BOOK REVIEW: The Mask of Command

POLITICAL intrigue and vengeful plots are all cornerstones of any narrative based in Ancient Rome, and The Mask of Command offers them in spades.

The Mask of Command is the fourth book in Ian Ross's Twilight of the Empire series. However, if like me, this is your first contact with the series, never fear. The book is impossible to put down. The reader follows Aurelius Castus as he undertakes his latest posting as the commander of the Western provinces. Here, he must navigate the complex world of Empire politics, as well as come to terms with his own views of the barbarian enemy, as the lines between friend and foe become blurred. Ian Ross has been researching and writing about this period in Roman history for more than a decade, which comes through in the complexity and depth of his narrative. What's also interesting is that Ross chooses to concentrate on a time which is often neglected within the genre.

Following the chain of events from a commander's point of view flips the script, as we observe the main character navigating not only the battlefield but the complexities of civilised Roman society.

As such, don't expect too many surprises in terms of characters and their actions. As a fan of the genre, I enjoy this element of predictability as classic revenge plots, political schemes and age-old predicaments take form. But if you're going into the book looking for a narrative of twists and turns, look elsewhere.

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