The Black Stone, Hardback Book

The Black Stone Hardback

Part of the Agent of Rome series

5 out of 5 (1 rating)


AD 273. Obsessed by the solar religions of the east, the emperor Aurelian sets out to obtain every sacred object within his realm.

But one - a mysterious rock said to channel the power of the sun god - lies beyond his reach.

Warrior-priest Ilaha has captured the legendary stone and is using it to raise an army against Rome. For Imperial agent Cassius Corbulo and ex-gladiator bodyguard Indavara, stopping him constitutes their greatest challenge yet.

Assisted by a squad of undercover soldiers and a Saracen chieftain, they trek south across the deserts of Arabia, encountering sandstorms, murderous money-lenders and a ruthless German mercenary. And when they finally reach Ilaha's mountain fortress, they face thousands of warriors who will give their lives to protect him ...and the black stone.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical adventure
  • ISBN: 9781444779097

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I was in the right mood for an escapist action/adventure, and this novel really delivered! The Agent of Rome series just gets better and better! I really liked this novel for its unusual setting [3rd century Arabia] and non-stop action [which started from the very first page of the Prologue]. The eponymous black stone, a relic of the sun god, Elagabal, is stolen from its temple in Emesa by the German henchman and other followers of a cult leader, the priest Ilaha. Ilaha wants to bring the Arabian [Nabataean] nomad tribes under his sway and to overcome Rome. Because of its importance to Emperor Aurelian, Cassius and a specially-trained twenty-man squadron of Roman army auxiliaries, each specially chosen, are tasked with the mission of finding it, stealing it back, and with returning it to its proper place. First, the novel is concerned with recruiting and training the men. The entry into the city where the stone is kept, and its recovery and return of Cassius, his servants, and his band of auxiliaries was really thrilling. My heart was in my mouth several times.A very strong point of the whole Agent of Rome series is the deeper character development of Cassius, Indavara [ his bodyguard] and Simo [his personal attendant]. They are such a great ensemble; I hope they always remain together. The book emphasized the tense relationship that develops between Cassius and the other two. Cassius is still immature, petulant, and selfish. Because of Cassius' own guilt, remorse, and wrongful blame, we see the shabby way he treats Simo after an incident in which Cassius and Simo had been involved. I did find myself with a few tears in my eyes at the unfairness. I felt like sitting him down and having a good talk with him as mother to son. If the talk wouldn't have any effect or at least get him to thinking, I'm prepared to give him a good smack. I do hope he will grow up in subsequent books. I like it that Cassius is not an unthinking sword-swinging automaton; he uses his natural quick wits and he's not afraid to express emotions other than anger. I do wish the author had used his working title: [The Black Stone of Emesa]; the present title is rather bland and could mean anything. I appreciated the maps and 'Historical Note'. I liked the description of the violent sandstorm and of such geological features as the odd rock formations in the desert. This book had everything: courage, danger, violence, deception, friendship, loyalty. I wanted to read this novel slowly to make it last, but it was so enthralling I couldn't put it down. It's certainly worth rereading.

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