes hadn’t thought of paying for them. Maybe in blood. So, the battle-scarred veteran Silas’ worries about the future for his son Albinus, are from a parent’s point of view, completely understandable. What Silas does wrong I guess, is to try and make Albinus’ life more or less a continuation of his – and his ancestors’ – own. It’s the ‘if you love someone, set them free’ part Silas’ can’t quite come to terms with. If it was good enough for him, then it’s surely good enough for his son. Unfortunately, a much wished-for rapprochement is both a little late and violently cut short, by the ‘barbarian’ hoards north of the Roman borders. ‘Barbarians’ who are also thinking along the lines of ‘if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us!’ After decades and more of being second-class citizens in their own lands, and proving to me, the reader, once again the adage of ‘one man’s barbarian is another man’s freedom fighter’; a new leader, with a new vision emerges from amongst the tribes and the time has come to re-group and fight back. All that stands in their way, is a small settlement and a hundred ‘grey beards.’
What follows is a hugely impressive book, written with energy, style and enthusiasm. A vivid, compulsive and accessible story, populated with engaging and convincingly-drawn characters, believable at all times in all their reactions and interactions. It gripping story that mixes the fast-paced, vicious skirmishes and desperate, life-in-the-balance, battles, with the more thoughtful, though often no less deadly, battles of personal relationships. It is about growing old and trying to leave a legacy and a future for your children and about coming-of-age and awareness and trying to forge your own future path in life. Universal themes and battles that you and I and people throughout history have struggled with.
If you’re looking for an engrossing, no-holds-barred Roman-period Historical Fiction novel, this is for you. If you’re also looking for all of the above and a little more, you’ll find it in The Centurion’s Son. I could be wrong, though I think this is Adam’s first published novel. If that is so, then Wow!
And another Wow! for what is surely to come from him in the rest of the series.
UPDATE: An Adam-sized little bird has just told me that book two in the series, will be called War In The Wilderness. I’m going to do all I can, even legally, to get hold of that!
His name might be a new one to you now, but I’m in no doubt, that both you and I are going to be hearing a lot, lot more of Adam Lofthouse.
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