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A lone figure stands silhouetted atop the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Behind him, the sun is setting over the centre of the known world. Far below, the river is in full flood. The City of Rome lies spread out before him on the far bank. Footsteps pound up the stairs. He's been set up. An enemy is closing in; he is cornered. He jumps. Bruised and battered, he crawls out of the rag A lone figure stands silhouetted atop the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Behind him, the sun is setting over the centre of the known world. Far below, the river is in full flood. The City of Rome lies spread out before him on the far bank. Footsteps pound up the stairs. He's been set up. An enemy is closing in; he is cornered. He jumps. Bruised and battered, he crawls out of the raging river. He is alone and unarmed, without money or friends, trapped in a deadly conspiracy at the heart of the Empire. The City Watch has orders to take him alive; other, more sinister, forces want him dead. As the day dies, he realises he has only 24 hours to expose the conspirators, and save the leader of the world. If the Emperor dies, chaos and violence will ensue. If the Emperor dies, every single person he loves will die. He must run, bluff, hide and fight his way across the Seven Hills. He must reach the Colosseum, and the Emperor. He must make it to The Last Hour.


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A lone figure stands silhouetted atop the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Behind him, the sun is setting over the centre of the known world. Far below, the river is in full flood. The City of Rome lies spread out before him on the far bank. Footsteps pound up the stairs. He's been set up. An enemy is closing in; he is cornered. He jumps. Bruised and battered, he crawls out of the rag A lone figure stands silhouetted atop the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Behind him, the sun is setting over the centre of the known world. Far below, the river is in full flood. The City of Rome lies spread out before him on the far bank. Footsteps pound up the stairs. He's been set up. An enemy is closing in; he is cornered. He jumps. Bruised and battered, he crawls out of the raging river. He is alone and unarmed, without money or friends, trapped in a deadly conspiracy at the heart of the Empire. The City Watch has orders to take him alive; other, more sinister, forces want him dead. As the day dies, he realises he has only 24 hours to expose the conspirators, and save the leader of the world. If the Emperor dies, chaos and violence will ensue. If the Emperor dies, every single person he loves will die. He must run, bluff, hide and fight his way across the Seven Hills. He must reach the Colosseum, and the Emperor. He must make it to The Last Hour.

30 review for The Last Hour

  1. 5 out of 5

    Greg at 2 Book Lovers Reviews

    I don’t know why this happens to me, but it seems to occur with much more frequency than in the past. I read a synopsis, fall for a book, then when I go to read it, the book is not what I expected. For whatever convoluted reason, I was expected The Last Hour to be a sort of homage to Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome, a suspenseful, intricate mystery set in the streets of ancient Rome. What Harry Sidebottom delivered was something completely different. If Marcus Clodius Ballista has a ti I don’t know why this happens to me, but it seems to occur with much more frequency than in the past. I read a synopsis, fall for a book, then when I go to read it, the book is not what I expected. For whatever convoluted reason, I was expected The Last Hour to be a sort of homage to Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome, a suspenseful, intricate mystery set in the streets of ancient Rome. What Harry Sidebottom delivered was something completely different. If Marcus Clodius Ballista has a time-traveling doppelganger, it’s Jack Bauer. Sidebottom brought me back to those evenings of watching season one of 24 on the television. I felt the same anticipation, tension and fear that I did then. Our hero has to save the emperor at any cost and only has twenty-four hours to accomplish his goal. It demonstrates the author’s skill when they can keep this level of tension for an entire book. This was my first adventure with Ballista. I understand that there are some older voyages and battles that I can still enjoy with him. The Last Hour still works well on its own. Ballista was a strong, captivating character. His charisma immediately pulled me to his side. The Last Hour is a fun, fast-paced book. It was an excellent introduction to the writing of Harry Sidebottom. I love having these books in by back pocket from the Greco-Roman period, they offer up a complete change of pace. *I received a copy of the book from the publisher (via NetGalley).

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Loved this! A Ballista novel that's very different from the others - this is a thriller set in the heart of ancient Rome over the course of one day. Tense, exciting and hugely informative (while always being entertaining) about life in this ancient city. Loved this! A Ballista novel that's very different from the others - this is a thriller set in the heart of ancient Rome over the course of one day. Tense, exciting and hugely informative (while always being entertaining) about life in this ancient city.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alexis

