I specialize in reviewing Print-On-Demand (POD) published books for my website and Midwest Book Review. Please query for a review by email to hgunther234@hotmail.com.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

CAESAR'S TRIBUNE by John Timbers

Caesar’s Tribune
John Timbers
Authors On Line Ltd
19 The Cinques, Gamlingay, Sandy
Bedfordshire SG19 3NU, England
Genre: Historical Military Novel
Rating: Highly Recommended
ISBN: 0755210336, $17.95, 248 pp, 2006

This is a novelized version of Caesar’s Gallic Wars as witnessed by the main protagonist, Marcus Rutilius Robura, a military tribune. Marcus was a young Roman officer of junior rank in the Tenth Legion . . . the Tenth being sort of a ‘boot camp’ for young members of the upper classes.

John Timbers has taken Caesar’s Commentaries–difficult reading–and turned this historical, exciting period into a richly textured, contemporary, intriguing military novel. Not only is our protagonist a Roman officer, he is also Michael Oakwood, a British Army officer on international anti-terrorist duties in the Balkans who wakes up in the year 60 BC. Somehow the spirits of these two men have switched bodies during a battle in which they are both injured. Mike, however, is aware of this double identity and writes in a journal to stay in touch with himself as he lives the life of Marcus. To complicate the matter, Marcus has a twin sister, Rutilia, who is extremely sensitive to him and has dreams of his other identity.

Through this novel we can see and experience Rome at this time . . . what it looked like, how the aristocracy lived, the social structure, the political arena and power politics. And more intimately, we experience Marcus’s family, friends and love life . . . his marriage to Marcia and his sister’s marriage to his friend, Quintus. And then there’s the intrigue of another woman, Sylvia, and her connection in the dream to Mike.

The author conveys very clearly the developing power structure (Caesar, Crassus and Pompey vs the Optimates), the popularity of the amazing Gaius Julius Caesar and what he wanted to accomplish. We also get a feel for some of the other key players at that time such as Cicero, and I quote:

"Poor Cicero – fine legal brain and great philosopher that he is, is clearly the dupe of whoever flatters him most. He seems to have spent his lifetime trying to score points off people with his cruel wit, either orally in the courts or the Senate or in his letters and political tracts. In these he is prone to recall things in the light of his political leaning at the time of writing, especially when matters don’t pan out as he hopes."

From the back cover of the book:

"This is the first in a series of five books that set out to tell the action-packed story of Julius Caesar’s protracted battles in Gaul–modern France and Belgium–and his struggle to force the Roman Republic to abandon its obsession with ancient and superstitious traditions, a system of government that favoured only its racist, corrupt and all-powerful nobility. Caesar, a man way a head of his time, was determined to change the Republic into a multi-cultural meritocracy, fit to govern its growing empire for the good of all its disparate peoples. Caesar’s Tribune is a fictional character who is also way ahead of his time but in a very different way..."

I would certainly recommend this book to history buffs and to readers who enjoy military strategy and intrigue. The battles on land and sea are vivid, exciting encounters, and the sexual thread in Marcus’s life adds a very intimate element.

John Timbers is an accomplished writer, and this story is well written. You will not be disappointed as it entertains while it educates. My kind of book!

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - April 4, 2006 - Copyright


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