Tag Archives: Legions

Anthony Riches : Betrayal (The Centurions 1) Review

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Anthony Riches began his lifelong interest in war and soldiers when he first heard his father’s stories about World War II. This led to a degree in Military Studies at Manchester University. He began writing the story that would become Wounds of Honour after a visit to Housesteads in 1996. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and three children.

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Betrayal  (2017)
(The first book in the Centurions series)

book cover of Betrayal

Rome, AD 68. Nero has committed suicide. One hundred years of imperial rule by the descendants of Julius Caesar has ended, and chaos rules. His successor, Galba, dismisses the incorruptible Germans of the Imperial Bodyguard for the crime of loyalty to the dead emperor. Ordering them back to their homeland, he releases a Batavi officer from a Roman prison to be their prefect. But Julius Civilis is not the loyal servant of empire that he seems.

Four centurions, two Batavi and two Roman, will be caught up in the intrigues and the battles that follow – as friends, as victims, as leaders and as enemies. Hramn is First Spear of the Bodyguard. Fiercely proud of his men’s honour and furious at their disgrace, he leads them back to the Batavi homeland to face an uncertain future. Alcaeus is a centurion with the tribe’s cohorts serving Rome on the northern frontier – men whose fighting skills prove crucial as Roman vies with Roman for the throne. A wolf-priest of Hercules, he wields the authority of his god and his own fighting prowess. Marius is a Roman, first spear of the Fifth Legion: a self-made man who hates politics but cannot avoid them in a year of murderous intrigue. Aquillius, former first spear of the Eighth Augustan, like Hramn, is in disgrace for refusing to dishonour his oath of loyalty. But their paths will lead them to opposite sides of an unforgiving war.

And Civilis, Kivilaz to his countrymen, heroic leader, Roman citizen and patriotic Batavi, will change both the course of the empire’s destiny and that of the centurions.

Review

Anthony Riches Books are one of those rare treats i look forward to every year, his writing stands out from the crowd with a style that engages you as part of the story not a voyeur. His, unlike the majority of Historical Fiction is told from the common view, the everyday grunt and how he is impacted by the decisions and machinations of power.

Betrayal is different, in that by its nature it has to have some level of focus on those pulling the strings of political power, but also while the arc of this story must keep us close to those movers and shakers the author keeps us close to what matters, the men of the legion, the Centurions and most of all the action.

In this book and new series Anthony Riches takes on not only one of the most action packed and climactic years in Roman history, but also focuses on a people who gain many mentions in historical books, and also in films when they need to pull out a person of exceptional fighting ability. The Batavi, a people who were for many years Romes shock troops used to break the line, or operate behind the line. This first book in the series starts with the expulsion of the Batavi Imperial bodyguard, an honour they had held for a century, Galba has taken power and changes are afoot, not all is right and happy with the empire. before long Vitellius has been acclaimed Emperor by the Legions of the Rhine and Otho has deposed Galba. Among all of this are the seething animosities of the legions and the distrust and they hold for the Batavi and sins of the past, and the Centurions are determined to right what they deem to be the wrongs of Rome, while the Batavi will look to ensure the future of their people and align themselves with another potential Emperor rising in Judea… all this leading eventually to the Batavian Revolt.

Anthony Riches while adopting a slightly different style in this series manages to make this book a deeper plot whilst retaining the true soul of his style, that action packed true storyteller, in with the muck, spears and swords. Always writing where the action is thickest and the intrigue is dirtiest, coupled with impeccable research and attention to detail.

I loved this book, I loved the brilliant graphic novel snippet that the author produced pre release and know that this series has so much more to give, for those who have not read anything by this author start now, he is one of the best in the genre and you will find it very hard to get more bang for your buck elsewhere.

(Parm)

Series
Empire
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)
The Empire Collection Books I-3 (omnibus) (2017)
The Empire Collection Books 4-6 (omnibus) (2017)
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Centurions
1. Betrayal (2017)
2. Onslaught (2017)
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Filed under Anthony Riches, Historical Fiction

Simon Scarrow: Blood Crows (Review)

The author (in his own words)

Simon

I was born in Nigeria and was raised in a number of countries before settling in Britain. Like my brothers I have always been interested in writing and started on my first novel once I had finished my degree and started working in the civil service. After two years of working in London I decided that I was better suited to a more academic career and returned to university to do a research degree. Once that was over I became a teacher. It was a great job. I have worked alongside some fine colleagues and great students. I would truly recommend teaching as a profession since the rewards are so diverse and real.

After I secured my first book deal I continued teaching full-time for as long as possible, before I was forced to scale back on my hours to focus on the writing.  Finally, at the start of 2005, I realised that I could not teach well while devoting so much time to writing and reluctantly decided to give up on teaching until I had more time to devote to it.

At the moment I am committed to writing one book a year in the EAGLE series as well as one book for other projects.

For now, I live in Norfolk with my wife, Carolyn, who runs her own copywriting business,  and two sons.

Blood Crows (Book Description)

blood crows

Macro and Cato are back in town, and bring with them their usual amount of mayhem, intrigue and collateral damage.