    This book follows the story of Ballista. In short, he must get to the Emperor of Rome within the next 24 hours or they will both die. The book starts off at a very fast pace. The chases and fight scenes are really exciting, and the writing in these parts of the book is very good. I also enjoyed the historical setting of the book. I don't usually read much historical fiction so I was pleasantly surprised at the extra level this added to the story. I felt like I was learning something interesting This book follows the story of Ballista. In short, he must get to the Emperor of Rome within the next 24 hours or they will both die. The book starts off at a very fast pace. The chases and fight scenes are really exciting, and the writing in these parts of the book is very good. I also enjoyed the historical setting of the book. I don't usually read much historical fiction so I was pleasantly surprised at the extra level this added to the story. I felt like I was learning something interesting at the same time as enjoying the fast pace of an action thriller. I liked the added element of the map at the front of the book. It helped me to imagine what was happening. There were so many different locations involved and it was great to be able to follow the route the story took on the map. The one thing I didn't like about the book was that there felt like a struggle in the advance of the plot. It's basically just a really long chase, interspersed with moments of rest or hiding. The chase parts are really exciting and full of action, almost like a 24-style political thriller. But the quiet bits in-between were just a little bit too quiet, and the interest of the Roman history thrown in wasn't quite enough to stop me from being a little bored at times. Overall this is a great read, but I did have to push through the quieter parts to get to the good stuff. I would give it 3.5 stars, just because it started out so strong and exciting, but I felt it didn't quite meet up to those expectations by the end.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Roger Kean

    Harry Sidebottom makes no secret of his having wanted to write a non-stop action-thriller in the mode of Lee Child's Jack Reacher stories but encompassed in the tight 24-hour time-frame, and so like Jack Bauer we kick off atop Hadrian's Mausoleum with Marcus Clodius Ballista's unknown enemies hard on his heels, intent on his death. He has the rest of the night and the day ahead to prevent a dastardly conspiracy of murky characters from assassinating his childhood schoolfriend, the emperor Gallie Harry Sidebottom makes no secret of his having wanted to write a non-stop action-thriller in the mode of Lee Child's Jack Reacher stories but encompassed in the tight 24-hour time-frame, and so like Jack Bauer we kick off atop Hadrian's Mausoleum with Marcus Clodius Ballista's unknown enemies hard on his heels, intent on his death. He has the rest of the night and the day ahead to prevent a dastardly conspiracy of murky characters from assassinating his childhood schoolfriend, the emperor Gallienus. This rip-roaring dash around the city of Rome c.266 reads like a maniac tour guide's excursion, taking us from famous monuments to the dirtiest underside of the teeming city. It's a Rome already falling into disrepair (like the Roman baths at Bath, the Ara Pacis has all but disappeared under the rising tide of crumbled past buildings), but one bursting with a raucous life that Ballista uses to propel him from one crisis to another. It seems a long time ago I was asked to review Harry Sidebottom's first Ballista novel in the Warrior of Rome series ('Fire in the East') for the now sadly defunct Heritage Key website. Perhaps fortuitously it dealt with a period of Roman history that fascinated me, the so-called period of Military Anarchy which lasted from 235 to the rise of Diocletian in 284, and particularly with the emperor Gallienus. Sidebottom doesn't seem to think much of Gallienus – probably rightly – but I've always had a soft spot for the battle well lost and that sums up his reign – in any other period he could've been a contender. Can Ballista get through every barrier thrown in his path to get to the Colosseum and reach Gallienus in time? It's not just the emperor's life at stake here, but all those who have supported him, which means Ballista's own wife and two young boys are in danger of capture, rape and death at the hands of out-of-control city watchmen, or frumentarii, or praetorians… or just about everyone who wants a new man on the throne. A welcome return, then, to Harry Sidebottom's warrior-hero Ballista in a new pulp-fiction format which never loses sight of the history oozing from every page.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    This latest Ballista novel is heads above the others in the series, especially the later ones. The first three I liked but the next I was so disappointed in, I didn'rt even read the last two. This one is a happy marriage between the thriller and the 3rd century historical fiction genres. I was enthralled all through from the very first pulse-pounding page to the last. Ballista gets wind of a conspiracy to kill Emperor Gallienus and has from sunset to next day sunset to foil the plot. He races th This latest Ballista novel is heads above the others in the series, especially the later ones. The first three I liked but the next I was so disappointed in, I didn'rt even read the last two. This one is a happy marriage between the thriller and the 3rd century historical fiction genres. I was enthralled all through from the very first pulse-pounding page to the last. Ballista gets wind of a conspiracy to kill Emperor Gallienus and has from sunset to next day sunset to foil the plot. He races through all parts of Rome, obstacles put in his way, which he overcomes, often with brutal fighting. He often disguises himself and uses other subterfuges to reach the emperor at the games in the Coliseum. A final standoff, with minutes to spare, had my heart in my mouth. A stark, laconic style fit right in with the urgency and breathlessness of the plot. Description of Rome made me feel I was right there along with Ballista. The identity of the leader of the plot wasn't given, except an alias--"the peasant." I believe I did figure out his identity from clues from his description, but the next book might reveal his identity and take care of him.... With Scarpio the name of one of the villains--head of the City Watch--I wondered if the author used this name with the evil police chief, Scarpia, from the opera "Tosca", in mind. Except this villain wasn't stabbed with a letter opener. I guessed from the author's Notes, Sidebottom conflated the Urban Cohorts AND the Vigiles, calling this entity the City Watch. In the novel it had duties of both groups: maintaining law and order AND firefighting. Highly recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Keith Currie

