6 Jun 2016



BACK COVER BLURB: What do we expect of our heroes? Self-sacrifice? Bravery? Strength of character? Maybe a hint of self-deprecation? Well, Cassius doesn't have any of those traits. Cynicism - certainly. Cowardice - possibly. Perhaps to live a lie in order to further his own ends - absolutely!

Rome AD9.

Augustus Caesar rules Imperial Rome at the height of its power, as the Roman Empire stretches across the known world. Cassius, son of one of her most powerful families, is the personification of Rome’s imperial strength: wealthy, popular, a war hero with a decorated military career – none of Rome’s fashionable parties are complete without him – except, he hides a secret. 

After his nerve is broken in Germany, the thought of genuine armed combat is enough to send him into a cold sweat of fear and shame. But this doesn’t dissuade him from living off a false reputation so he can continue a life of casual affairs, wine, and parties, as he is seduced by the many vices of Rome. 

However his scandalous life is soon upset by a summons from the Emperor’s wife. It ends his happy decadent life and returns him to Germany to assist the Roman legions in their greatest ever trial, and the events that will resound down in history, in the dark forests of the Teutoburg…

FIRST SENTENCE {Prologue}: Dawn was finally touching the sky to the east, turning it bright scarlet, which was fitting considering how much blood had been spilt this night.

MEMORABLE MOMENT {Page 103}: Agh! How could he spout such nonsense! 'And you think that is the most important thing in the world? It doesn't matter how you live your life, as long as you die with a weapon in your hand?'

'Of course! How else should I die, as an old man in his bed?' He said this as if such a prospect was the worst calamity that could ever befall anyone.

I was speechless with rage. 'Why you young, stupid, idiotic -'

SOURCE: A charity shop buy from Mr T.

MY THOUGHTS: Well! A work of historical fiction with a true story at its heart. Not uncommon you might think to yourself and you'd be right. What however is far less common is a work of historical fiction that features a character, a Roman war hero no less, with a mental illness. Not that the term is ever used but I think it fair to say that most readers will pick up on the fact that Cassius is obviously suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), a fact that becomes more apparent as the story progresses.

With much of the formative chapters chronicling Cassius' adulterous sexual exploits (a result of his 'survivor's guilt'?) I can't say Roman Mask initially appealed to me - something that wasn't helped by a middle section that arguably dwelled on the political and battle scenes that verged on being overly prolonged -  but, an author who obviously knows his stuff, Thomas M.D. Brooke, slowly but surely won me over in what proved to be an OK read. The desire to know what became of the various characters proving apt compensation for any perceived short comings in the story telling.

Read for the What's In A Name? 2016 challenge: 'Item of Clothing' category.


Barbara Fisher said...

Hi Tracy, I'm not sure about this one. I guess if I found it in a charity shop I might buy it and give it a go but with my must-read pile growing ever higher, I won’t go out looking for it. I enjoyed your excellent review though, as I always do.

Kelly said...

Definitely a period in history I love, I might have to see if this one is still available to go on my wish list. I enjoyed your review.

Good selection for the challenge.

Suko said...

Happy Monday! I also enjoyed your review, Tracy. I like how you cleverly used this in a reading challenge.

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Sorry it didn't work as well for you, but I like the idea of a Roman having a mental illness. Very interesting premise.

Brian Joseph said...

This sounds different in several ways. The characteristics of the protagonist, as you describe them make him sound like a unique creation.

Without a doubt folks in the ancient world must have suffered some of the same psychological ills that modern folks do. It seems like a good thing that this author has incorporated this into a book.

Melliane said...

I remember seeing the cover on a few blogs but I don't remember the reviews... It could be interesting

Gina R said...

Certainly sounds original but alas my fortes into Historical Fiction are few and far between... probably not the one for me. Enjoyed the review!