Robert Fabbri's Vespasian series

Discussion in 'Historical Fiction' started by Brian G Turner, Oct 2, 2012.

  1. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    Just read Fabbri's "Vespasian: Tribune of Rome" and quite enjoyed it.

    A lot of historical detail in this to flesh out the everyday scenes (the chariot racing scene a favourite, not for the races, but the nuanced details of actually being a spectator).

    Became a little heavy with the fighting later on, and the plot began to feel a little stretched thin by then - however, the little details helped ensure this kept suspension of disbelief in play.

    Fabbri used a distant omniscient to dip into heads, and never really developed Vespasian to any depth, making it feel a little weak.

    However, some of the supporting characters were surprisingly strong, with good dialogue content and styles to boot - his grandmother's banter with her slave Attalus was hilarious; great to see a young enthusiastic Caligula; and Magnus had a few good lines, too.

    Another good point - I really felt Fabbri got across the brutal sense of Roman mentality very well, without undermining any sympathy for the characters in their context.

    Not bad at all - will be looking out for the rest of this series.
     
  2. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    I've now completed the second book, "Rome's Executioner", and it's an excellent sequel.

    When it comes to Roman Historical fiction, Fabbri doesn't write as superficial as some certain popular writers - with Fabri there are plenty of real details that come into this story, but they underline the events and characters, rather than take over from them - as tends to happen in Colleen McCullough's other excellent series, when she stops to describe the decor of a villa room and how it was used.

    So in terms of Roman Historical fiction Robert Fabbri's Vespasian series sits on a good middle ground - not too thick on detail, but not too light, either. It's real, it's engaging, and it's convincing.

    What's especially nice about Fabbri's writing as well is that roman attitude still feels preserved - there's no attempt to inject 21st century liberal attitudes - this is Rome, and Vespasian is a legionary.

    While the books don't tend to delve too much into character - Vespasian still feels very underdeveloped, because the story is driven by historical events (or interpretations of) rather than Vespasian's internal emotional conflict.

    However, "Rome's Executioner" is the second book where we see Vespasian's friendship with Caligula, and sadly we also see Caligula beginning to change for the worse. Even more so, because the change we see is more than understanable, which to myself makes Caligula an especially tragic character.

    We get coverage of three emperors in this books, and each is drawn with clever short descriptions of their appearance and manner as to make them very visible and believable indeed.

    We also get Vespasian's brother, Sabinus, making a regular appearance, and there's a degree of conflict there.

    It is brutal, though. There are some quite unpleasant events described (though not graphically) and it ends on a very sour note. However, this was Rome under the rule of Tiberias, and Fabri conveys the paranoia, the politics, and the violent struggles for honour that occured during this period. Frankly, I can wait to see more of what happens with Vespasian later on in this story.

    I'm really enjoying this series, and I see there's a third out already, "False God of Rome" as Vespasian III, which I expect I should very much enjoy. :)
     
  3. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    Just went to put the latest book on my Christmas List, only to find there are two I don't have.

    His series has now reached book 5, which is titled Masters of Rome.

    I can't help but feel a tinge of cynicism - that this title is a direct appeal to anyone searching for Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series. :)

    While McCullough's is easily a classic, it can be a little thick and heavy for the casual reader.

    Robert Fabbri manages to write in a more accessible manner, without losing out to detail and authenticity like certain other Historical Roman Fiction writers.

    So far I've really enjoyed the series, especially the the sympathetic treatment of Caligula - we've seen him develop in the earlier books, in a way I felt was much more accurate a portrayal than some of the certain satires which have too often been regarded as historical fact.

    What's especially interesting about the character of Vespasian is that he sails through the higher ranks of Roman society, and after the civil war following the death of Nero, he will become emperor himself.

    Truly, no single character has ever provided such a unique perspective on what is probably the most fascinating period of Roman history, and Robert Fabbri writes it well, following a delicate line between populism and historicity.

    So I've now had to add Romes Fallen Eagle and Masters of Rome to my Christmas List. :)

    PS - Also, sincere apologies - I previously misspelled Fabbri as Fabri in this thread!
     
  4. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    Finally got around to starting Rome's Fallen Eagle, and enjoying it, of course.

    Has anyone else read any of this series? It's not as heavy as Colleen McCollough's series, but has more Rome in it than Simon Scarrow's. :)
     
  5. Anne Spackman

    Anne Spackman Well-Known Member

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    I was unaware of this series until I saw your post. I am also a fan of historical fiction set during the Roman Empire. I read The Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCollough but hadn't heard of Fabbri. I will have to read it now!
     
  6. Bugg

    Bugg A Lerxst in Wonderland

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  7. Davidjb

    Davidjb Well-Known Member

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    I have read up to Rome's Lost Son and they are v. good rather than brilliant. I found the writing a little stilted sometimes and the list of names occasionally over long. That may just be me. Having said that they were very enjoyable

    I liked Simon Scarrow's novels more and strangely Vespasian is a side character in those and so is Narcissus. It's interesting reading about the same characters but a different author's perspective. It's also nice to find out what happens about these characters later in life.
     
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  8. Bugg

    Bugg A Lerxst in Wonderland

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    The fourth book, Rome's Fallen Eagle, is 99p in today's Kindle Daily Deal on Amazon.co.uk :)
     
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  9. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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  10. Bugg

    Bugg A Lerxst in Wonderland

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    Book three, False God of Rome, is 99p on Kindle in the February Monthly Deals on Amazon.co.uk :)
     
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  11. Bugg

    Bugg A Lerxst in Wonderland

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  12. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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    Bought Furies of Rome now that the ebook is a reasonable price (currently £3.79).

    Really enjoyed it, probably more than the last one.

    Although Vespasian is sometimes improbably put into every seeming significant historical event, readers of this series should be used to this by now. It doesn't take away from the fact that there's a feeling of plausibility with most of it.

    Even more so, there are some wonderfully vivid scenes - the Iceni revolt and Boudicca's attack on London is especially memorable.

    There's also a stronger sense of Roman values in this than I remember - Vespasian slaps his wife, something he's entitled to do. His brother crucifies a number of slaves. There is a real sense of Roman brutality made real, yet acceptable to the people of the time.

    All the while, though, we see Vespasian's continuing personal development - not least his attitude, and his increasing awareness of some of the injustice of Roman rule on different classes outside of his own.

    My only criticism, aside from a few clumsy sentences, was that Vespasian seemed to move a little artificially from Rome to Britannia. Aside from that, a very good book, with plenty of references to a lot that happened in previous books.

    I'm hugely excited for the next book, Sacred Flame of Rome, because I suspect we are going to see the Roman civil war of 65 - which changes everything. :)
     
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  13. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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  14. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

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  15. Bugg

    Bugg A Lerxst in Wonderland

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    Four of the books are 99p in today's Kindle Daily Deal:

    Rome's Lost Son
    Masters of Rome
    False God of Rome
    Rome's Executioner
     
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