Salamis by Christian Cameron

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The big, bad bully of the East is back and he has most of the world coming with him.  Not a good situation for the Greeks as Arimnestos continues the narrative of his life.  With Leonidas dead, Xerxes has an open road to Athens so most of the population abandon their homes and converge on Salamis to await their doom.  Xerxes has hundreds more ships than what the Greeks can muster, not to mention the size of his ground force.  The Greeks are riven with strife as to how to defeat The Great King or even to survive the onslaught to come.  The author has given us a treat in the manner he portrays the important figures in this drama, the prim and proper Aristides, Cimon, Artemesia, Themistocles, etc, etc.  And being an avid re-enactor, Mr. Cameron knows what it’s like to stand in a shield wall and I suspect that if his group had the funds, they would fit out enough warships to fight the battle at Salamis.  However, we’ll have to make do with the author’s seaworthy, descriptive powers  as he puts on a dazzling display of sea-battle prowess.  Another given is that Arimnestos will have a huge role in that battle but he will also have other things on his mind besides Xerxes.  Masterful story telling awaits you, dear reader.  Hoover Book Reviews says, “Bring on the finale!”  5 Stars

 

 

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Flame of the West- Caesar’s Sword III by David Pilling

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The finale to this trilogy about the grandson of Arthur follows Coel back to Constantinople as he makes a new life after leaving Belisarius and the Roman Army behind.  It is an engaging tale replete with interesting characters, bold action and a story line that pulls you into the intrigues, betrayals and machinations of the powers that be.    All in all this is a well written series and is highly recommended by Hoover Book Reviews.  4.3 stars

 

 

Galba’s Men by L.J. Trafford

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A witty, jocose romp through the imperial reign of Galba, the second of the four emperors in a year.  Wonderful characters throughout, the story is told from the viewpoint of the slaves and freedmen who staff the Imperial Palace and who run the bureaucracy that runs the Empire.  While I thoroughly enjoyed the humor that permeates the pages of this book, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the well written intrigues and political machinations that bring home the stark reality of this unsettled period in Rome’s history.   It is the kind of tale that is; well let me put it this way :  I usually read three books at the same time and I divide my reading time between them pretty evenly….in this case, and in spite of the fact that the other books currently being read are really good, I broke protocol and couldn’t put this one down.  My only disappointment is that book three is not out yet.  4.7 stars and the coveted Hoover Book Reviews ‘You Gotta Read This One’ official seal of approval.  🙂

Poseidon’s Spear by Christian Cameron

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After Marathon, Arimnestos goes out of his mind in grief over the loss of wife and child and thus begins a journey of extreme pain and degradation.  His struggle to survive the torments and the subsequent saga of returning home makes for an entertaining tale as the author fills in the historical gap between Marathon and Xerxes’ invasion at Thermopylae.  Meticulous research and well rounded characters are once again hallmarks of this author; it’s like reading  Patrick O’Brian, only for ancient mariners.  The seafaring portions are detailed; the navigation of those days is just plain scary and that my friends is what this book is, a scary and exciting story of survival and revenge.  Arimnestos, in the end is once again becoming a killer of men.  4.3 stars…bring it on, Xerxes   🙂

 

Magnus – Triumphator by Robert Allen Johnson

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When one looks back at the history of Rome during this period that saw the ushering in of the end of the Roman Republic, one cannot help but be amazed at the number of so many pivotal characters; Marius, Sulla, Cicero,Crassus, Pompey and waiting in the wings, Gaius Julius.  No wonder that this period gets so much attention from authors, however, it takes a good author to take on a character that has been portrayed by many different authors, in many different ways.  Robert Allen Johnson has done just that in this series on Gnaeus Pompey Magnus.  He has given us a Pompey that is more human, more prone to doubt and yet more determined to succeed.  In the second installment, Triumphator, Pompey begins to grow, becomes less rash and more calculating and to some, more dangerous.  The author has created a work that rings true, a page turning delight that has one almost hoping that this version of Pompey will see through Caesar’s ambition and bests him in the end…almost.  4.8 stars and Hoover Book Review’s Seal of Approval.  Can’t wait for book three.

