A vile almost inhuman character; a combination of Augustus’s intelligence and the brutal madness of Caligula has overthrown the legal government of Roma Nova and replaced it with a distinctly male dominated presence. Forced to flee for their lives, many of the Roma Novans; including the indomitable Aurelia and the young Imperatrix, Silvia, begin the long, slow process of reclaiming their homeland. Throughout this alternative history series I have been fascinated by the author’s ability to conjure up a world that is recognizable and totally believable, and she has done so once again. Not only are the political, and logistical nuances covered in a thorough, convincing manner, the portrayal of the internal conflicts and emotions of the characters had this humble scribe stopping occasionally to catch his breath. It is safe to say that Retalio is an excellent addition to this remarkable history of Roma Nova. The villain, Caius Tellus, as well as ranking high on my favorite fictional bad guys list, bears a certain resemblance to the current occupant of the White House, at least to me. An unintentional resemblance, I’m sure, but prescient nonetheless. A page turning delight (with the above mentioned pauses for breath taking), a heart racing tale of intrigue and courage. 5 stars
A tantalizing look at the life of James Douglas, or The Black Douglas as he was called by those who feared him. My only real venture into this part of history was Braveheart, but that centers on William Wallace, not the man who rose to become the right hand of Robert the Bruce in the long standing war with Edward Longshanks and his son Edward Caernarvon. I was drawn into this epic tale right from the start; the intensity of the narrative grabbed and never let go. The characters are beautifully written, from the morose, melancholic Bruce, the savage brutality of Longshanks, the effervescent monk Ned Sweeney, the redoubtable Belle, the scheming Isabella, and of course, the continually torn Jamie Douglas. The author presents the events and the time such that one can feel the thunderous approach of Longshank’s heavy horse, or the bitter Scottish weather confronting the fleeing Bruce and Douglas. An entertaining book to be sure; one that demands your attention to the detriment of sleep or other obligations. 4.8 stars
It’s a tough gig to move an entire nation to a new home. It’s even tougher when you have enemies everywhere bent on destroying you before you leave. Gods of War continues the story of the Engeln people migrating to Britannia and the exploits of Eofer; a.k.a. King’s Bane. A gritty tale of courage, drama and a fierce determination to succeed, the author paints a vivid picture of the times while drawing on the somewhat meager historical record, doing with it what all good historical-fiction authors do – make the story believable. A wonderful cast of characters bolstered by the author’s ability to describe the terra-firma, the action, and the emotions of this intrepid band of warriors. I am looking forward to the continuation of this tale, a tale of how Britain came to be.
A well written account of Constantine and his rise to become the sole Emperor of Rome. It is also the story of his involvement in the Arian controversy that culminated in the writing of The Nicene Creed. The author’s presentation of the debates over the true nature of Jesus are as enlightening as they are entertaining. I came away with the sense that, yes, this is how they could have happened. The descriptions of the main characters taking part; the atmosphere surrounding the, at times tumultuous, gatherings; the drama between Constantine and the opposing factions, are all factors in making this a nice page turning work. In addition, the author’s rendering of the military campaigns of Constantine are nicely detailed events punctuated with scenes of bravery, cunning, and the camaraderie of Constantine’s personal guard. All in all, a well researched and produced story. One that gives the reader a chance to look back at these defining historical moments and ponder the significance of Constantine, and the future effects of the creed, and the empowering of the church. 4.3 stars
Once again I found myself drawn into the medieval world as depicted by one of my favorite authors, Prue Batten. Once again, she does not disappoint as she embroiders a tale full of intrigue and suspense. The story takes place in the village of Lyon and concerns a family’s trading business; a business that draws unwanted attention from an over zealous monk – a despicable character who is just one example of the author’s ability to weave believable personas into the fabric of the story’s time and place. From the Crusade induced troubled mind of the protagonist to the steel backbone of the maligned Jewess, Ariella, the reader is treated to a page turner of a tale. Ms. Batten is a master at setting the stage, leaving hints and clues as to what is coming, and yet still surprising the reader with the eventual results. A descriptive, and at times poetic, look at a world that was gradually moving into the time of the Reformation, and where loyalty and trust were often hard to find. 5 stars and an anxiously awaiting reader for the third volume of this marvelous series.