Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Last Legion

This one was a bit of a shocker. The Last Legion, by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, really trudged through what might have been an interesting story in other hands. It is translated from the Italian, so some of the clumsiness of dialogue and character might come from that, but certainly a lot of it derived from clich├ęd-filled story itself. It's clearly written for movie adaption, and the author even notes that in the foreword, so you've got scenes in the book that seem more like descriptions of a movie than something that belongs in a novel.

The plot revolves around the fall of the Western Roman Empire, and the fate of its last emperor, Romulus Augustus. He is rescued from his imprisonment at the hands of the dastardly barbarians who have deposed him and killed his father by Aurelius and his trusty band of legionaries, who were from "the last legion", the Nova Invicta, which was created in secret by Romulus's father Orestes.

The writing is reminiscent of George Lucas's Star Wars prequel scripts, but you get used to it after a while, and the middle portion of the book (the rescue and flight) trundles along at a good pace, with some nice action scenes. Then it gets really silly, and [SPOILER warning - skip to the end of this paragraph if you're still considering reading this book after the above] it turns out Romulus Augustus's tutor is Merlin, and Romulus becomes King Arthur's father, Pendragon.

A quick web search has shown me that they actually made this into a movie. And it is mostly quite atrocious casting, apart from Colin Firth, who is of course always a good casting choice. Apparently it was quite bad.

Avoid this unless you've got a real thing for Roman historical fiction and you've read all the good ones.

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