Book review: The Last Legion

by Anna Shornikova

The Last Legion by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, an amusing historical novel

“We need heroes, don’t we?” – The Last Legion

The book is written by an Italian historian, writer, archaeologist and journalist Valerio Manfredi. Though the author is rather unknown, The Last Legion deserves attention as it combines features of a historical novel and a fantastic tale. The book will be appealing for people of all ages and occupations because it tells a fascinating story about faith, strength and friendship.

Apparently, the story takes place in the Roman Empire of the fifth century that is captured by barbarians. The last Emperor – young Romulus and his mentor are exiled to the island Capri where a boy finds a legendary sword of Julius Caesar. A brave warrior Aurelius unites the last faithful men to form the “last” legion and rescue Romulus and his tutor to escort them to the safe lands of Britannia. The plot is full of brilliant twists, and the story develops really fast. Moreover, the story corresponds with the tale of King Arthur that adds excitement about the end of it. 

Indeed, I have never read a book like this that could grip my attention throughout the story. It is specific because the characters there are ordinary people, they have their worries and emotions, but they are fearless warriors and caring companions. One of the main protagonists – Aurelius, though with mysterious past, leads and encourages people of his squad and keeps the promise to save the boy Emperor. Furthermore, mentor Ambrosinus is a wise wizard that helps Romulus to grow mentally and get prepared to the role of a ruler. His pieces of advice and supposedly magic manipulations support and inspire others. In addition, I was impressed with another character – Livia – that seems to be the boldest woman-hero of that time. All of them had to go through many obstacles and losses before becoming close friends with strong spirits. 

The book impressed me with the battle scenes and held me in tension during the pursuit of the squad by an antagonist Wulfila. As the author is a historian, I suppose that the novel is rather realistic and contains original historical events that are intertwined into the tale. The language of the book was a bit plain, but it can be accounted for the translation. What is more, the story is of violence and cruelty, and some scenes may seem rather appalling. But still, they represent the tempers of that era.

Overall, I ensure total immersion in this book as it is full of vivid descriptions of landscapes and battles, bright characters and their formation and unexpectable twists. I was overwhelmed with emotions after reading and couldn’t think of something else. I definitely recommend The Last Legion to everyone who is interested in historical novels and adventure stories.

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