Casca #37 Roman Mercenary

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May 29, 2012 at 4:30 pm #1330
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Pete
Keymaster

Finally managed to get time to read Casca #37 Roman Mercenary, planned an early beach holiday so held it back for that… it got rained off! Planned a weekend away…. Got sick…. Think there was a brotherhood plan to stop me reading the book!
Anyhow a review without spoilers, the format of this book and how the tale unfolded is a little different to the usual Casca books, it certainly gave us a great story from the life of the immortal we all love to follow, but the time duration was short, the geography compact and the featured characters were few enough for us to be involved in their story lines almost as much as the eternal mercenary’s.
I have to say I loved the book, the slight difference in style, the compressed time frame, squeezing another adventure into a small gap in the time line, gives us Casca addicts hope that there will be an eternal supply of the strange hero we follow, once again Tony’s knowledge and research are spot on, giving a valid history lesson scattered amongst the story.
Hmmm keep deleting my paragraphs as I don’t want to spoil the actual tale, but in a time of chaos when Casca can see the fall of Rome ahead, which for Europe was the fall of civilisation for many generations as we plunged into the dark ages not knowing how to build a simple stone home let alone the technology of moving water is hinted at with mention of weeds growing between cobbles, damaged buildings nobody bothers to know how to repair, and the dawning of the destruction of civil society that will last for many generations. Casca of course knows nothing of what is to come, but is already mourning the loss of the Roman empire as it passes through the chaos of its death throes.
All in all an excellent tale, well told, which gives the reader pause for thought on many aspects of history, which are still possibly waiting to play out again in the future.
Thank you Tony, carry on writing, we want more….

  • This topic was modified 7 years, 1 month ago by avatar Pete.
June 30, 2012 at 10:24 am #1409
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hb
Participant

This story kept me guessing until the end as to whether there was a traitor in the pack and who it was. Tony’s more recent books have given more of a feel of the day to day environment, the filth and squalor of the final parts of the book contrast sharply with the refinement of the Roman living conditions. A great story which kept me guessing until the end following each of the twists and turns Tony has woven into the plot.

September 19, 2012 at 4:44 pm #1565
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Adam France
Participant

Casca #37 : Roman Mercenary

Plot Overview –

Set in one of the skipped over periods of Casca’s earlier life, in the year 410, Casca is once again living the life of a mercenary, selling his sword in southern Gaul during the dying days of the Roman Empire in the west. Recruited to gather and then lead a small band of hardened sell swords on a dangerous mission into barbarian held territory and there to rescue the daughter of a Roman nobleman, Casca soon finds himself battling barbarians, Roman militia, and even his own men.

My Review –

I think I may be paddling against the tide a little in my view of this book, judging by all the five star reviews on Amazon, as I wasn’t entirely happy with it.

I’ve long held the view there are potentially dozens, hundreds even, of untold Casca adventures even in the time periods already ‘covered’ by the early sequential books, as there are numerous big time gaps during which we are simply told Casca wandered or sold his sword. So I am not in principal opposed to stand-alone enclosed stories such as this one, indeed I think they are a good idea.

Where I felt this particular book falls down somewhat is that I found it to be overlong leading to several increasingly repetitive fight scenes – especially in the first two thirds of the book, where we slog alongside Casca and his Magnificent Seven through Gaul. Not to say the fights are badly written, rather that the early fights lack much of a sense of threat to the central characters, so begin to feel a bit samey.

I think the story would have worked better had the team reached Argentoratum much quicker, as when they do get there things became much more interesting in my opinion. The addition of the beautiful and mysterious Flora to the mix and the sense of tension created by Casca’s band being closely pursued by the Burgundians made the last third of the book fly past – whereas I’d found the long hike to Argentoratum slow going.

I did really like Tony’s excellent descriptions of the crumbling decay of Roman Gaul after years of barbarian invasions, and the strong sense of location throughout. The geographical and historical details, such as the lines of decaying mills along the riverbank for example, are so good in fact I was wondering if Tony took a holiday along the course Casca follows in the book.

I also liked the plot and the secret truth of the matter when it’s eventually revealed. The secret truth being clever and appropriate feeling for the setting.

On the other hand, I’m not sure Casca’s dark mood, shown in Damned for this time period, is consistantly shown throughout the book. There are occasional mentions of Casca brooding on the passing of Rome, but I don’t think the book as a whole conveyed quite the deep sense of despair I feel Casca has been shown to be sliding into at this time of his life. Now, you could argue that might make for a grimmer, darker tone than that Tony was going for here, which is a fair point, but to me I’d rather have seen Casca much more bleak and weary seeming throughout.

