Emperor’s Axe

(Imperial Assassin #3)

by Alex Gough



The fate of Rome, and thousands of lives, rests on the shoulders of one man.

After murdering his brother, and taking the position of Emperor for himself, Caracalla orders a brutal purge of the supporters of Geta.

Meanwhile, Caracalla’s ally Marcellus, along with his family, is captured by Syrian warriors. They wish to use his son, Avitus, as a puppet emperor to affirm a new Eastern Empire.

Caracalla orders Silus to track down and rescue Avitus, rumoured to be Caracalla’s child. As Rome buckles beneath the weight of internal slaughter and external threat, only Silus stands in the way of death and destruction on an incomparable scale.


Another gritty tale … more unpleasant duties … though with some increased soul searching. Indeed, the character development in this edition has been taken to a new level. Silus is still a brutal killer when tasked to do the Emperor’s bidding, but he is now a bit more lenient when the duty goes beyond what he considers unnecessary cruelty. Couple this with Atius’ growing faith in Christos, and you have a drama filled tale full of irony, and religious fervor.

Yes, my fellow readers, the third installment is an entertaining, page turning entry into a very well done series. 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

About the author:

Vet living in the southwest of England. Avid reader of multiple genres, including thriller, sci-fi and fantasy, but particularly interested in historical fiction. Author of Roman historical fiction, and owner of the romanfiction.com blog.

Pagan Warrior – Gods and Kings Book 1 by MJ Porter

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Before England, Scotland and Wales formed, a disparate set of kingdoms stretched their way across the British Isles, expanding and compressing with the personalities and successes of their warrior kings, more war-leaders, and more often than not, owing allegiance to one overlord, one over mighty king exacting tribute from whomever he could, punishing those who failed to tithe with bloody means.
The year is 632 and the great Edwin of Northumbria, bretwalda over England, must battle against an alliance of the old Britons under his foster-brother Cadwallon of Gwynedd, aided by Penda of Mercia, a brutal young war leader gaining in strength and reputation.
Who will ally with whom? Who will play false to their Lord? Who will turn their back on their own family? The ebb and flow of battle will once more redraw the lines of the petty kingdoms stretching across the British Isles.
There will be a victor and a bloody loser and kings will rise from the ashes of a great battle.


Oh bollocks and damnation! I knew going in that if I read Pagan Warrior and enjoyed it, that I’d have to read the rest of the series. Oh by the glare of one-eyed Odin, just what I need; more books added to my ‘to be read’ pile. 🤷‍♂️ Yes, my fellow readers, I did enjoy it. How could I not? The author has crafted the kind of tale that is not only an entertaining yarn, but also one that enlightens as well. This period of Britain’s long history is ripe with potential material. There is enough fodder for the creative writer to enhance the sparse historical record; something the author has done very well indeed. The main characters are written in first person – a great way to get each one’s thoughts and emotions about the same event or meeting. Throughout the build up to the climatic battle, the author weaves a tortuous path of switching allegiances, and surprising twists, making for some tense moments that compel the reader to keep turning the pages. A fictional feast fit for serving in Edwin’s hall. Come on in and enjoy the telling.

So, it appears that I have no choice but to add the next volumes to my TBR. Please check in with me occasionally to make sure I haven’t been buried by an avalanche.😊 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Crescent and the Cross (Knights Templar #5) by S.J.A. Turney

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An epic battle of the Reconquista; a personal struggle to survive; a fight for glory.

War is brewing, and the Pope has summoned a crusade. The nations of Christendom are rallying to fight the Almohad caliphate, but they are a formidable foe.

Meanwhile, behind Moorish lines, a fortress held by Castile is under siege. As the siege falls, a knight is lost. Arnau leaves on a dangerous, near-suicidal quest to save him, a new squire in tow.

In the heat of the sierras though, things are not as they seem. War is coming to Iberia and all will be tested. Arnau’s sword arm will need practice, as will his mind.


