Harry Sidebottom: Blood and Steel (Review)

Harry Sidebottom

A Lecturer in Ancient History at Merton College, Oxford, and part-time lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick. He has written for and contributed to many publications, including Classical Review, Journal of Roman Studies, and War and Society in the Roman World.

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Blood and Steel  (2015)
(The second book in the Throne of the Caesars series)
A novel by Harry Sidebottom


Blending heart-pounding action and historical accuracy, Harry Sidebottom’s bestselling Warrior of Rome series took readers from the shouts of the battlefield to the whisperings of the emperor’s inner circle. In this second book of his new Throne of the Caesars series, Sidebottom continues his retelling of one of the bloodiest periods of Roman history – the Year of the Six Emperors.

In Rome in the year 238 AD, Emperor Maximinus’s reign hangs in the balance. The empire is bleeding manpower and money in an attempt to sustain its wars in the north, and rebellions flare in the far reaches of its territories.

Meanwhile in Africa, Gordian the Elder and Younger are proclaimed as the new Augusti. A family descending from the Imperial bloodline, they represent a chance for the establishment to take back the empire. The first blood of the revolt is shed in Rome when an assassin murders the emperor’s prefect, announcing to Rome that the Gordians have taken the throne; still bitter at Maximinus’s rise from the barracks to power, the Senate endorses the rebellion, and chaos descends on the capitol.

But in his heart, Maximinus is a man of war: when he hears of the betrayal, he acts with decisive brutality and violence. On the dusty plains outside Carthage, blood and steel will determine the fate of the Roman Empire.


Blood and Steel is a direct continuation of book 1 Iron and Rust, and like its predecessor it’s a cracking read. Harry Sidebottom is at his core an educator but having met the man a few times he is also a bit of an entertainer. In his books he teaches every reader something new, not surprising really for a man who lectures at Oxford. The surprising thing is the gripping and engaging way he tells the tale, his passion for the subject bleeding into every chapter. As ever his chosen period is riddled with upheaval, powerful moments and just as powerful characters, ones that he plays like a maestro.

This is a Roman tale at its best, extravagant, corrupt, a bloated empire with an Emperors power in the balance, the halls of power filled with bitter rivalries and petty jealousy. Its vast wealth struggling to keep its borders safe and rebellion at bay across vast distances. This at its heart is a battle of the new man over the noble (approved) bloodlines, but war isn’t about bloodlines, its about power, brutality and a will to win, Emperor Maximinus is not a man to underestimate, have the Gordians and the Senate bitten off more than they can chew?

Read the book and find out, and do so with some wonderfully described personalities, You truly must read this book, and this series, not only for the elegant fictional account, but also the copious and well explained historical notes (50 pages worth ) at the end of the book. You will be entertained.

Highly recommended




Warrior of Rome
1. Fire in the East (2008)
2. King of Kings (2009)
3. Lion of the Sun (2010)
4. The Caspian Gates (2011)
5. The Wolves of the North (2012)
6. The Amber Road (2013)


Throne of the Caesars
1. Iron and Rust (2014)
2. Blood and Steel (2015)
Silence & Lies (2015)

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Filed under Harry Sidebottom, Historical Fiction, Uncategorized

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