Roman Mask

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
388 Pages
Reviewed on 08/20/2015
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Chris Fischer for Readers' Favorite

Wow.! That's all I can really say after reading the epic novel Roman Mask by author Thomas M.D. Brooke. In an absolutely fantastic read, we find ourselves in Ancient Rome, at the very height of the Roman Empire. Augustus Caesar rules the Empire as it stretches throughout the known world. War hero Cassius finds himself in an enviable position; he's popular, a member of one of Rome's most powerful families, and wealthy. But when time in Germany breaks his spirit and his nerves, he finds himself unable to fight, even though he needs to keep up the facade of his warrior status. When sought by the Emperor's wife for a special assignment, Cassius finds his life at risk again, and this time he's not sure he'll be able to survive.

I loved this book. There's no other way to say it. Filled with action and adventure, Roman Mask will keep you on the edge of your seat. Focused on a time that doesn't always get a huge amount of attention in the historical fiction genre, author Thomas M.D. Brooke does such a fantastic job in drawing a picture of ancient Rome that when you look up from the novel you'll wonder where your tunic is. This book would definitely appeal to any reader who loves historical fiction, stories with intrigue and drama, stories that feature war craft, or just a plain great read. I am pleased to be able to highly recommend Roman Mask and will look forward to more from this promising author in the future.

Melinda Hills

Can a hero become a coward? Can that coward become a hero? In Roman Mask by Thomas M.D. Brooke, Cassius Aprilis is celebrated as a hero after an intense campaign in Germany and enjoys the benefits that come with that honor – parties, women, wine and more. His conscience, though, does not let him forget what he felt for several years after leaving the Roman guard and living on the rough edges of the Empire in Gaul. Rescued from his despair by a fellow soldier, he returns to Rome and lives a life of decadence until a command from Princeps Augustus’ wife Livia sends him back to the country he hoped to forget. With a young soldier who has romantic notions of war, Cassius returns to the wilds of the Roman frontier where he is to assist Governor Varus as a liaison to the Cherusker tribe allies whose king is a childhood friend of Cassius. Military posturing and the desire for expanding the Roman Empire lead to miscalculations and war is inevitable. Can Cassius rise above his shame and serve the Empire or will his fear of the horrors of battle make him ineffective against wild Germanic warriors?

A significant historical event is the backdrop for the fictional account of a Roman officer who struggles with personal demons in Roman Mask by Thomas M.D. Brooke. The storyline is beautifully interwoven with actual events that led to the defeat of the Roman legions in Germany at the hands of a charismatic leader and fierce Germanic warriors. The characters are richly developed and the action is vividly described as Cassius confronts his past and assumes his role in a quickly deteriorating situation. Roman Mask delves deeply into the psychology of war, greed, deception and fear, as well as the ingrained nationalistic attitudes of the Germanic peoples and the Roman need for conquest. Exceptionally well written and completely engrossing, this is a book that entertains and educates, leaving you hoping for more from this talented author.

Katelyn Hensel

Set during the brutal, decadent days of the Roman Empire, Roman Mask is the story of Cassius. This child of war and power is the epitome of Rome's elite warriors...except that is a lie. While Cassius rides the waves of fame gained in battle, he hides the fact that the thought of war now leaves him cold with sweat and shaking. Thomas MD Brooke has clearly done his research into the times, as I felt transported by the detailed understanding of life under Roman rule...from battles to the decadent feasts, you feel as though you're about to walk through a curtain into a gladiator arena or a battlefield.

Cassius writhed in his inner turmoil for the majority of the book, fighting with his knowledge of what truly happened in battle and the hero-worship exhibited by those around him. While the main conflicts and themes revolved around war and self-perception, there were also small and almost unnoticed sub-themes regarding loyalty and friendship, courage and fear that tied everything together in a subtle but deeper way. I also enjoyed how many of the events in the book were based on actual historical events. I felt that fiction and history were tied seamlessly together into a wonderful story.

