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
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.