    Everyday Life in Ancient Rome While it is not made clear on the blurb, I don’t think it will do the novel any harm if fans understand that this is a Ballista novel. So what do we have? Ballista is back in Rome and discovers a plot against the emperor. Right from the start of this fast-moving, action-packed thriller, Ballista is attempting to get to the emperor and warn him of the plot, while the plotters, which include some of Rome’s most powerful men, do their very best to stop him. Does he succe Everyday Life in Ancient Rome While it is not made clear on the blurb, I don’t think it will do the novel any harm if fans understand that this is a Ballista novel. So what do we have? Ballista is back in Rome and discovers a plot against the emperor. Right from the start of this fast-moving, action-packed thriller, Ballista is attempting to get to the emperor and warn him of the plot, while the plotters, which include some of Rome’s most powerful men, do their very best to stop him. Does he succeed? Is Gallienus assassinated? The author has some fun here keeping the suspense going. Be warned: a visit to Wikipedia may help – or may not! As I was reading, another thought kept occurring to me. How might a Classical scholar today reach a large audience to teach his readers about life, social status, urban dangers, as well as the buildings and topography of the city of Rome in the Third Century? Answer: write a Ballista novel which covers almost every part of ancient Rome, includes almost every famous and not so famous building and discusses life in almost every social class – and disguises it as a bloody and thrilling adventure story. Now, there’s an idea!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ozymandias

    Story: 8 (Strong central focus with occasionally enervating digressions. Characters: 8 (Ballista is the only major character but he’s fun as ever) Accuracy: 10 (Duh) This is a most unusual work: a modern thriller set in the 3rd century Roman Empire. There are very few historical novels that do not fall into the high politics/biography, military memoir, or mystery genres. Of previous Roman thrillers I can really only think of Gillian Bradshaw’s excellent Render Unto Caesar. This book embraces its th Story: 8 (Strong central focus with occasionally enervating digressions. Characters: 8 (Ballista is the only major character but he’s fun as ever) Accuracy: 10 (Duh) This is a most unusual work: a modern thriller set in the 3rd century Roman Empire. There are very few historical novels that do not fall into the high politics/biography, military memoir, or mystery genres. Of previous Roman thrillers I can really only think of Gillian Bradshaw’s excellent Render Unto Caesar. This book embraces its thriller roots even more openly. The plot is standard thriller fare, lovingly ripped off from dozens of excellent examples. A murky group plans to assassinate the president, err... emperor, and our hero has only 24 hours to stop them. Naturally, the villains have control of the main police force in the city and are comprised of an unknown number of other men in positions of high authority. This means that, while Ballista need only reach the emperor Gallienus to stop the plot, he’s unable to approach him for fear of being arrested and killed. Unlike previous Warrior of Rome books (don’t worry, you don’t need to have read any of the earlier books in this series to pick up this one) the entirety of this book takes place in Rome. In fact, the book acts largely as a tour guide to the city. Ballista wanders through the entire city searching for a way to reach the Palatine Hill and later the Colosseum to give Gallienus the message. On the way we get to see the Mausoleum of Hadrian (the current Castel Sant’Angelo), Trastevere, the Campus Martius, the Castra Praetoria, Trajan’s Baths, the Forum, the Castra Peregrina, the Colosseum, etc. Each section gives us a detailed look at the site, although with Ballista mainly looking for a place to hide any such view is by necessity limited. I happened to be in Rome at the time this came out (I was in Aquileia when I read the last one, which was also cool), wandering past the Castel Sant’Angelo and judging distances to the Tiber (Ballista is screwed) so this was a really cool feature for me. Another major element is the exploration of Roman social mores and society. Since the author is a classical scholar this focus should not be surprising. This is fun since we’re right at the heart of the Roman world here whereas previous books took place on the periphery or outside the empire entirely. This gives us a chance to see how the Romans saw themselves at the core, particularly at a time when that core was shifting away from the City towards the army units stationed with the emperor. Here we get to see what daily life was like for drovers, fishermen, tenement residents, merchants, priests, prostitutes, etc. All seen an admittedly hurried fashion as Ballista flees from one place to another. The thriller part of the story also works well for the most part, although it can never top the excitement of the opening chapter. A pursuit to the top of Hadrian’s Mausoleum and dive to safety off the top is one hell of a fine way to start a book. The singlemindedness of Ballista’s mission is a welcome change from the last few books which had a tendency to be easily sidetracked and unfocused. Not that there aren’t some aspects of that here. A random discussion of the pros and cons of homosexual vs. heterosexual love (taken from Lucian), for example, or a detailed description of a slave auction, do not exactly advance the plot and can feel frustratingly unhurried. The pacing can be all over the place, a genuine problem for a thriller. I’m also not clear on the reasons for Ballista’s closemouthedness about the assassination plot. Sure, standing up in the forum and shouting that there was a plot against the emperor might not be the smartest idea, but there are plenty of other ways to spread the rumor around in a way that might reach the ears of the emperor. Or if he deemed panicked conspirators more likely to act prematurely than cover their tracks, he could at least have tried informing the apparently innocent common vigiles that their boss was a traitor. Even if he couldn’t persuade them to let him go, he could have tried sowing dissension in the ranks. But I suppose that any thriller is going to have its implausible elements. There are a few missed opportunities here. Like an episode of 24, Ballista has 24 chapters written from his POV (three others come from members of the conspiracy) yet this fact is never utilized to its full extent since the chapters are numbered from 1-27. A more frequent reminder of the little time remaining (ala. Harris’ Pompeii for example) would have made the whole book more intense, particularly towards the ending where everything starts to run out of steam. Another difficulty it faces is that Ballista is alone for most of the book. While Jack Bauer’s cellphones are obviously not an option, the dialogue with victims/cover cannot help but get repetitive, no matter how varied his plans are. I can’t help but feel it would have been better if he had a more complicated task than just reaching the emperor. If there had been some MacGuffin he needed in order to prove the villains’ conspiracy, some letter or artifact or person, then the plot could have been more varied than a series of chase scenes. No matter how well written (and these are mostly excellent) these can’t help but feel repetitive after a while. I very much enjoyed this book and hope to see other books follow its example. While the thriller is not as consistently tense as it could be, it never wears out its welcome and the digressions are interesting and generally well dramatized.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dave Wheeler

