Bandits of Rome
There are a few gems out there in the world of independent fiction and despite the increasing (now vast) swathe of Roman fiction hitting virtual shelves, still certain writers and works stand out. Alex Gough came to my attention last year with his debut work Watchmen of Rome, which immediately hit me as a cut above the general quality of releases and was, in fact, a thoroughly absorbing and well-written book.
Given that, when I found out that he’d written a sequel, I virtually drooled with anticipation.
Bandits of Rome maintains the high standards set by the first book and continues to build characters and relationships while forming a completely separate plot, totally independent of the previous volume.
Following the troubles in Rome with the rogue priestess and the conflagrations in Watchmen of Rome, Carbo sets off with his vigiles friend, his woman and a small entourage to lay eyes for the first time on the plot of land that had been granted him on his retirement from the army. But on the journey, a chance encounter with an intriguing and deadly pair of killers leads him into a feud that threatens everything he cares about.
The characters from book one continue to deepen (with one notable exception – you’ll understand that when you read it) and the new characters are well-rounded and credible. In fact, Carbo himself becomes a much more 3dimensional character in this second volume as we are treated to a whole different side of him that makes him more human and sympathetic. The bad guys are at once creepy, vicious, dislikable and yet somehow fascinating. The settings, in small town and countryside estate, are a nice juxtaposition to the tight urbanism of book 1 and are described well enough that they capture the imagination and can easily be seen in the mind’s eye.
The plot was fresh, plausible and exciting, and possibly surpassed that of book 1. The pace never really let up, which made the book an enthralling read, pulling you along in the plot with never a pause. And there are moments in this novel, following a certain point in the story, which I consider to be extremely powerful writing, hitting the reader between the eyes and wrenching at their gut.
In short, Bandits of Rome is a very worthy sequel to an excellent book. I heartily recommend both of these. Carbo is fast becoming one of the seminal heroes of Roman fiction.