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Posts Tagged ‘Black Stone’

Adventures in Bookland: The Black Stone by Nick Brown

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

The first four books in this marvellous series are not well served by their covers, and I think this, the fourth and final volume with a cover in this style, is the worst. Looking at it, you’d be justified in thinking the book it covers told the adventures of some muscle-bound Roman lunk whose only recourse when faced with a problem is to get out his sword. In fact, while tense and exciting, it’s a long way from the hack ‘n’ slash of the wish-fulfilment school of historical fiction written for male readers. Cassius Corbulo, the hero, is cerebral rather than brawny, the series itself plays with different genres, mashing up detective fiction, thrillers and espionage, with very little in the way of the military hist-fic that the cover promises. But what makes the stories stand out is the developing, and deepening, relationship between patrician and pagan when it suits him Cassius, his Christian slave, Simo, and his bodyguard, Indavara, who worships Lady Fortune. The dynamics and power imbalances implicit in such relationships are brought out skillfully by Nick Brown, and these are what make me want to read more (alongside a cracking plot with all sorts of unexpected turns of fortune). The books are also developing an interesting realist take on the outcomes of these sorts of contests: often, the bad guys do get away. All in all, another excellent installment in the Agent of Rome series.