You would think that after the number of books that I have read by SJA Turney, that I would have an idea of what to expect; that it would be unusual for me to be surprised by what transpires on his written pages. That does hold true for The Crescent and the Cross, for the most part – the trademark Turney touches of placing the reader in the footsteps of his characters traversing terra incognito painstakingly described – action that delivers sights, sounds and the smells of the brutality of battle – inducing audible gasps at surprise twists in the plot…and so on. However, I cannot shirk my duty as a humble, yet perceptive, scribbler of reviews. I am filing a complaint with the TEToFC (The Ethical Treatment of Fictional Characters) for the sheer scope of  physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual agony imposed upon Brother Arnau de Valbona throughout the narrative which in turn drags the poor reader into the trauma, causing accelerated heart rates, shrieking, and lack of sleep. Yes, my fellow readers, Mr. Turney has done it again. Oh, by the way, he leaves us hanging at the end…a not so subtle ploy to pull us into the next volume in the series. Hah…it won’t work on me, I would buy it anyway.😊 Five ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The All Father Paradox (Vikingverse #1) by Ian Stuart Sharpe

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What if an ancient god escaped his fate and history was thrown to the wolves? Churchwarden Michaels thought it was just a run-of-the-mill crazy old man who stood in the graveyard, hellbent on studying the 1,000-year-old Viking memorial there. But when things start changing and outright disappearing, Michaels realizes there is more to this old man than meets the eye. Now, Michaels finds himself swept up in an ancient god’s quest to escape his destiny by reworking reality, putting history—and to Michaels’s dismay, Christianity itself—to the Viking sword. In this new Vikingverse novel, storied heroes of mankind emerge in new and brutal guises drawn from the sagas: A young Norse prince plots to shatter empires and claim the heavens; a scholar exiled to the frontier braves the dangers of the New World, only to find those “new worlds” are greater than he imagined; a captured Jötunn plants the dreams of freedom during a worlds-spanning war; a bold empress discovers there is a price for immortality, one her ancestors have come to collect. With the timelines stretched to breaking point, it’s up to Churchwarden Michaels to save reality as we know it.


Every once in a while I encounter a book that is so densely packed with subject matter, that it requires a second reading…not that that is a bad thing, on the contrary when the book is as exciting and thought provoking as The All Father Paradox. The tale is part alternative history, part fantasy, part science fiction…  Intriguing is an understatement…in some ways it reminds me of the Dan Simmons’ Ilium & Olympus duo. The author presents parallel universes, one of which sees the pantheon of Norse gods and Norse culture prevailing over Christianity; a well crafted and interesting concept. Indeed the author has given us a most entertaining, well written creative endeavor. As I mentioned earlier, I will certainly be giving it reread to insure that I’ve gotten everything that this amazing book has to offer. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Avenger of Rome (Gaius Valerius Verrens #3) by Douglas Jackson



Emperor Nero’s grip on power is weakening. In every shadow he sees an enemy and like a cornered animal he lashes out at every perceived threat. His paranoia settles on the figure of Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo, Rome’s greatest General who leads the imperial legions in the East.

So popular is Corbulo with his men that he effective presides over an Empire within an Empire. Is Corbulo preparing to march against Rome and take the purple?

Gaius Valerius Verrens, Hero of Rome, is ordered to Antioch with the power of life and death over Corbulo, a soldier he worships. There he finds word of his mission has preceded him and every man’s hand is turned against him. But Corbulo’s eyes are not on Rome, but on a new threat to the Empire’s border. The Parthian King of Kings, Vologases, is marching to war and with such an army that if not stopped he might overwhelm the entire Roman east.

Valerius marches at Corbulo’s side. Outnumbered they make a stand in the barren wastes beyond the Tigris to meet Vologases in an epic contest of military might and ingenuity that will decide the fate of the Empire. And while he fights for the Empire, and for his own survival on the battlefield, Valerius must decide whether to complete his mission, or risk incurring his Emperor’s dangerous wrath.