    A plot is a foot to kill the Emperor but it's not Sherlock it's back in the Roman Era close to 2000 years ago, and Ballista is a Barbarian and the Emperor a former school friend. Having been in the Roman army and out of loyalty to his old friend and the love of his family Ballista has less than a day to save Gallienus the Emperor. The plot is set to be executed at the Colosseum after a days entertainment which is the usual mix of executions, fights till the death and the odd animal eating variou A plot is a foot to kill the Emperor but it's not Sherlock it's back in the Roman Era close to 2000 years ago, and Ballista is a Barbarian and the Emperor a former school friend. Having been in the Roman army and out of loyalty to his old friend and the love of his family Ballista has less than a day to save Gallienus the Emperor. The plot is set to be executed at the Colosseum after a days entertainment which is the usual mix of executions, fights till the death and the odd animal eating various people. There is a race against time against various foes, unexpected obstacles normally armed plus tall buildings. This is a true Roman hero battling the odds and nail biting suspense that had me gripped through out a great page turner that can rob you of sleep, but i felt it well worth the effort and wasn't disappointed. I have been given a free copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a honest review

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Duran

    When I started with this book, I expected more of it. Although the beginning and ending are quite good and interesting, I have had the impression that the novel was sometimes boring around half the book. I think it was too slow compared to other parts. Anyways, I must highlight the high quality of the historical research from the author.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Robin Carter

    Review: Harry Sidebottom continues the saga of Ballista a romanised barbarian, a man of two worlds, forced to live as a Roman hostage and accept that his life is that of a Warrior of Rome (see what i did there). Ballista has formed the core character that launched Harry as a major Historical Fiction writer, a writer with an uncompromising accuracy of the Roman world (well he does teach at Oxford). full review: https://parmenionbooks.wordpress.com/... Review: Harry Sidebottom continues the saga of Ballista a romanised barbarian, a man of two worlds, forced to live as a Roman hostage and accept that his life is that of a Warrior of Rome (see what i did there). Ballista has formed the core character that launched Harry as a major Historical Fiction writer, a writer with an uncompromising accuracy of the Roman world (well he does teach at Oxford). full review: https://parmenionbooks.wordpress.com/...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ursula

    There's no doubt that Harry Sidebottom is an expert in both his fields, an eminent historian and a writer of historical fiction sagas. His focus is heavily upon action, danger and fighting in The Last Hour, the 2018 installment of the story of Ballista in the Warrior of Rome series. This 400 page book is very short, in the sense that it all takes place over just 24 hours. "Ballista has until the last hour of light the next day to get across Rome and save the Emperor and his own family". As in th There's no doubt that Harry Sidebottom is an expert in both his fields, an eminent historian and a writer of historical fiction sagas. His focus is heavily upon action, danger and fighting in The Last Hour, the 2018 installment of the story of Ballista in the Warrior of Rome series. This 400 page book is very short, in the sense that it all takes place over just 24 hours. "Ballista has until the last hour of light the next day to get across Rome and save the Emperor and his own family". As in the best computer games, there is a frantic pace with decisions to be made at every turn. If you like chases, danger, sudden violence, hand-to-hand fighting and evading surveillance together with startling feats of endurance, strength and athleticism then this is the story for you. There is also treachery, brutality, loyalty and bravery. The details of everyday life in 2nd century Rome and the cast of unnamed hundreds who cross Ballista's path are fascinating. Even the layout of buildings, streets and river come alive. Perhaps the best way to describe the book is to quote the author's own aims: "The challenge I set myself was to write a thriller, a story with restless menace, punctuated by bursts of violent action... I wanted to paint an authentic and atmospheric portrait of the city of ancient Rome, taking in all its grandeur and squalor." The author succeeds on both counts.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. A.A. Williams

