It’s been about a week since I wrote my last book review (or post on this blog, for that matter), which I feel fairly guilty about. Yes, I’ve got work mounting up, but it’s all too easy to use that as an excuse. Therefore, I am imposing a two-post-a-week rule upon my reviews. Hopefully this will push me back into the swing of things.
The Last Legion is a book I picked up on impulse whilst on holiday when we were in the supermarket. I’d never heard of the author, Manfredi, and neither have I since. However, it caught my eye and I don’t bias against unknown authors – everybody’s got to start somewhere. Apparently it’s a ‘major motion picture’ too. I’ve never seen it.
The Last Legion (TLL) is the story of a legion of Romans, the ‘last’ legion. Their mission is to escort the young emperor of Rome to safety through the amassed barbarian whom are taking over the land. The emperor first must be saved from their clutches though, and they must assault the guarded place in which he is kept along with his tutor. Upon being rescued – albeit closely – he is in possession of a valuable and mythical item; ‘The Calibian Sword of Julius Caesar’. As they fly towards Britain, the plot finishes in a brilliant twist that links in with the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
It’s a joy finding a really good story in a book you weren’t too expectant of. My English Language tutor claims that there are no new stories and all are simply recycled and renewed in a new light. Personally, I think that that’s a rather closed-minded view, especially for an English Language teacher, but I digress. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a story quite like this one before, and I have most definitely never seen an author link Romans into King Arthur seamlessly before. I think the plot is realistic, it’s not difficult to believe. These guys aren’t your unwilling teen heroes that are ever more popular nowadays (what’s with that?), they are Roman warriors – real heroes. The great deeds we expect of then are fulfilled in this epic tale. I think this plot could have been ruined in a simple way. An author could just have the legion recapture the emperor, then seek action by fending off attacks all the way through the book. Not so. His book did keep me reading it fairly ferociously, which I was glad of. It wasn’t really an easy read, as it can be a bit crazy keeping up with all of the events. Worth it, though.
The characters in the book are a little textbook, I do admit. The boy emperor gets kidnapped and cries over his tutor. What does that remind me of.. Prince Caspian (C.S.S. Lewis)! There’s the warrior with the mystery past and the scar-faced enemy ‘Wolfila’. I don’t think that this detracts from the novel. They’re Romans, there’s nothing more archaic than that. They are the staple heroes of legend. I think that the hero, Aurelius, reminds me of Aragorn. Dark, warrior, mysterious past and so on. The emperor Romulus seems a bit of a doozy. He finds a sword, but doesn’t really do anything with it. Not much else to say on the characters.
Overall, this book is surprisingly good. I’m really glad I picked it up while running around the supermarket. I did a little research into the film, and it has a 1/5 Rotten Tomatoes rating, so I won’t bother with it. However, I think it’s a nice read for when you haven’t got much else to be doing. I expect it won’t be too expensive as Manfredi is not a mainstream author.
I’m going to give this a solid 7/10. I’d read it again, go for it!