Altar of Blood (2016)
(The ninth book in the Empire series)
A novel by Anthony Riches
The ninth novel in the thrilling Empire sequence leads Centurion Marcus Aquila and the Tungrians to the battlefield that was one of Rome’s most disastrous defeats.
The Tungrians have no sooner returned to Rome than they find themselves tasked with a very different mission from their desperate exploits in Parthia. Ordered to cross the river Rhenus into barbarian Germany and capture a tribal priestess who may be the most dangerous person on the empire’s northern border, they are soon subject to the machinations of an old enemy who will stop at nothing to sabotage their plans before they have even set foot on the river’s eastern bank.
But after their Roman enemy is neutralised, they face a challenge greater still. With two of the Bructeri tribe’s greatest treasures in their hands, they must regain Roman territory by crossing the unforgiving wilderness that was the graveyard of Roman imperial strategy 200 years before. And capture by the Bructeri’s vengeful chieftain and his warband can end in only one way – a horrific sacrificial death on the tribe’s altar of blood.
Every year Anthony Riches does it to me, no matter how well i prepare myself, i sit, i open the new book and expect a death, and yet every flipping year he surprises the heck out of me and leaves me saying “No Fricking way!!” (polite version).
But as i have said for … well every book in the series, Anthony Riches books are so much more than shock factor death, blood and guts (although i love those bits). With every book the intricacy of the plot increases, the characters grow and the authors devious mind wraps the reader in knots.
As ever i have to doff my cap to the author , he is the master when it comes to bringing characters to life, not just the few main ones, but the whole cast. What it means for the reader is that you care when he kills anyone, which he loves to do. That sword of Damocles that hangs over the head of every character is made more and more poignant as the series progresses, as we become more emotionally tied to the long term cast and as that cast becomes more beaten down and worn by the violent world of ancient Rome.
In this book PTSD has its outing, and is so very well written you can feel the numbing shock through the pages, and recognise that this is something that has been a part of military life down through the ages.
Another success of this book and series is Anthony Riches ability to pull threads of the story together, threads that may have started in previous books, enemies created return to haunt the Tungrians, enmity never dies in the Roman world and as well as a carpet of dead bodies, our heroes also manage to create an epic level of highly placed enemies within the Roman Elite. This means that the author needs to be on top form with the ever twisting warp and weft of the plot.
its hard to say much more without Spoilers, so… all i can say is this book is another action packed ride through the Roman world, filled with the realistic details that make the story come to life, no one captures the nuances of military life in the Roman world in the way that Anthony Riches does.
without doubt a top 10 book for 2016
1. Wounds of Honour (2009)
2. Arrows of Fury (2010)
3. Fortress of Spears (2011)
4. The Leopard Sword (2012)
5. The Wolf’s Gold (2012)
6. The Eagle’s Vengeance (2013)
7. The Emperor’s Knives (2014)
8. Thunder of the Gods (2015)
9. Altar of Blood (2016)