    A fight against treason. Harry Sidebottom invokes all the thrills of the Roman Empire. The fighting for positions of influence, the poverty, the contrasting luxury of those of high status. This is an exciting story of one man's efforts to save an Emperor. His descriptions of Ancient Rome and the excitement of the Chase cannot fail to thrill. If you enjoy Roman history you will love this. It was difficult to put down! A fight against treason. Harry Sidebottom invokes all the thrills of the Roman Empire. The fighting for positions of influence, the poverty, the contrasting luxury of those of high status. This is an exciting story of one man's efforts to save an Emperor. His descriptions of Ancient Rome and the excitement of the Chase cannot fail to thrill. If you enjoy Roman history you will love this. It was difficult to put down!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shelagh Wadman

    My first encounter with Ballister and I can’t wait to read more of Harry Sidebottom’s novels. I was on the edge of my seat throughout this story of Ballister’s challenge to save the Emperors life. It seems like I have known him forever but it is only 24 hours of plotting, running, fighting and resourcefulness that sees Ballister win the day over everything that stands in his way. All this and a tour around Ancient Rome. A great read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jannelies

    Only when opening this page to add my review, I discovered this book is one of a series. I couldn't tell while reading the book, which is good. The author did not give too much information about the main character nor it was unreadable because I knew nothing about his past (the main character that is, not the author). Well, I hope I made myself clear ;-) I love reading about the history of Rome and I also love reading fiction that is set in Rome. Having just finished watching AD on Netflix (great Only when opening this page to add my review, I discovered this book is one of a series. I couldn't tell while reading the book, which is good. The author did not give too much information about the main character nor it was unreadable because I knew nothing about his past (the main character that is, not the author). Well, I hope I made myself clear ;-) I love reading about the history of Rome and I also love reading fiction that is set in Rome. Having just finished watching AD on Netflix (great series) I was just in the mood for The Last Hour. I was not disappointed. The story flows like the Tiber, full of twists and turns and interesting developments. Sometimes a bit confusing because of the many, many people our hero meets during his travels and the many, many people he already met in his life, so there are a lot of names of which I was not always sure whether to remember them or not. But all in all it was nice to read a story where the author can rely on his own extensive knowledge. You can feel he puts his heart in writing this series. Thanks NetGalley for sending me the ARC.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Stockley

    Exciting This book had me captivated from the first page. Ancient Rome came alive right off the pages. Will read more of Harry Sidebottom's books. Exciting This book had me captivated from the first page. Ancient Rome came alive right off the pages. Will read more of Harry Sidebottom's books.

  16. 4 out of 5

    christopher duell

    Edge of seat Very good read.once started could not stop.twists and turns and keeps you guessing who the bad guys are. Buy it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    R M

    Fantastic thrill ride! The story is rich and deep in character as well as history. Harry Sidebottom has the pulse of life in ancient Rome. I believe this is the first of his novels to actually take place in the city of Rome during the 3rd century AD. I’ve read all prior Warrior of Rome novels, and this one is just as exciting to read as his first, Fire in the East. The story is very much like the author says, 24 the TV show about Jack Bauer - in ancient times. What a concept! The main character, Fantastic thrill ride! The story is rich and deep in character as well as history. Harry Sidebottom has the pulse of life in ancient Rome. I believe this is the first of his novels to actually take place in the city of Rome during the 3rd century AD. I’ve read all prior Warrior of Rome novels, and this one is just as exciting to read as his first, Fire in the East. The story is very much like the author says, 24 the TV show about Jack Bauer - in ancient times. What a concept! The main character, Marcus Clodius Ballista finds out there is a secret plot to kill the Emperor, and escaping his own assassination, must make his way across the Tiber and into the ancient city, against all odds and forces, where he must warn the Emperor that he will be killed after he leaves the Collisseum at “The Last Hour” of the next day at dark. What begins as mission impossible is brilliantly played throughout the novel. As a reader, you’re experiencing ancient Rome, and it’s 1 million inhabitants in a way that I could not fathom. Many times, I found myself astonished by not only the historical detail, but the depth of the imagery of it. The sights, and (mostly awful) smells come through apt writing. From the Tiber to the granaries, to the barber shop, the subura and immigrant camps, this book is alive! I feel transcended to the past, as if 1750 years passed like yesterday. The author uses his knowledge to connect the past with the present, and creates a myriad of every day characters that fill in the landscape nicely. There are very authentic scenes of slave auctions, law proceedings in ancient Rome, and entertaining story tellers, and encounters with various groups in ancient society, like worshipers of Isis, and early Christians. The author says in a note at the end that he wanted the novel to resonate with fans of authors like Lee Child and Michael Connolly. He makes the every day so real. Also, the way the author takes you up and down named streets is comparable to another brilliant urban crime writer I love, George Pelecanos. Every step of the way, the reader is in the mind of Ballista, a northern european born “barbarian” son of a client king, raised as a diplomatic hostage and given the same honors and benefits of noble Romans. There are some cool elements too. Ballista has to constantly change his clothes, appearance; the effort of the main character just exhausted me. At a couple of points, he can’t find big enough boots to wear, humorously like the same plight of John McLane in the movie Die Hard. Nice omage. A lot of the author’s talent is in the descriptions of fight scenes, formations, rituals, and movements of various groups like the City Watch, Praetorian Guards, Frumentarii, and Germanic warriors. The story doesn’t disappoint, especially when you get to Chapter 22. I had to read that chapter several times for the sheer joy and of its eventual payoff that encourages a satisfying fist pump from the reader. The chapters after bring the novel to a satisfying conclusion, but I didn’t want it to end. There is a final scene in the arena that takes your breath away. The epilogue suggests more to come in the Warrior of Rome series, and I can hardly wait. Could this series ever become a tv show or movie? There is so much fruit for filmmakers in these novels. The author Harry Sidebottom is very responsive to readers. I wrote to him after he broke my heart in the end of the last Warrior of Rome novel, and appreciate his response and desire to connect with fans. I think you can find him and make friends here on Goodreads. 5 stars

