46 BC. Pompey is dead, Egypt is settled, and Rome is controlled by the loyal Marcus Antonius. As the new year looms, Rome’s greatest general and dictator Julius Caesar moves precipitously to take on the last stronghold of the rebel faction: Africa.
Crossing against all advice in the middle of winter, with minimal forces and little forward planning, the campaign almost dies before it begins, legions scattered across the sea by vicious storms, the general putting ashore with just a single legion and his most trusted veteran commander: Marcus Falerius Fronto.
But the war in Africa is no easy task. Scipio, Cato and Caesar’s one-time lieutenant Labienus have gathered an enormous force to counter him, and are prepared to fight to the death. With few troops, no supplies, little foreknowledge, and all the problems of a winter campaign, Fronto and Caesar face a monumental struggle, yet they know they must win for the prize in this campaign is nothing less than control of the republic itself. Rome hangs in the balance.
“Scipio, you cowardly (insert various and sundry defamatory remarks on Scipio’s parentage), come out and fight!” That could be considered the Caesarian battle cry in this rollicking edition of Marius Mules. Though it must be told that Caesar is not at the top of his usual tactical/strategic genius level, and that causes doubts among his officer corps. In looking for the reason behind this bout of ineptitude, the common blame is cast upon a woman. It’s always the woman’s fault…Adam & Eve – John & Yoko – Gaius Julius & Cleopatra… In his usual commendable fashion, the author has taken the sparse, often contradictory historical record, and infused it with life, vitality, and the clinching ingredient of unputdownableness…(yes, I know – I made up a word). Plus even after 13 volumes, it is always nice and refreshing to get reacquainted with that irascible curmudgeon, Fronto. 5 Stars