Plot/Idea: Greenwood delivers a tightly paced, action-packed novel with strong character development, an unusual hero's tale that will have readers anxiously waiting for the next installment. Alternating between the ancient past and modern times, the reader is witness to an unfolding narrative pitting eternal good against the ultimate evil.
Prose: Told in third-person perspective, the story is well crafted with attention-grabbing scenes delivered in a concise manner.
Originality: A gripping novel that blends several genre elements such as historical fiction, biblical lore, thriller and paranormal while maintaining a cohesive and absorbing storyline.
Character Development/Execution: A brilliant juxtaposition is employed between the stoic and honorable Marcus and the bitter and cynical Thomas. A strong supporting cast rounds out the novel well, including the doomed love interest, Isabella.
Date Submitted: May 15, 2022
In B. K. Greenwood’s debut novel, a Roman commander has been given the unpleasant task of supervising the day’s crucifixions. When the time comes to dispatch the thin Jew claimed by his followers to be the Son of God, Marcus Gracchus is touched by the blood of Christ as he withdraws his sword. His penalty: a tainted immortality that begins a tale spanning two thousand years, alternating between seminal historical events and a present-day plot orchestrated by an embittered immortal who wishes to destroy civilization.
Greenwood’s writing can be adjectively excessive, and is occasionally weighed down by unnecessary detail. But that doesn’t matter, because he has a real talent for plot and action, and the novel races forward in a style that may remind readers of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Marcus’ tactical thinking and close-infighting skills are worthy of Jason Bourne and, as we follow him over the centuries, the novel leaps from Charles Martel’s defeat of the Saracens at Tours in 732 to the Turks’ bloody conquest of Constantinople in 1453, to gunfights in the streets of Paris and infiltrations of the Vatican in the present. If you like action and, as required by most time-bending fiction, don’t examine the premises too closely, this is a ride that will keep you pinned to your seat from start to finish.
Readers should be warned that the finish leaves you hanging, as Exile is the first of what is designed to be a multi-volume series. Perhaps as the series proceeds, Greenwood will better flesh out his characters. In the meantime, the plot and action are enough to keep you turning pages.
The Last Roman, with its roots in Christianity and the Catholic Church, begins at the time of Christ’s crucifixion, then chapters alternate between modern and historical times. In this action-packed story, Greenwood supplies just enough description to allow the reader to visualize the scene. The story is an exciting first installment in a planned trilogy by author B.K. Greenwood.
The story follows the Roman soldier, Marcus Sempronius Gracchus, who pierced the side of Jesus Christ during crucifixion. That act makes Marcus immortal; if the soldier is killed, he is resurrected after three days. There are others in the same predicament, such as the apostle Thomas and Lazarus, whom Jesus restored to life after death. One of the “immortals” decides, in modern times, that he is tired of being immortal and sets events in motion to bring about the biblical “end of times.” Marcus and a few of his friends desperately try to prevent that from happening.
Marcus is an intriguing protagonist. Over the centuries, he has enhanced his ability to kill by embracing the newest weapons, but the women in his life change his heart. After having to leave his mortal family behind, Marcus bonds with an immortal woman who cherishes people and life. For example, in 1849 West Africa, Marcus is compelled to help this woman free a group of slaves before they can be brought to market. Over the centuries, Thomas becomes the ultimate antagonist. As Marcus comments, “There’s virtually no limit to the resources and access he has at his disposal.” No matter how big the weapon or how big the gang Marcus has, Thomas’s is bigger.
As the modern storyline develops, jumps to diverse historical periods act as backstory, showing how the immortals evolved into the people they are today. The ultimate clique, the immortals can go for centuries without seeing each other yet rely on each other when things get tough. When Marcus needs help in modern Rome, he turns to Isabella, the same immortal he helped in West Africa.
Each chapter begins with a quote, including this from Maya Angelou: “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” How appropriate for a group of immortals. The concept of immortals, although not new to fiction, is presented in a unique way, and the author does a spectacular job of setting up the storyline for the remaining books in the trilogy. The review copy provided was not a finished copy, so the expectation is that any typos within will be corrected before final publication.
The Last Roman by B. K. Greenwood is a perfect hybrid of historical fiction and thriller, with an engaging and ingeniously original storyline.