  18. 5 out of 5

    Clare

    That was one crazy ride from start to finish! The author has said that it's a historical take on 24 (the TV show with Jack Bauer/ Kiefer Sutherland), and he isn't wrong. But where I got fed up with the TV show, this kept my attention from start to finish. The attention to historical detail is so good (you can tell that the author is an academic - he knows how to do his research!), and sitting in my living room reading the book, I was transported to ancient Rome with all the sights and smells (my That was one crazy ride from start to finish! The author has said that it's a historical take on 24 (the TV show with Jack Bauer/ Kiefer Sutherland), and he isn't wrong. But where I got fed up with the TV show, this kept my attention from start to finish. The attention to historical detail is so good (you can tell that the author is an academic - he knows how to do his research!), and sitting in my living room reading the book, I was transported to ancient Rome with all the sights and smells (my drains work just fine, thank you!). The main character, Ballista is instantly likeable. A man with morals and honour, he discovers a plot to assassinate the Emperor that runs deep in the political and military world of Rome. He, and he alone, is the one to stop the assassination of his friend, the Emperor Gallienus. Rightly or wrongly, whether he agrees with the way that Gallienus runs the Empire or not, he is duty bound to save him - if only to save the lives of his wife and children. I would love to be able to pick out and describe a favourite part of the book, but that comes well in to the second half (and I don't want to spoil the fun for anyone else!). I haven't read a book with quite so much action in a long time. There were some real 'heart in mouth' sections, and great character building (how Harry Sidebottom found the time and space to do that, well! I suppose that's why he writes and I don't!). I will be on the look out for more of the authors books! Thanks to The Pigeonhole for the chance to read this book!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Daphne Sharpe

    I really enjoyed this fast paced,roller coaster story,set in 3rd century Rome. I haven't read any of the previous books,but this is a perfect stand alone novel,my only complaint when I started to read,was the sheer number of people and locations to commit to memory!! Ballista has discovered a plot to assassinate the emperor, Gallienus,who was a close childhood friend. Ballista is an ex- Roman soldier,and hopes to use old friendships,in an attempt to prevent the killing. However, Ballista,has the I really enjoyed this fast paced,roller coaster story,set in 3rd century Rome. I haven't read any of the previous books,but this is a perfect stand alone novel,my only complaint when I started to read,was the sheer number of people and locations to commit to memory!! Ballista has discovered a plot to assassinate the emperor, Gallienus,who was a close childhood friend. Ballista is an ex- Roman soldier,and hopes to use old friendships,in an attempt to prevent the killing. However, Ballista,has the unfortunate knack of annoying the Gods and getting into trouble. This story is told from the viewpoint of the little man,those who prepare meals,tend the market stalls,risk lives fishing and the slaves of Rome. The hard,austere life of the night soil collectors and the refuse sorters ,the gladiators in the colosseum and the barbaric practices involved in the arena. I have certainally learnt so much about this historical era,it is an absolute joy to immerse yourself in this book. Who knew that there were markets devoted to selling deformed slaves and that the wealthy citizens kept them as pets? The City Watch and the night watchmen,who kept the peace, there is such marvellous detail in this amazing book,it deserves to be recommended reading for schools. It is just perfect,so enjoyable, I loved it!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Angela L

