The Legionary series, has become one of my favorites over the years, and am happy to report that Empire of Shades carries on the tradition of crafty storytelling that we’ve grown to expect from Mr. Doherty. The masterful interweaving of the multiple plot lines throughout the tale are sure to keep the reader engaged and turning pages. Pavo and the rest of his gang are really put to the test in many ways and many times in this many layered thriller. Pavo reaches a new depth of character as he pursues a promise made to his friend and mentor, Gallus. He also finds love again and that experience leaves it’s mark. Set against the backdrop of Theodosius taking the mantle of Emperor of the East and the unsettling shenanigans of Gratian, the Emperor of the West, Mr. Doherty leads us on a brutal adventure during a time of great migrations and a changing world. 4.7 stars
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.
The decision to read Legionary 2 at this particular time was made despite the fact that I am currently in the process of reading many different series including Mr. Doherty’s Strategos, Angus Donald’s Outlaw, Giles Kristian’s Raven, Robert Fabbri’s Vespasian, Ben Kane’s Hannibal and SJA Turney’s Marius Mules & Ottoman Cycle. So as you can see there was a lot of excellent material to choose from. Having decided to go with either Legionary 2 or Strategos 2 next, I sent a tweet to Gordon Doherty asking him as to which I should choose. He re-tweeted asking if I preferred to be in the baking sun or a wintry blizzard. Well given the 95 degree temperatures and 100% humidity we have endured the last week, the wintry blizzard won out.
The Goths are uniting under a mysterious shade from the past, The Viper, who has only the destruction of The Roman Empire on his mind. This part of The Empire is not well manned by The Legions and would seem to be ripe targets for the Gothic Invasion. That is the main storyline and one that is riveting in its telling and imaginative in its scope. However, as good as that story is, it is the detailed characterizations making up this story that really sells the goods. The main characters are each imbued with the secrets that make them tick, make them do the things they do, make them live and breathe despite their doubts and nightmares. Pavo and his search for truth, Avitus for atonement, Gallus for peace, these and many other torments and desires are hidden deep in each one’s mind and draw the reader in to experience the turmoil.
Throughout the telling of this tale there are many likable rogues most especially in the XI Claudia, the core if you will of that depleted Border Legion would fit in well with Vespasian’s 2nd Legion with Macro and Cato or with Fronto’s 10th Legion with Caesar in Marius Mules. Of course any tale worth telling has to have the not so likable and this tale has plenty to go around and not all of them are Gothic but even a couple of them find redemption of some sort.
Along with the chaos and mayhem of battle, the author also gives us some very nice twists and turns along the way not the least of which is the identity of The Viper. That revelation is certainly a stunner and really adds to the drama. It is a well written and researched episode and I look forward to the next one in the series.
I rate this at 4.5
A note on Hoover Book Reviews new rating policy:
In order to have a little more leeway in rating a book we at Hoover Book Reviews are adopting the following policy. The system will still be based on 1-5 stars but with tenth of a point intervals, so a book that we in the past have rated 5 stars can now be more accurately fixed at say 4.5 or 4.2…etc etc. Of course this will only be reflected in the review itself as I cannot change Amazon’s restrictive, whole numbers only method.