The dynamics of the band of mercs are patchy, sometimes feeling a little too modern in tone, while at others managing to build up a good sense of camerarderie and loss when some of them die.

As a personal taste aside, I feel not to use Casca’s curse in any way at all over the course of a novel, as was the case with this one, is ultimately a waste. I’m not saying this story required any great torture or death scenes, but I do think every Casca book should use the dark magic of his being able to heal mortal wounds in some way – even if it’s only a small way. For example, I really liked how one of the German mercs has heard stories of the Walker of Helsfjord, and at first it seems he might realise Casca is the Walker – I thought it was a shame that never in fact happened.

* * *

Had the first half been as exciting and fast moving as the later chapters I’d probably have given this one four out of five stars, but I did feel the early journeying was a bit too slow moving and needed tightening up, so I shall plump for an ‘okay’ three out of five. I certainly hope to see more stand-alone adventures set over short time periods.

 

September 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm #1567
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Adam France
Participant

As an after thought – the cover… I think the cover for this book highlights a problem I feel with the modern covers – they are too busy. There’s just too much squeezed onto the cover – making it here very difficult to see exactly what’s going on. I think the cover would have been fine – better – with just showing Casca as a barbarian axe-man full cover. He looks good, it’s all the rest of the stuff cluttering it that ruins it. Especially the red and purple misty stuff… what’s that meant to be?

Less is sometimes more.

September 25, 2012 at 8:55 am #1575
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Tony Roberts
Keymaster

Amazon review I reproduce below that was posted yesterday:

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is classic Barry Saddler!,September 24, 2012
This review is from: CASCA: Roman Mercenary (Casca: The Eternal Mercenary, #37) (Perfect Paperback)

Tony Roberts has certainly matched Barry Saddler’s creativity and captivity in this novel. The story is very refreshing for Casca fans since it brings the reader full circle to the original novels.

November 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm #1636
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MattRobz
Participant

what a good story the Roman Mercenary was! Casca finds himself lending his services, this time to scarnio, a roman nobleman, the Task? Simple.. Get his daughter back, the only problem is that its not that simple. As he and his band of roman and German mercenaries discover there is a traitor among them and with the constant threat of the tribesman after Matthias’ head and that’s before they even reach the girl!

I have to disagree with the comments above about the fight scenes being poor.. I think they help to paint the skirmishes clearly anadds excitement to the already unravelling story. Also there are subtle hints hidden in this story as to the traitors’ identity.. Enthralling stuff!

Who, if any would survive this doomed mission? And would they get the girl back to scarnio? It is definately worth a read to find out! Plus it also leaves a finish which has the potential of a follow up, I would like to see this happen.

keep up the good work tony!

4.9/5

January 11, 2013 at 8:24 am #1749
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Tony Roberts
Keymaster

Here’s a review of Roman Mercenary to be found on the History of War website:
https://www.historyofwar.org/bookpage/roberts_casca_roman_mercenary.html

May 18, 2019 at 4:33 am #2853
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Gerrykn
Member

Another Casca novel by Tony Roberts. I liked this one. It keeps you guessing, but it was not too hard to figure out who the antagonist really was. I reread this novel before reading #45 It helped keep track of the references. Casca and a team of Roman and Barbarian mercenaries set out on a long mission, perhaps an overly long mission, and return with the prize. The backdrop took place around 450 AD during the rape of the Roman Empire by the Barbarian hoards, and the beginning of the dark ages. Casca laments the slow death of the Empire that was both a home and mother to him for centuries. He remembers the indestructible legion that he was once a part of, and the perfect roads that once lead to all parts of the known world, only to experience the heartache when comparing them to the pitiful remnants that remain. There are some editorial mistakes, but not many. The ending seemed rushed, and I just do not really see how things ended up for the girl they were escorting, as there was no lead up to the outcome. The cover Art is ok, but the images are a bit muddled. In the center, it looked like Jesus was stabbing a bald bishop in the throat. There were parts of the trip, and subsequent chase that drug on a bit, but it was still a page-turner. Overall a good read.

  • This reply was modified 3 months ago by avatar Gerrykn.
May 20, 2019 at 6:01 pm #2857
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Tony Roberts
Keymaster

Did enjoy writing this one, and so heavily influenced by my childhood thriller reading of MacLean novels.

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