Roman Mask is an excellently written historical fiction novel. The pacing was wonderful, and pushed forward at a rapid speed without losing any of the rich detail that Thomas Brooke utilizes to make his characters, settings, and story compelling. Those who are into Iron-Age and Roman history and fiction will be all about this book!

Cheryl E. Rodriguez

Thomas MD Brooke narrates a tale of conquest in Roman Mask. Rome is conquering the world, stretching its strength and rule to the north. However, the Germanic tribes are barbaric and aren’t so easily tamed. Cassius Gauis Aprilis is a hero in Rome, renowned for his victory at the Western Gate Pass. Yet Cassius does not feel heroic at all. He is haunted by the blood lust of that battle - the loss of his valiant comrades invades his thoughts. He disguises his shame with wine and women, vowing never to return to Germany. Never say never. Lady Livia, the wife of Augustus, the imperator of Rome, has other plans for Cassius. She desires to know what is really going on in the Roman ruled Germanic province. She commissions him to return to Germany as a spy, masked as an aide to Governor Varsus. Much to Cassius' chagrin, Marcus Scavea, a young and vibrant soldier, is deployed to accompany and serve him. Cassius must face his fear and return to the land he fights desperately to forget. What awaits him is worse than the nightmare of his past. Friends turn into foes, betrayal and chaos challenge the debilitating fear within him. If Cassius ever wants to return to Rome, his cowardice must submit to courage.

Roman Mask by Thomas MD Brooke is a fascinating work of historical fiction. Brooke uses artistic expression to create a fictional historic account of the battle of Teutoburg. The battle that proved that Rome was not invincible and Germany would not simply bow down to Roman rule. Brooke is a fluent and eloquent storyteller. He illustrates the trauma of battle in his main character, Cassius, who displays all the symptoms of modern day PTSD. As a reader, I became emotionally entwined with Cassius; his fear, inner turmoil, his search for courage and love, his heart and soul injury as a result of betrayal were all depicted with extreme sensitivity. All of the characters were brilliantly written; they grow, evolve and intersect with each other masterfully.

The setting captured the essence of the ancient landscapes of the time period. The images revealed the collision of Roman civilization and Germanic tribal rule. What intrigued me the most was the theme of the narrative – living a lie is easy when hiding behind an illusionary mask. Both the protagonist, Cassius, and the antagonist, Julius, are written as testimonies to this deceptive idea. In all reality, living a lie is not easy at all. Furthermore, once the masks are removed, the truth is exposed. Cassius sums it up poignantly: “I forgot who I was, and I’d rather be the man I am now than go back to living that lie.”

Jane Allen Petrick

I do enjoy historical fiction. And, yes, after four years of Latin and classical studies, I also enjoy ruminating from time to time over the question of why Rome fell. But I'd always steered clear of books that combined these two interests, afraid I'd end up with the print version of a bad gladiator movie. Thank goodness I pushed aside my fears and picked up Roman Mask by Thomas M.D. Brooke. What a great read.

Roman Mask by Thomas M.D. Brooke, taking place around the year 9 AD, tells the story of 28-year-old Cassius Aprilis aka Gaius: patrician, retired Roman army officer, closet coward. Gaius' boyhood friend, the German prince cum Roman citizen Julius Ariminius, returns to his people as king, ostensibly to fold the Cherusci and the rest of the German tribes under the wings of Roman culture. A reluctant Gaius is commissioned by the emperor to go back to the battlefields of Germany and help his friend out. Things come to a head at the battle of Teutoberg Forest.

I don't think I give too much away by saying that this is a tale of betrayal: things turn out very well for Arminius, disastrous for Rome, and for Gaius? Well, he's the one telling the story, so I'm afraid you'll have to read it to find out. The characterizations and dialogue in Roman Mask are authentic and enjoyable. Once in a while something cutesy slips in, for example, "Oh by Hades, a hangover." But these infrequent gaffes only accentuate how well the rest of the book is written. A number of novels, movies, radio plays, even a video game have employed the theme of the battle of Teutoberg Forest. However, Roman Mask by Thomas M.D. Brooke goes into and comes out of the fight with a distinctly unique perspective. I encourage you to jump into the fray: it's well worth it.