Saturday 28 September 2019

#BookReview — Antonius: Son of Rome by Brook Allen #AncientRome #HistoricalFiction @1BrookAllen

Antonius: Son of Rome
By Brook Allen

For over two-thousand years, Marcus Antonius—Marc Antony—has been one of history’s most controversial men. His story was buried with him and written by his enemies. Now his entire saga is revealed in a compelling trilogy by Brook Allen.

After young Marcus Antonius’s father dies in disgrace, he yearns to restore his family’s honor during the final days of Rome’s dying Republic. Marcus is rugged, handsome, and owns abundant military talent, but upon entering manhood, he falls prey to the excesses of a violent society. His whoring, gambling, and drinking eventually reap dire consequences. Through a series of personal tragedies, Marcus must come into his own through blood, blades, and death. Once he finally earns a military commission, he faces an uphill battle to earn the respect and admiration of soldiers, proconsuls, and kings. Desperate to redeem his name and carve a legacy for himself, he refuses to let warring rebels, scheming politicians, or even an alluring young Egyptian princess.

"Well, someday he'd prove himself.
He'd command legions.
He'd be Rome's greatest soldier..."

But not yet. First, Marcus Antonius has to grow up.

However, this is not a good time to be a child. The Republic is dying, and Spartacus is leading his fellow slaves to revolt against their Roman masters. Worse still, Marcus Antonius is now the head of the household. However, he is not old enough. He is not ready for such a responsibility.

Marcus Antonius' father's death brought nothing but scandal and disgrace. His mother is no longer invited into society. If it were not for her cousin, Gaius Julius Caesar, then Marcus Antonius would have found himself adrift.

Under Caesar, Marcus Antonius could grow to be the kind of man he longs to be. Alas, affairs of state and war drag Caesar away from the impressionable child. And as scandal rocks the family for a second time, Marcus Antonius becomes the very thing he wanted to avoid...

From the acid smoke of a funeral pyre to the splendour of Alexandria, Antonius: Son of Rome by Brook Allen is the story of the early years of the life of Marcus Antonius.

I have read many wonderful historical fiction books that depict the glory and the splendour of Ancient Rome. In these stories, I have witnessed the political intrigue in the Senate and the Assemblies. I have marched alongside the Roman Army and observed terrible battles — not all ending in victory. In these books, I have also experienced the poverty of the plebs and the slaves. I have walked with soldiers, generals, even Caesar. But never have I walked with Mark Anthony. As a child, I can remember watching Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Cleopatra and falling somewhat in love with the whole idea of Mark Anthony. As a teenager and one who so happened to adore Shakespeare, I met him again. But since then, I have not had the pleasure. Until now. Antonius: Son of Rome is the book that I did not realise I had been waiting for.

As I read the last sentence of Antonius: Son of Rome, as I noted the final full stop, as I closed the book, I was for one truly terrifying moment in the life of an Editorial Book Reviewer, utterly speechless. Words that usually come so easily for me suddenly became somewhat harder. Where do I even begin? What could I say that would convey just how incredible Antonius: Son of Rome is? I could talk about the easy prose style, and how reading this book was effortless, it needed nothing from me but the commitment to keep reading — you do not need a comprehensive knowledge of this period in history to understand what is going on, the writing speaks for itself. Allen, like any tour guide worth one's salt, will take good care of you, she will show you a world that, up until now, you have only glimpsed on the screen or in your imagination. I could talk about the dialogue, which is rich and vibrant and bold and above everything else so incredibly successful. But even that does not even begin to describe how great this book is. I could talk about the story, and how it appalled, impressed and fascinated in equal measures. And yet, not even that could sum up the beauty, the majesty of this book. Perhaps I could spend some time talking about the historical accuracy in this novel — how Allen has a historian's eye but a novelist's heart. To write with such precision, with such attention to detail, not only made me as a reader rejoice at discovering I was in the hands of a master, but it also made this book shamelessly compelling and impossible to put down. I could talk about all of that, but it is the star of the show, the portrayal of the protagonist that irrevocably and irreversibly closed the deal for me on this book.

Marcus Antonius (Mark Anthony) — general, politician, a loyal supporter of Julius Caesar, an enemy of Octavian and husband to Cleopatra. We all know the story. Well, I thought I did. Allen starts at the beginning. We meet Marcus Antonius when he is a very young, impressionable eleven-year-old boy, and oh, how I adored him. Allen has presented us with this desperately grief-ridden child who is trying so hard to be the man of the house — the strong one in the family. My heart broke for him as he struggled to come to terms with his father's death, and along with that, he suffers the disgrace that his father also brought upon their heads silently and without comment. At such a young age, Marcus Antonius had so much responsibility placed upon his shoulders, and in this book he does not act like the politician he would become — he is very much a child and a lost one at that. Not much is known of Marcus Antonius' early life, but much can be surmised, and I thought Allen portrayed this time in Marcus Antonius life with such care and diligence that I can only applaud her — wonderfully written. 

But the death of his father, as history will tell us, was not the only terrible event to mar Marcus Antonius' young life. The execution of his stepfather Publius Cornelius Lentulus Sura was also a bitter blow. This book had me in tears on more than one occasion, but the death of Lentutlus had me reaching for the Kleenex and sobbing so hard I had to close the book for a moment. What happens then to Marcus Antonius is really not that surprising. I thought Allen did well recreating this time in Marcus Antonius life with the resources she had available. Kudos, Ms Allen.

Allen has portrayed Marcus Antonius as a man who thinks deeply but also a man who loves deeply. She has also presented us with a man who, despite his somewhat capricious beginnings, is very moral, and very honourable. He is at all times, apart from when dealing with money lenders, a man of his word. Marcus Antonius is a man that men look up to and other envy. As he matures and begins to find his way, Allen lets us have these little glimpses of the man he is destined to be. When he finally gets his first commission, Marcus Antonius finds the place where he not only excels but is supposed to be. Marcus Antonius came into his own, and it was glorious to read and wonderful to envisage. 

As I have said before, you don't need to know anything at all about Marcus Antonius to enjoy this book. I cannot praise this novel enough. It really is a book in a million. Never has a book screamed to be made into the next big Netflix television series as Antonius: Son of Rome does.

If you read only one historical fiction book this year, then please, please, let it be this one — a brilliant, brilliant story. I wish I had written it. I, for one, cannot wait to find out what happens next — book two cannot come soon enough.

I Highly Recommend. 

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
Antonius: Son of Rome

Brook Allen

Brook Allen is a Music Educator in a rural community near Roanoke, VA. Aside from her regular classes, she teaches two ensembles, a Chorus and Recorder Consort. Born in Salt Lake City, UT, Brook was raised in Omaha, Nebraska and has lived all over the U.S., from the Pacific Northwest, all the way down to Florida. She graduated with a B.A. in Music Education and has a M. A. in Liberal Studies, with an emphasis on Roman History. Brook is happily married and has two energetic Labrador Retrievers. Voraciously active, she cycles, hikes, and loves to travel.
Connect with Brook: Website • Twitter • Facebook.

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx