Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:
It is spring 45 AD and Centurions Macro and Cato, dismissed from the Second Legion in Britain, are trapped in Rome, waiting for their involvement in the death of a fellow officer to be investigated. It is then that the imperial secretary, the devious Narcissus, makes them an offer they can't refuse; to rescue an imperial agent who has been captured by pirates operating from the Illyrian coast. With him were scrolls vital to the safety of the Emperor and the future of Rome. However, Narcissus also sends Vitellius, an old enemy of the two centurions. The three officers set out from Ravenna with the imperial fleet but the pirates are forewarned and the Romans pay a heavy price. Outnumbered by the enemy, surrounded by rumours of treachery and endangered by Vitellius' desire to redeem himself, Centurions Macro and Cato must find the pirate base to avert a disaster that could destroy the Emperor.
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Publishers Weekly Review
The sixth installment (following 2005's The Eagle's Prey) of Scarrow's popular Roman Empire series is a combustible concoction of intrigue, treachery and violence. Having returned to Rome from Britain to await an investigation into their involvement in the death of an officer, centurions Macro and Cato, Scarrow's recurring heroes, are offered the opportunity to redeem themselves: they must recover the Delphic scrolls reputed to foretell Rome's future from the pirates who stole them. Macro and Cato are assigned to the Roman fleet under the command of a former nemesis, the venal Vitellius, who secretly covets the scrolls for himself. Vitellius's plan to destroy the pirate fleet and seize the scrolls, however, runs aground when the pirates, aided by a Roman traitor and Vitellius's ineptness in battle, inflict severe losses on the Roman fleet. When Vitellius is replaced, Macro and Cato get another chance to salvage their careers (and lives). Series fans will welcome Scarrow's depiction of the overlooked venue of the Roman navy, and though the plotting is formulaic, the intense action, beguiling characters and authentic detail more than compensate for it. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Book Review
In their sixth adventure (The Eagle's Prey, 2005, etc.), centurion comrades Cato and Macro go to sea to recapture stolen scrolls invaluable to the emperor Claudius. After his crew takes control of three Roman ships, bloodthirsty Greek pirate Telemachus hones in on Caius Caelinus Secundus, a patrician who promises him a rich ransom. Inside the elegant chest Caius is transporting are scrolls whose importance he tries to play down. Telemachus isn't fooled; he holds the patrician and the scrolls hostage, demanding ten million sestertians for their return. Meanwhile, back in Rome, seasoned centurion Macro and his young protg Cato are adrift. Living in squalor while seeking a new commission, they wander into trouble because of their restlessness and anxiety. Salvation comes from an unexpected quarter. Claudius's right-hand man, Narcissus, well-acquainted with the centurion duo, hires them to retrieve the scrolls. In a surprising twist, he puts Cato at the head of the rescue party and demands that the hotheaded but much more experienced Macro stay behind. Macro is unexpectedly reunited with his mother Portia, who abandoned him as a baby. (Their reunion and subsequent interactions are awkward, to say the least.) Cato's meeting with Telemachus goes less well than expected. Not to be intimidated, the Greek speaks slickly of other bidders for the scrolls, which contain secret revelations from the famed Oracle at Delphi. Narcissus decides to seize them by force, putting Macro and Cato under the command of Vitellius, an old adversary with ruthless political ambition. Storms at sea weaken their fleet, making it more vulnerable to the battle-ready pirate force. The centurions almost immediately come to loggerheads with Vitellius, fearing that his inexperience and recklessness will make them easy prey for Telemachus. Scarrow again provides a vivid sense of history and several believable scenes of maritime action, and his righteous but flawed protagonists are winning heroes. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.