#BookReview — Antonius: Second in Command (Antonius Trilogy, #2) by Brook Allen
Antonius: Second in Command
(Antonius Trilogy, #2)
By Brook Allen
Having proven himself as a formidable cavalry commander, Marcus Antonius finally earns a position at his kinsman Julius Caesar’s side. However, Caesar is an exacting general, demanding complete allegiance from his staff, even when his decisions put him at odds with the Senate. Marcus’s loyalty to Caesar comes at a cost, and he soon finds himself embroiled in mob violence and military mutinies. As civil war brings Rome’s Republic crashing down, many a relationship is torn asunder, including Marcus’s marriage. Determined to rise triumphant in Rome’s new era, Marcus faces his fears, his failures, and his enemies—not the least of whom is himself.
Amid the crisis of the Ides of March, Marcus must don the mantle of ruthlessness to carve his own legacy in Rome’s history. Enemies have been made, wills have been read, and heirs proclaimed.
But in Rome’s civil unrest, blood answers only to blood.
"Please consider joining my staff as a legate. Should you accept, report personally to me at Portus Itius..."
Should he accept? Did Caesar really need to ask? Caesar had made Marcus Antonius a legate, regardless that he had never held office in the Senate. Marcus was to join Caesar and fight in his Gallic campaign. To be given such an honour was what Marcus had always dreamed of. Perhaps, at last, after his own father had failed the Senate, his stepfather had been seized and executed by the state, and his uncle had been shamed and sent into exile, Marcus could restore his family's name.
However, some said that Caesar's war was illegal, while others feared his true intentions. And Marcus would learn soon enough that loyalty to Caesar would come at a terrible cost to himself.
From the birth of a child to that fateful Ides of March and the desperate fight for power that was to follow, Antonius: Second in Command (Antonius Trilogy, #2) by Brook Allen is a historical fiction triumph.
As I read, I felt the ground tremble under the hooves of the Roman cavalry. I heard the desperate battle cries of the legions, and I smelt the carnage of battle. The despair of a siege, the hunger of an army whose supplies had not come, the acute anxiety of trying to win a battle at sea, the fear, the pain, the desire to be anywhere but where they were — all of this, I felt and more. This was a time of civil war, unrest, and despairing loyalty to a man who wanted power, while the Gods watched on despondently. And in the centre of it all was Marcus Antonius, whose loyalty to Caesar should have been without question, yet his enemies, desperate to bring Marcus down, would do anything and everything to make Caesar doubt his favourite kinsman. But such doubt meant that Caesar chose another as heir. Oh my, Allen has really outdone herself. We all know the story of how Caesar was betrayed and assassinated in the Senate. Allen has retold this story through the eyes of Marcus Antonius, and what a story it is.
Allen has vividly brought to life this time and these people with her elegant prose and her vivid descriptions. Allen's attention to detail has to be commended, and nothing was beyond the telling. The graphic battle scenes evoked the horrors of what it was like for those who fought for Rome and Caesar. As the Republic quivered on its last legs before eventually crashing down with the destruction of a tsunami, Allen has described in detail the absolute misery of civil war. Allen has also depicted the duplicity and the hypocrisy of the political climate. This was a time where one had to befriend an enemy and make enemies of friends. For a great soldier such as Marcus Antonius, Allen describes his deficiencies as a politician. Although a skilled speaker, his wayward past and his family name do him no credit. He is a friend of the people one moment and then thanks to vicious rumours, the enemy the next. This cut-throat atmosphere, the intimidation, and the threats covered beneath toga-clad decorum was beautifully portrayed throughout this book. It was almost as if I had slipped through a portal and found myself in Rome, watching the events unfold.
As with Book 1, Allen's portrayal of Marcus Antonius is sublime. She has captured the very essence of the man. Allen has not made Marcus Antonius a hero, for not everything he did was heroic, but she has made him very human. Marcus Antonius makes many mistakes, he is at times, completely out of his element, and he struggles with politics and pretending to be someone he isn't. He also has a very turbulent personal life which causes him no end of grief, shame, and regret. I don't think anyone has written such a vivid account of Marcus Antonius as Allen has done. Her devotion to his portrayal has to be commended.
Allen depicts Caesar in a slightly different light when compared to Marcus Antonius. Caesar plucks greats victories out of impossible situations. His determination means that he achieves what he set out to achieve. He gains power, and although he refuses that crown of laurel, he is very much a monarch. Caesar is, however, for someone who is very single-minded, easily led. It was surprising how quick he believed Marcus Antonius meant him harm when it was the complete opposite. As a reader, Allen has shown Marcus Antonius' frustration at Caesar. He did everything Caesar asked him to do and yet...It never seemed to be enough. And in the end, Caesar favoured another in his will. I thought Allen's portrayal was remarkable. Allen doesn't romanticise who Caesar was or what he did, but gave as a valid account as she could have about his personality.
Another character that deserves mention is Gaius Octavius (Augustus). Marcus Antonius instantly dislikes him, and as a reader, so did I. He is a very calculating type of character and a shrewd politician. Allen has obviously spent a long time thinking about how she wanted to portray Octavius, and I think she has done a commendable job. History tells us that there was no love between Octavius and Marcus Antonius. They were bitter rivals whose loyalty to Caesar was really the only thing they had in common.
Marcus Antonius has many enemies in this story, some much closer to home than even he realised, but for most of this novel, he has to pretend friendship, on Caesar's orders, with Marcus Tullius Cicero. Marcus Antonius' hatred runs deep, yet he puts that aside for his loyalty to Caesar runs deeper. Allen has depicted a shrewd politician in Cicero. Allen has a wonderful novelist eye for the human condition. Power corrupts, they say, and it really does in this book. It corrupts absolutely.
If you are looking for your next great historical fiction series set in Ancient Rome, then look no further than the Antonius Trilogy.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
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Antonius: Second in Command
Brook Allen is a Music Educator in a rural community near Roanoke, VA. Aside from her regular classes, she teaches two ensembles, a Chorus and Recorder Consort. Born in Salt Lake City, UT, Brook was raised in Omaha, Nebraska and has lived all over the U.S., from the Pacific Northwest, all the way down to Florida. She graduated with a B.A. in Music Education and has a M. A. in Liberal Studies, with an emphasis on Roman History. Brook is happily married and has two energetic Labrador Retrievers. Voraciously active, she cycles, hikes, and loves to travel.