Sorrow Hill – Sword of Woden 1 by C.R. May

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An engaging tale of the legendary character of Beowulf.  The author has done an excellent job in bringing to life the early 6th Century with all the struggles inherent with all of the various groups, Geats, Jutes, Swedes, etc as they seek to further their prestige and power.  Beowulf grows to manhood in this, the first volume in the series, and becomes an accomplished warrior and leader, albeit one with still much to learn.  The  situation for Beowulf and his family gets complicated with the mysterious deaths of the heir to the Geat throne and his father, the King, and it is this plot line that makes for a page turning opening to this saga.  One of the more appealing aspects of the book is the camaraderie between the warriors and how the author propels the reader into the action, making it feel as if you are in the shield wall.  I eagerly look forward to continuing this series.  4.2 stars

Nemesis (Brennus – Conqueror of Rome Book 2) by C.R. May

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Most of the Roman historical fiction that I have read dates from the Late Republic on through the ascendancy of the Eastern Empire so it was a nice change of pace to read this series that takes place before Rome became Rome.  In Nemesis,the Gaulish tribe the Senones complete their conquest of Rome and sack the city. The author presents the reader with the opposing mindsets of the combatants; the warrior ethos of the Senones versus the more disciplined Romans.  Also evident is the well researched descriptions of both Senone culture and the ways of the Roman Patrician class.   Intermingled with the historical event is the continuing story of the three childhood friends, Solemis, Albiomaros and the Druid Catumanda; a story that follows the fate that binds them together.  That thread is but one of the sub-plots running through the tale and that makes for many possibilities and surprises which I enjoyed but will not reveal.  The Conqueror of Rome series is the first I’ve read by this author and I am looking forward to moving onto his other works  Just as Brennus got the Roman’s attention, so to has C.R. May gotten mine.  4.3 stars

The Flame Before Us by Richard Abbott

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Being what you may call an amateur historian since my teens, oh those many years ago, I am always looking for material, whether non-fiction or fiction, to feed me; to teach me.  This series by Richard Abbot has been an eye opener regarding the area of the Near East, Palestine, The Levant; whatever you want to call it.  So many groups have either settled there or held sway over it through the centuries and in The Flame Before Us they all meet.  Wilios or Troy has finally fallen after a prolonged siege and while it is still up for debate and discussion as to what happened to the invaders after the war; while there were some who returned to their homes across The Aegean Sea, others remained and drifted south to find new lands to call home.  That is the crux of book 3 as these mysterious Sea Peoples come into contact with, in some cases violently, with the Kinahny, the Hittite, the Ibriym, the Mitsriy; in short the whole gamut of Old Testament peoples.  The author has crafted a tale filled with memorable characters and has given us a glimpse into the possibilities of so many disparate groups coming together in a region that has seen nothing but strife even unto today.  From the noble, nose in the air, Egyptians to the settlements of peasants to the nomadic clans, we have a tale of loss, hardship, and hope as cultures collide and times change.  Kudos to the author for a most enjoyable series.  I look forward to more.  5 stars

 

The Price of Treason – Praetorian 2 by SJA Turney

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Despite the fact that I am a couple decades(more or less) older than Mr. Turney, I want to be able to write like him when I grow up.  Praetorian – The Price of Treason is a fine example of how an author combines research, history and imagination to produce a book that not only rings true but has that quality that draws the reader into the world he is reading about.  Rufinus survived everything thrown at him in book 1 but has paid the price both physically and emotionally.  One aspect where Mr. Turney shines is character development and he leads the reader through the agonies Rufinus suffers as he struggles to maintain a grip on reality.  Another strong point of the author is his ability as a storyteller and in The Price of Treason, he gives us a great plot full of surprises (I thought I had things figured out a couple of times only to be reduced to thinking, “I didn’t see that coming.”).   So, if you are looking for a story steeped in the political intrigue of the Roman world of the Emperor Commodus, filled with all sorts of interesting people and a flawed yet heroic protagonist, then run to your nearest bookstore or wifi connection and get this one; a first class page turner.  5 stars

Legionary: Gods & Emperors (Legionary 5) by Gordon Doherty

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Once more into the chaos of the Roman Empires in the late 4th Century.  Thrace is overrun with the Gothic horde of Fritigern, threatening to wrest the area away from the Eastern Empire and Emperor Valens. Will the Western Empire and it’s greedy boy emperor, Gratian, arrive in time to ensure a Roman victory or will nefarious doings doom Valens and the XI Claudia?  In this, the fifth book of the series, Gordon Doherty, weaves a masterful tale of intrigue, persistence and soul damning obedience.  By this time, we who have followed the exploits of the XI Claudia, know of the loyalty, love and fears of Pavo, Gallus, Sura and the rest (including the gastric outbursts of Quadratus).  All of those things are put to the test in the dry, dusty and sweltering plains outside of Adrianople in a battle for the region.  The lead up to the final outcome is a treat for the reader’s eyes as the author conjures up gut wrenching turmoil, both in his characters and in the minds of his audience.  As for the final battle, well I must admit that it was hard to get through, though I must also admit that the fault of that lies in the fact that I was doing childcare for my three year old granddaughter while reading it and not with Mr. Doherty.  The author has demonstrated once more his prowess at describing a battle field and the sights and sounds of the terror, bravery and the dying.  A stellar entry into the author’s portfolio of exceptional historical fiction…5 stars.