Marius Mules XI – Tides of War by S.J.A. Turney

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The author has done it again. Tides of War had my attention fully riveted from the start.  This is book eleven in one of the more fascinating, entertaining, educating and creative series I have come across, and it has not diminished one iota; indeed it just gets better. When I start reading the newest episode of Marius’ Mules, I feel as though I am getting together with old friends, though even after so many adventures together, they still find ways to surprise me. I guess that’s a testament to the author’s creative ability in that he continually tweaks his characters as they grow older, a little more bone weary, but still forces to be reckoned with. This part of the Caesarian saga is the great chase across the sea to Dyrrachium and beyond, as the Gaius Julius Caesar/Pompey Magnus battle for supremacy comes to a head (literally). 🙂 I know that I am repeating myself, after all this is the 8th Marius’ Mules I have reviewed, but I will say it anyway; to wit, Mr. Turney is a master in describing where the action is taking place, and writes a hell of a battle scene. The most impressive feat, I think, is no matter that the historical events portrayed in Tides of War are well known, the author presents them in a manner that is fresh, detailed, and integrated with his own creative touch. Yes, my peeps and fellow travelers, I will have to repeat another phrase I have used before: 5 stars

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The Blood Road – Legionary 7 by Gordon Doherty

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I have known the author for a few years now. Well, I know him in the online sense of the word, and have enjoyed reading his books so much that I even used his name for a character in a book I wrote (and killed him off in a very dramatic fashion) 🙂 . It is a somewhat sad fact that often when an author has written a series that spans this many volumes, the content loses some of it’s vitality; it’s level of excellence begins to dwindle. It pains me to say this because it may cause Mr. Doherty’s head to swell to an uncomfortable size, but The Blood Road is in no way an example of lost vitality or excellence lost. In fact, I think this actually surpasses his other work, as hard as that it is to imagine.

The Gothic War comes to a head as peace offerings are sabotaged and the XI Claudia is in the thick of the action. So too are Emperor Gratian’s special hunter/killer squad of heavies. Gratian has a score to settle with our hero, Pavo, and will stop at nothing to have his revenge. The Blood Road, a mixture of political intrigue, war time maneuverings and battles, and legionary cohesiveness and loyalty, is a taut, thrilling ride taking the reader on unexpected treks and paths as Pavo and the  XI Claudia struggle to survive the Goths and the Romans who seek to destroy them.  A page turning delight awaits you, my peeps and fellow travelers, so sit back and enjoy a thrilling romp through the Thracian countryside. 5 stars

Caligula – The Damned Emperors 1 by Simon Turney

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I must confess at the outset that the portrayal of Caligula that is permanently etched in my mind is John Hurt’s magnificent, raving lunatic character in I, Claudius.  Having said that, I must also confess that if any author could convince me otherwise, it would be Simon Turney.  As proof of that I submit his Gaius Julius Caesar from the Marius Mules series, his Caesar is much more convincing than say, Colleen McCullough’s, and I loved the way her Caesar turned out.  Told through the person of his sister Livilla, we find a Caligula who was protective, caring and very shrewd; qualities that were necessary while Tiberius and Sejanus ran amok through the descendants of Germanicus.  That’s not to say he didn’t have some issues that gave wings to his destructive behavior later – but I will not divulge much of that aspect except to say that irony plays an important role.  Indeed, the author has done another splendid job in creating a tale full of surprises, even if he does shred my preconceived ideals first encountered in the writing of Robert Graves. 🙂  I have had the pleasure of reading many of Mr. Turney’s books; this new series on some of the more, shall we say colorful emperors, is off to a robust start. 5 stars

Wrath of the Furies by Robert Southworth

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Powerful men will do whatever it takes to maintain or increase their power – even if it destroys an entire Legion.  Wrath of the Furies follows the exploits of a newly appointed magistrate; charged by Hadrian to administer justice to all segments of Roman society, no matter how rich or poor.  Lucius is not a brave man, nor is he a powerful one, but he does possess the intelligence and perseverance to succeed.  A fast paced mystery awaits the reader as Lucius and his crew struggle to identify the man or men responsible for the destruction of the legion while a brutal killer hunts the same men. A tale paved with frustrating stops and starts for the investigators; twists and turns in the plot, surprises galore and an exciting, climatic conclusion.  I look forward to the sequel.  4.3 stars

Eagles of Dacia – Praetorian 3 by S.J.A. Turney

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A most enjoyable journey is this, the third book in the Praetorian series.  Rufinus has been dispatched on a mission to a remote corner of the Empire; a mission that demands success from the odious chancellor Cleander, who has Rufinus’ brother held hostage to ensure this success.  What follows is a roller coaster of a ride as Rufinus, Senova, and Acheron the wonder dog traverse the Danubian world seeking to find evidence of treason among the area’s governors. Once again, the author transported me to a region of the globe I am not too familiar with, but which he has trod, and the result is a dazzling display of descriptive narrative. This combined with a flair for fascinating characters, wonderful dialogue, and a truly believable tale make Eagles of Dacia an entertaining read. The only question I have for Mr. Turney is this: why do you dislike Rufinus so much?  After all the torment and pain he endured in the first two books, he could have used a bit of a breather.  Just kidding, after all, that’s one of the traits that makes Rufinus so interesting; his resilience under extreme duress.  4.8 stars – maybe he’ll catch a break in book 4.  🙂

The Centurion’s Son by Adam Lofthouse

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Albinus, the son of a retired, and much revered First Spear Centurion of the 14th Legion, is ill equipped to be the man and soldier his father plans for him to be, and yet through the vicissitudes of life on the wild frontier along the Danube River, he strives to achieve his father’s hopes.  Set against the backdrop of the Marcomannic War in 167 A.D. and the rise of the Glycon Cult started by Alexander of Abonoteichus, the author has crafted a compelling debut novel.  An emotionally charged, action packed tale of revenge, rebellion, survival, and heart rending losses.  Mr. Lofthouse is a self proclaimed lover of the ancient world and this is readily seen throughout The Centurion’s Son; most especially in his descriptions of the Roman legions.  The camaraderie between the legionaries of the 14th’s !st Century is a definite highlight in this wonderful tale.  Hoover Book Reviews highly recommends this intriguing and well plotted story, and looks forward to the sequel.  4.2 stars

King of Kings – Warrior of Rome 2 by Harry Sidebottom

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Ballista the bada$$; barbarian bred, but Roman raised, now in disfavor with Valerian, has a new assignment – persecuting the dangerous religious cult, Christianity.  Not a happy situation for him or his familia given that he is a warrior and a battle hardened commander.  An administrative job, given to him under suspicious circumstances, has him requesting and then conniving to be replaced.  Book two of Warrior of Rome adds to the intrigues of the imperial court and sets Ballista on a collision course with the narrow minded, noses in the air Roman patrician class, and which eventually culminates in a surprising and shocking turn of events (that I will not divulge – spoilers, you know).  As in the first book, Fire in the East, the author shines in his portrayal of the Roman court, and the events that lead to the inevitable clash with Shapur, King of Kings.  4.7 stars