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.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Authors OnLine Ltd
Bedfordshire SG193NU, England
Genre: Historical Novels
Rating: Excellent
ISBN: 9780755211173, 9780755211418, $14.95, $14.95, 204pp., 230 pp.

Albion Ablaze and A View to a Death are the third and fourth volumes in a five part series making up The Journals of Marcus Rutilius Robura. Caesar’s Tribune is Volume I, Master of Gaul is Volume II and, in process, Road to the Rubicon is Volume V. I have reviewed Volumes I and II in the past with strong recommendations.

John Timbers has taken historical characters and brought to life the culture, politics and Julius Caesar’s military campaigns from 60 to 52 BC. These books are based on Caesar’s own Commentaries on the Gallic Wars which led to his overwhelming power as an all-conquering general. The stories come alive through a novelistic twist time warp device as Marcus, the Tribune, finds himself in two worlds.

In Albion Ablaze (55-54 BC):
“Recalled to Gaul early because of a German invasion in the far northeast, Caesar launches his first exploratory reconnaissance in force of the almost mythical islands of Albion, egged on, of course by Marcus. However, in this and the next year, in which Caesar carries out a full scale invasion to unseat the tyrant, Cassivellaunus, Marcus plays a role wholly unsuspected by historians (while still remaining credibly within Caesar’s version of the story).”

In A View to a Death:
This volume covers a two year period during which some of the most savage fighting of the whole Gallic war took place, not all of it in Gaul itself. The first half deals with a war waged by Marcus Licinius Crassus. The second half covers the major Gallic rebellion against Caesar’s presence in Gaul. Quoting from Chapter One - A View - to give you a sample of Timber’s style and quality of writing:

“Shock; instant gut-wrenching terror; subliminal horrors amplified in dreams, and imposed with mind-bending proportions on the realities so twisted and tortured by the brain’s ability to exaggerate the thought patterns tumbling through its contorted corridors during waking hours and reflected in all their convoluted awfulness in sleep - such was the stuff of my nightmares.

“I am still not free of the debilitating trauma of those brief, violent encounters with the Parthian Army in far off Mesopotamia, even though months have passed, and I’ve tasted normality once again. It is as if the brain itself has been wounded, and its suppurating sores are seeking attention, demanding relief that is being denied by any deviation from their origins.

“I am not alone. Few of us who fled that gore-soaked battlefield have escaped mentally unscathed, even those of us who were fortunate enough to escape injury by those nightmare barrages of steel-tipped arrows from the ubiquitous Parthian archers. For weeks afterwards we walked, talked and worked like zombies, trying to function normally as best we could, still threatened by the probability of pursuit and further defeat at the hands of what seemed then to be an overwhelming power, our confidence in Rome’s insuperability gone forever. Hollow-eyed and gaunt, even the toughest veterans couldn’t shake off the distorting aftermath of fear that haunted our sleeping and our waking hours.”

John Timbers is an educated, gifted writer with a colorful, lively writing style. If you enjoy historical novels and/or military campaigns, these novels are certain to entertain and educate at the same time. For more information about John and The Journals of MarcusRutilius Robura, visit www.caesarstribune.co.uk.

Kaye Trout - July 27, 2009