Once again I find myself way behind in a captivating series, though I suppose that’s understandable. A little background – I first came across Douglas Jackson’s books while searching for Roman fiction and read his Claudius and his Caligula books and enjoyed them so much I searched for more. That search uncovered a multitude of extraordinary authors dabbling in Roman fiction (e.g. Ben Kane, SJA Turney, Gordon Doherty, Robert Fabbri, Simon Scarrow, LJ Trafford, Anthony Riches, Harry Sidebottom, et al) thus my reading spread out over many authors in the same genre. Thus I am lagging behind because these authors keep writing books I cannot ignore. Anyway, in this installment of the Verrens series, the author has penned a real page turner. The plot/subplots are full of surprises and keep the readers on their toes(or maybe on the edge of their seats) … the struggle to survive a shipwreck…the tense atmosphere surrounding Verrens arrival at Corbulo’s headquarters…the sheer scope of the battle… Yes, this is a heart pounding tale that is hard to put down. What with the fall of Nero and the Year of the Four Emperor’s waiting in the wings, I can’t wait to get into book 4.  5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thunder of the Gods (Empire #8) by Anthony Riches

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The eighth book in the Empire sequence takes Centurion Marcus Aquila and his Tungrian legion on a dangerous mission to the heart of the Parthian empire

With Rome no longer safe Marcus and the Tungrians are ordered east, to the desolate border lands where Rome and Parthia have vied for supremacy for centuries.

Ordered to relieve the siege of an isolated fortress, their task is doomed to bloody failure unless they can turn the disaffected Third Legion into a fighting force capable of resisting the terrifying Parthian cataphracts.

And Marcus must travel to the enemy capital Ctesiphon on a desperate mission, the only man who can persuade the King of Kings to halt a war that threatens the humiliation of the empire and the slaughter of his friends.


The thing that impresses me the most, I think, and is an important element in my own fiction writing, is the author’s amazing ability to keep a long series fresh, vibrant, exuding an anticipatory eagerness. This is the 8th book in the Empire series; an adventure to the East to face Rome’s longtime rival, Parthia. By now, the familiar cast of characters are just that, familiar to the reader, almost family like even. The plots are skillfully/creatively written…the battles are exquisite…etc, etc, etc. I don’t know that I can add much more to the hundreds of reviews already posted…this is, to put it succinctly, another masterpiece of historical-fiction. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Hunting Teddy Roosevelt by James A. Ross



It’s 1909, and Teddy Roosevelt is not only hunting in Africa, he’s being hunted. The safari is a time of discovery, both personal and political. In Africa, Roosevelt encounters Sudanese slave traders, Belgian colonial atrocities, and German preparations for war. He reconnects with a childhood sweetheart, Maggie, now a globe-trotting newspaper reporter sent by William Randolph Hearst to chronicle safari adventures and uncover the former president’s future political plans. But James Pierpont Morgan, the most powerful private citizen of his era, wants Roosevelt out of politics permanently. Afraid that the trust-busting president’s return to power will be disastrous for American business, he plants a killer on the safari staff to arrange a fatal accident. Roosevelt narrowly escapes the killer’s traps while leading two hundred and sixty-four men on foot through the savannas, jungles, and semi-deserts of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Congo, and Sudan.


Everything I’ve read or heard about Teddy Roosevelt paints him as a larger than life, irrepressible force of nature. In Hunting Teddy Roosevelt, the author adds to that persona a man of honor, loyalty, and compassion. It is a taut, exciting thriller of a tale full of wonderful episodes on the African plains and in the steamy, critter filled jungles. The main plot is an assassination attempt on Teddy setup by three of the most powerful men in American industry – mightily put out at Roosevelt for his trust-busting activities, and to make sure that Teddy doesn’t run for President again, they want him to not return from his self imposed ‘exile’ from American politics. I fell in love with the varied array of characters the author has placed around his ebullient protagonist…the meddlesome, fiercely determined Hearst newspaper journalist; his devoted, yet flawed son; a city bred assassin completely out of his element on an African safari; unscrupulous captains of industry; Boers, and Sudanese bandits… An easy flowing narrative for the most part, even with the numerous action scenes of hunts and skirmishes with bandits, the author had me stop and gasp occasionally, e.g. stalking a leopard in the dark…that scene is a fine example of the detailed description, and sudden pulse pounding action that permeates the pages of this breathtaking tale. So, my fellow readers, put on your slouch hat, make yourself comfortable and prepare to be entertained in a Bully fashion.  5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