    The author himself describes this book as an episode of Jack Bauer's 24 but set in ancient Rome and it's easy to see why. It literally does not let up in pace from the very first to the very last page. Set over a 24 hour period, the barbarian Ballista has to save the emperor Gallienus from a plot to assassinate him. We follow his high octane journey through the city as he evades capture and pulls off stunts that Tom Cruise would be proud of. You really get to feel, see and smell the underbelly of The author himself describes this book as an episode of Jack Bauer's 24 but set in ancient Rome and it's easy to see why. It literally does not let up in pace from the very first to the very last page. Set over a 24 hour period, the barbarian Ballista has to save the emperor Gallienus from a plot to assassinate him. We follow his high octane journey through the city as he evades capture and pulls off stunts that Tom Cruise would be proud of. You really get to feel, see and smell the underbelly of Rome - from sweaty slaves under the city baths through to the city watchmen who Ballista just keeps giving the slip. The perpetrators of the intended coup go by code names so we never know who is trustworthy but it's fair to say that most of the city's inhabitants seem like they'd sell their soul to the highest bidder! Even Ballista, whilst trying to save the emperor, doesn't actual like him - but it's save the emperor or lose his family. There is a pretty gruesome end for one character at the hands of a lion and plenty of sword slashing, stabbing and cudgelling along the way and I almost felt like I'd gone 10 rounds in the boxing ring by the end of it!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vedran Bileta

    Finally, I was able to read the latest adventure of Ballista. Being myself a student of Late Roman history, I find Ballista's story quite convincing, and there is no need to talk about historical accuracy of the entire series (it is VERY accurate) As such, I read the Last Hour with great gusto, and was amazed how well the 3rd century Rome and its inhabitants were presented. Even if we remove Ballista and the rest of the main characters from the story, Rome is shown in almost documentary fashion ( Finally, I was able to read the latest adventure of Ballista. Being myself a student of Late Roman history, I find Ballista's story quite convincing, and there is no need to talk about historical accuracy of the entire series (it is VERY accurate) As such, I read the Last Hour with great gusto, and was amazed how well the 3rd century Rome and its inhabitants were presented. Even if we remove Ballista and the rest of the main characters from the story, Rome is shown in almost documentary fashion (with few exceptions, helpfully mentioned in the appendix), but it is more than that. Being a living city, showing all the splendor, and all chaos of the ancient capital. The only issue I had (while not a major one), is extremely fast pacing. In literal sense of the word. Ballista could not escape the pursuers, no matter what he did, and he was in the city of the million people? I would assume that in such a metropolis one could hide quite easily? I know that the idea was to emulate 24 Hours tv show, but the story would profit of Ballista having less frantic moments, but still feeling hunted, and unsafe. Still, this is well written book. I cannot wait for next installment of Ballista's journey... even if I know what is awaiting us. Cecropius was a telltale sign ;) Hopefully Ballista will outlive his emperor. We have seen the courageous barbarian avoiding death over and over, and Allfather should keep among the living...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Sincil

    The Last Hour hits the ground running and never stops. Ballista is a wanted man after he uncovers a shadowy conspiracy by an unknown group who plot to kill the Emperor and install their own replacement. There is a warrant out for his arrest and he can trust no one. So he embarks on a frantic journey through Rome in an attempt to warn the Emperor but he is pursued by the city guard, mercenaries and anyone who desires the increasing bounty on his head. Harry Sidebottom's writing is fast-paced and s The Last Hour hits the ground running and never stops. Ballista is a wanted man after he uncovers a shadowy conspiracy by an unknown group who plot to kill the Emperor and install their own replacement. There is a warrant out for his arrest and he can trust no one. So he embarks on a frantic journey through Rome in an attempt to warn the Emperor but he is pursued by the city guard, mercenaries and anyone who desires the increasing bounty on his head. Harry Sidebottom's writing is fast-paced and stylish. He paints a vivid picture of Rome, not only in its landmarks but it's people, culture, religion and society. This isn't just a thrilling adventure, it is also an enticing, if slightly fictionalised, account of life in the ancient capital.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    Harry Sidebottom “The Last Hour” by Harry Sidebottom is a stunning read. Set in Ancient Rome we are taken on a journey with Ballista, a credible and lovable character, through the streets of Rome meeting people from all countries, and of all ranks in their society. The storyline is exciting, invigorating, breathless, frightening, and at times there is sadness at the plight of society. The visual imagery and fast pace in rooftop chases, hand to hand fights are amazing, it’s as if me as a reader wa Harry Sidebottom “The Last Hour” by Harry Sidebottom is a stunning read. Set in Ancient Rome we are taken on a journey with Ballista, a credible and lovable character, through the streets of Rome meeting people from all countries, and of all ranks in their society. The storyline is exciting, invigorating, breathless, frightening, and at times there is sadness at the plight of society. The visual imagery and fast pace in rooftop chases, hand to hand fights are amazing, it’s as if me as a reader was like a fly on the wall, I felt so close to the characters in Rome, it was real, and some of the turns of phrase are incredibly funny. I loved reading this book so much, that I must now buy the first book in this “Warrior” series. Reading this on Pigeonhole along with the author, as always is such a pleasure.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Bruised and battered , alone, unarmed , without money or friends , the City Watch has orders to take him alive , but other more sinister forces want him dead. He has only twenty-four hours to expose a deadly conspiracy to save the leader of the world. No it is not Jack Bauer but Ballista and it is Rome AD265 in this story of bloodlust , ruthless ambition and revenge. It has been a while since the last Ballista adventure and I have missed him , Harry Sidebottom has produce a really exciting thril Bruised and battered , alone, unarmed , without money or friends , the City Watch has orders to take him alive , but other more sinister forces want him dead. He has only twenty-four hours to expose a deadly conspiracy to save the leader of the world. No it is not Jack Bauer but Ballista and it is Rome AD265 in this story of bloodlust , ruthless ambition and revenge. It has been a while since the last Ballista adventure and I have missed him , Harry Sidebottom has produce a really exciting thriller , that twist and turns in this cracking story that has you page turning late into the early hours.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Stelling

