While this is the fourth book in the most excellent Empire series, it is the first one that I have reviewed…when I read the first three I had yet to begin my pseudo-career as a book reviewer. In this volume we find the Tungrians posted to their original home in Germania Inferior to seek out and destroy the bandit gangs that are disrupting the grain trade in the area. The worst of the bandits is lead by a mysterious cavalry masked villain who goes by the name of Obduro, an ardent worshiper of the forest goddess Arduenna and possessor of a brutally efficient sword. The author does a masterful job at giving clues as to who the masked man is while at the same time making it difficult to figure it out. It takes a bit of doing but eventually the main character in the series, Centurion Corvus(in reality Marcus Valerius Aquila) comes up with a plan to unmask the villain.
There are also some really good subplots and back stories to go along with the meticulous research that has become a hallmark of Mr. Riches writing. I especially enjoy the verbal jousting between members of the Centuriate and the plot twists that the author inserts to bolster the main story line. My only complaint is a selfish one in that he kills off one my favorite characters in the series…I won’t say who it is…just that he will be sorely missed.
5 stars and well done Mr. Riches.