They just don’t seem able to sit idle and enjoy some down time, or lady fortuna has a sick sense of humour. Once again they are back in the legions, and once again its not a nice comfortable billet. But I don’t think either of these boys would want or expect one, honours are earned at end end of a sword, and these boys still have medals and higher rank in mind.
In this book we are back where we began, in Britain, there is an unfinished conquest, a guerilla war being waged by the locals, and it needs to end. Tactics on both sides have got bloody and nasty. Cato has command of an auxiliary Unit called the blood crows led by a somewhat sadistic and nasty centurion, and someone that Cato and Macro need to work with, or work around.
Its a book that see’s the need fr Cato to really grow into his new rank as prefect, and get over any fears he may have, to get past his concerns regarding his friend and having to command him, its time to grow up.
Will they survive… probably… it wouldn’t be the time to end the series would it… but how they get there is a hell of a ride and really is a trip back to the early days of Macro and Cato.. (Julia hardly gets a mention… thank you simon).
A word of caution though, i do echo another reviewer, Simon has shown huge writing skill with his other series and stand alone books, and some times i do wonder if its not time to push Macro and Cato to their conclusion, before they become a stagnant parody of themselves. This book was a great trip back to where we began… can that be sustained forever? or should Simon drive towards the year of the 4 emperors with greater speed?
(everyone will have their own opinion).
But for now… bloody and excellent book.

(Parm)

Other Books

Series
Cato
1. Under the Eagle (2000)
2. The Eagle’s Conquest (2001)
3. When the Eagle Hunts (2002)
4. The Eagle and the Wolves (2003)
5. The Eagle’s Prey (2004)
6. The Eagle’s Prophecy (2005)
7. The Eagle in the Sand (2006)
8. Centurion (2007)
9. The Gladiator (2009)
10. The Legion (2010)
11. Praetorian (2011)
12. The Blood Crows (2013)
13. The Zealot (2014)
Under the EagleThe Eagle's ConquestWhen the Eagle HuntsThe Eagle and the Wolves
The Eagle's PreyThe Eagle's ProphecyThe Eagle in the SandCenturion
The GladiatorThe LegionPraetorianThe Blood Crows
The Zealot
Revolution
1. Young Bloods (2006)
2. The Generals (2007)
3. Fire and Sword (2007)
4. The Fields of Death (2010)
Young BloodsThe GeneralsFire and SwordThe Fields of Death
Gladiator 
1. Fight for Freedom (2011)
2. Street Fighter (2012)
3. Son of Spartacus (2013)
4. Vengeance (2014)
Fight for FreedomStreet FighterSon of SpartacusVengeance
Roman Arena
1. Barbarian (2012)
2. Challenger (2012)
3. First Sword (2013)
4. Revenge (2013)
5. Champion (2013)
Arena (omnibus) (2013)
BarbarianChallengerFirst Sword Revenge
Champion Arena
Novels
The Sword and the Scimitar (2012)
The Sword and the Scimitar

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Simon Scarrow

Henry Venmore-Rowland: The Sword and the Throne (20th June 2013)

The Author

HVR

Henry Venmore-Rowland was born and bred in rural Suffolk. Aside from the occasional family holiday, often to Italy, his only escape from school and village life was in the pages of historical fiction. His fascination with military and political history, the kings and battles approach, somehow got him into Oxford to read Ancient & Modern History at St. John’s College. After dedicating so much time to reading grand tales of epic wars and political intrigue, trying his hand at writing such a story was always inevitable. The Last Caesar is his first novel. He lives in Suffolk.

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Sword and throne

Book Description

AD 69. Aulus Caecina Severus has thrown in his lot with the hedonistic Vitellius and prepares his legions for a gruelling march over the Alps.

Driven by the desire to repay the treachery of his former patron, the Emperor Galba, and to keep his rival Valens in check, Severus leads his army against barbarian rebellions and against the mountains themselves in his race to reach Italy first. With the vast Po valley almost in sight, news reaches the army that Galba has been killed in a coup, and that Otho has been declared Emperor by the Praetorians who he had bribed to murder their own emperor.

But there is no turning back for Severus, even if he wanted to. The Rhine legions want their man on the throne, and they won’t stop until they reach Rome itself. Even once Otho is defeated, the battle for supremacy between Severus and Valens is far from over. The politics of the court and the mob is the new battleground, and Severus needs the help of his wife Salonina and his freedman Totavalas in this constant game of thrones. When stories spread of a new power in the east, Severus has to decide where his real loyalty lies: to his Emperor, to his city or to himself?

Review:

Last year saw the début release of the fantastic The Last Caesar. (Review Link) That book saw the meteoric climb of Aulus Caecina Severus. Well written, well-paced and full of action. This book, book two is always a potential issue for any new author. Second books have the worry that it may not be as good or well received as the first book.

But panic not, Henry manages to weave another splendid tale, this time following Severus on his final rise and then very sudden and catastrophic decline. Henry’s best achievement is his characters, Severus is so likeable despite his obvious flaws and self-serving nature. The real brilliance of this book and the last sits in the form of Totavalas, I wish there had been more of him, and I hope that Henry will one day write his story.