    Overall, a fairly average historical fiction which was well grounded in historical accuracy and truth. However, much of the story did just feel as though the reader was following a cat and mouse across Rome, usually with a few gruesome but unnecessary battle scenes; the book was set out over such a short period of time, a matter of hours, and yet it felt like it was longer than other similar books I’ve read. Overall the conclusion seemed forgone from about halfway through, and the decision to en Overall, a fairly average historical fiction which was well grounded in historical accuracy and truth. However, much of the story did just feel as though the reader was following a cat and mouse across Rome, usually with a few gruesome but unnecessary battle scenes; the book was set out over such a short period of time, a matter of hours, and yet it felt like it was longer than other similar books I’ve read. Overall the conclusion seemed forgone from about halfway through, and the decision to end on a cliffhanger with no clear resolution in the following book was not one which I liked. Despite this, a well written and engaging book, the premise of which was unique and interesting.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tina Taylor

    I read this as a stand alone thriller (not knowing it was a part of a series until I got here to Good Reads) but it was perfectly brilliant - not feeling like you were missing out on any pieces. Sidebottom takes us through the winding era of Roman dominion where Ballista must set out to save the emperor. Side note - myyyy worddd there are so many names, backstories and personalities to remember. You may need a notebook to make jottings to remember who is who without having to pick your brain on " I read this as a stand alone thriller (not knowing it was a part of a series until I got here to Good Reads) but it was perfectly brilliant - not feeling like you were missing out on any pieces. Sidebottom takes us through the winding era of Roman dominion where Ballista must set out to save the emperor. Side note - myyyy worddd there are so many names, backstories and personalities to remember. You may need a notebook to make jottings to remember who is who without having to pick your brain on "where did that name come from again??" A perfect summary and description of this bloodshedding thriller is Jack Reacher/Mitch Rapp in the Roman epoca.

  27. 4 out of 5

    GBL

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. In The Last Hour Harry Sidebottom has created a thriller set in Ancient Rome, with the hero Ballista having only twenty four hours to save the Emperor Gallienus from an assassination attempt. Using the television programme 24 as a model, Sidebottom sets his character the task of reaching the Colosseum at the end of the games to prevent the death of the Emperor. Ballista has to cross the city avoiding the enemies who are tracking him and survive the attempts to capture and kill him. There is a rea In The Last Hour Harry Sidebottom has created a thriller set in Ancient Rome, with the hero Ballista having only twenty four hours to save the Emperor Gallienus from an assassination attempt. Using the television programme 24 as a model, Sidebottom sets his character the task of reaching the Colosseum at the end of the games to prevent the death of the Emperor. Ballista has to cross the city avoiding the enemies who are tracking him and survive the attempts to capture and kill him. There is a real sense of menace in the novel as Ballista is under threat the whole time and in danger in most of the situations he finds himself in. In crossing the city Ballista experiences many of the realities of Rome and allows the author to explore different aspects of Roman life. In his letter to the reader at the end of the novel Sidebottom highlights the detailed research that backs up the the thriller he has written and this is the strength of this novel.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Laurence Baldwin

    This is a thrilling return for Ballista, hero of Harry Sidebottom's previous Warrior of Rome series, in a breathless race to save the Emperor. Harry's academic knowledge of Rome infuses the novel, but does not distract from the pace of the story as it builds up to an crescendo. I'm still hoping in the long run for a happy ending for Ballista, a gentle and well-deserved retirement, but that seems unlikely somehow... This is a thrilling return for Ballista, hero of Harry Sidebottom's previous Warrior of Rome series, in a breathless race to save the Emperor. Harry's academic knowledge of Rome infuses the novel, but does not distract from the pace of the story as it builds up to an crescendo. I'm still hoping in the long run for a happy ending for Ballista, a gentle and well-deserved retirement, but that seems unlikely somehow...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ruth P

    A big maximinus yawnus !I got sick of trying to remember Callista from Ballista and whilst this book was a great substitute for sleeping pills as I was gone within 5 mins of picking it up somehow I don’t think Mr Sidebottom intended this.If you are going to put Jack Reacher into Roman Times give him a name of one syllable for all the historically challenged readers like me!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Doreen Keele

    I received an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. It was rich in historical detail and definitely showed how far this man would go to in order to save himself, his family and his citizens! Fascinating novel!

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