Once again I found myself enthralled by a book by S.J.A. Turney. That shouldn’t be so easy as this series takes place in one of my favorite periods of ancient history and involves some of the more colorful/powerful men in Rome’s history and as such I expect a lot from writers who tackle those subject matters. I have yet to be disappointed by Mr. Turney’s efforts. At the end of MM IV the main character in the series, Marcus Falerius Fronto had a seemingly irreparable falling out with Caesar which means he will be spending this campaigning season in Rome and Puteoli instead of Britain and Gaul. Trouble and more finds him anyway in many guises, from the maddened Pompey to a revenge seeking German, no place is safe for Fronto or his family and friends.
Meanwhile, Caesar has his own difficulties in Britain and then with the threat of a somewhat united Gaul rising up against him. With his officer corps somewhat depleted, Caesar finds it necessary to bring in experienced men from other legions. Thus the author introduces, who because of the HBO series, Rome, are probably known to most of us already; Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus have important roles to play as senior centurions in the 14th Legion. There are differences between the Rome versions and the two crafted by the author one of them being the fact that they are both centurions and Pullo is the more senior of the two. I think that it is interesting to note that Pullo and Vorenus , I believe, are the only two legionaries mentioned by name in Caesar’s War Commentaries so it is only fitting that they play their part in Marius Mules, although I do conjure up the faces of Kevin McKidd and Ray Stevenson when reading their parts in the book.
The dual plots are handled in such a way that it seems each scene ends in a cliff hanging scenario which only spurs the reader to keep going in spite of the lateness of the hour. With each volume in this series the main characters keep progressing in their development, those that survive anyway as the author has a knack for surprises when it comes to not only the intrigue of the story lines but with who gets rubbed out. Not that that is a bad thing, war and other nefarious characters are always ready to claim a victim or two, though I have found myself shouting at the ceiling, ‘oh my God, he killed so and so.’
Like a devious-devising Kronos, S.J.A. Turney weaves a tale of intrigue and action in Marius Mules V – Hades Gate. Like the previous volumes in this series Hades Gate is historical fiction at it’s best. Great time of history, wonderful characters and the raw power of a Roman Legion shield wall have me looking longingly forward to Marius Mules VI…they just keep getting better.