I always feel uncomfortable saying the history is spot on, I just don’t have the required depth of knowledge to confirm that, but I can say it felt right, and the bits I looked up were right. But if the feel of the period is right and it can transport you to another time with its clear real characters then for me it hits the nail on the head. Chuck in the writing style, one that avoids all the not required fluffy descriptive and focuses on the plot and the people and you get a great read.

A better book then Last Caesar? Yes in my opinion it is, As it clearly shows progression in style and skill from book one, Henry is clearly someone who intends to become a name to be reckoned with in the genre. I very much want to see where he goes next.. my hope is Totavalas, but I feel Henry has something new and unique up his sleeve.

 Recommended

(Parm)

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Ben Kane : Fields of Blood (Review)

Author

Ben

Who is Author Ben Kane?

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Book Description

Released on June 6th 2013

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Click to buy Signed 1st Edition copy

fields of Blood

Hannibal’s campaign to defeat Rome continues. Having brought his army safely over the Alps in winter, he now marches south to confront the enemy. With his is a young soldier, Hanno. Like his general, Hanno burns to vanquish Rome. Never has the possibility seemed so likely.

Facing Hanno is his former friend, Quintus, whom Hanno met while in Roman captivity. A bitter quarrel with his father leads Quintus to join the Roman infantry under an assumed name. Among his legionaries, he finds that his enemies are not just the Carthaginians, but men of his own side.

A stealthy game of cat and mouse is being played, with Hannibal seeking to fight, and Rome’s generals avoiding battle. But battle cannot be delayed for much longer. Eventually, the two armies meet under a fierce summer sun in August in the south of Italy.

The place is Cannae — the fields of blood. The encounter will go down in history as one of the bloodiest battles ever fought, a battle in which Hanno and Quintus know they must fight as never before — just to stay alive.

Review

Ben Kane now belongs to one of those rare few authors who, when they have a book coming out you buy it. His skill as a writer has been proven time and time again, now its just enjoying the stories and people he writes, and how closely he gets his history to match the plot.

I have read and heard before about Hannibal Barca and Cannae, but never before in such vivid and at times gory detail  This book is not called Fields of Blood for nothing.

As usual Ben’s research is impeccable (the man would be harder on himself for getting it wrong than any reader could be). If there are any mistakes it will take a better person than me to spot them, and if you are such a person, make sure you read the authors note before you pick fault (it is fiction so tinkering is a must at times).

In this book we get to follow the ups and downs of Hanno, Quintus and Aurelia. All suffer hardships, all suffer the trials of adolescents becoming adults, and all do it in a world of upheaval  When I think back to the moans my son gave and I did as a teen and compare them the trials of the ancient world…. well trivial comes to mind.

There are many flashes of emotion in the book, from elation at a relatives survival, to dark morbid brooding at being forced into an unexpected life, or the thoughts of imminent death through to manic bestial savagery just in the name of survival. In the next book I would like to see the main characters Hanno and Quintus suffering with some form of PTSD. They have both been portrayed as intelligent and compassionate men, at times quite emotive, and while it should not cripple them I would think that combination will colour who and what they become next after the horror of Cannae. Hanno I think has already shown some signs of PTSD from his imprisonment and slavery, his desire for revenge by the end of the book is savage and could be his undoing. Its a depth of character examination that really brings his cast to life (well it did with Hanno).

I enjoyed (if that’s the right description) the regular highs and lows of emotion for Aurelia, not just her own situation, but the stress and strain on top of that, of not knowing, of the fact that the news of lost battles reached them quickly but in the ancient world, news of individuals is sporadic and time-wise a lengthy process. (if you think royal mail is bad)! These extended periods of not knowing mean some really dark periods for Aurelia followed by extreme highs. All captured so well by Ben, and again we start to see the subtle cracks in her persona as this mental strain takes it toll.

Its this gradual attrition that is subtly captured that really makes this book great, battles are as i have heard some authors say “a piece of pi$$ to write” writing them so well and then expanding the fall out into the souls of his cast, that’s the real skill which Ben pulls off in style. That said, the battles in this book are not a glorification of war, but more the endless grind and peril, the violence without clear result, and the tactical genius of Hannibal.

I’m a little astonished how fast this book went (granddaughter tends to curb my reading time) , but despite all the interruption this book was gone in 2 days, and for a 400 page book in my daily routine that’s a darn speedy read, and can only be the result of being utterly engrossed. Its a feeling i have had with all but one of Ben’s books (wont name it, as many others loved it).

So Mr Kane, once again I doff my hat in your direction at what is a Bloody Splendid book, set in a bloody dangerous time and ending in one of the bloodiest fields of all time.

Highly Recommended

(Parm)

Other Books

Forgotten Legion Chronicles
1. The Forgotten Legion (2008)
2. The Silver Eagle (2009)
3. The Road to Rome (2010)
The Forgotten LegionThe Silver EagleThe Road to Rome
Hannibal
1. Enemy of Rome (2011)
2. Fields of Blood (2013)
Enemy of RomeFields of Blood
Spartacus
1. The Gladiator (2012)
2. Rebellion (2012)
The GladiatorRebellion

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Filed under Historical Fiction