“Warrior of Rome: The Wolves of the North” by Harry Sidebottom marks the start of a new trilogy within the “Warrior of Rome” series. AD263 – barbarian invasions and violent uprisings threaten to tear apart the Imperium of Rome. In the north, the tribes are increasingly bold in their raids on the Imperium – their savagery unlike anything Rome has known before. Ballista must undertake his most treacherous journey yet – a covert attempt to turn the barbarians of the steppe against each other. He must face the Heruli – the most bizarre and brutal of all the nomad tribes – the Eaters of Flesh, the Wolves of the North. As Ballista and his retinue make their journey, someone – or something – is hunting them, picking them off one by one, and leaving a trail of terror and mutilated corpses. Ballista is in a strange land, among strange people, but is it possible that the greatest threat may come from within his own familia?
It seems that donning The Purple, even for a very short time, and for very good reasons, has it’s drawbacks. Still under some suspicion, Ballista and his familia are sent on a perilous, almost hopeless mission to the tribes on the vast Steppe… a region Ballista has a few enemies just itching to get revenge…couple that with a psychopathic killer among the retinue, and oh yeah a wicked curse to boot. A page turner for certain, the tale is replete with the descriptive talent of the author, and his subtle(?) way of introducing his audience to the varied philosophical treatises of the time. The repartee between the members of the familia, the bonds forged over decades, these are the bits that drive the narrative. The unknown madman among them seeks to destroy those bonds. A masterful tale in a masterful series of tales, and there is more to come. 5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
AD 262 –the Roman Imperium is in turmoil after the struggle for the throne that brought Gallienus to power. And Ephesus, the metropolis of the Eastern Empire, lies in ruins, shattered by a mighty earthquake. Its citizens live in fear as the mob overwhelms the city, baying for blood to avenge the gods who have punished them. Yet an even greater threat to the Empire advances from the North: the barbaric Goth tribes, determined to pillage the city. Only Ballista, Warrior of Rome, knows the ways of the barbarians, and only he can defeat them. In a relentlessly gripping and richly authentic tale of ancient warfare, The Caspian Gates is an adventure for Rome enthusiasts and scholars alike.
Well, the rereading of the first 4 volumes of the Warrior of Rome series is complete, and I am looking forward to the next installment, The Wolves of the North. I have sort of glossed over much of what I usually cover in my book reviews during this reacquainting period, but I will say this. The author has unknowingly had me hearkening back to the early 70’s when I was an Ancient History student at Wayne State University. The inclusion of philosophical and mythological discussions spread throughout the narrative sparked some familiar memories. I find it to be a definite plus when the tale being told also has the possibility to enlighten, educate, edify…something that happens quite often in this series. 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
It’s Mesopotamia, AD 260. Betrayed by his most trusted adviser, the Roman Emperor Valerian has been captured by the Sassanid barbarians. The shame of the vanquished beats down mercilessly like the white sun, as the frail old emperor prostrates himself before Shapur, King of Kings. Ballista looks on helplessly, but vows under his breath to avenge those who have brought the empire to the brink of destruction with their treachery. One day, maybe not soon, but one day, I will kill you …But first he must decide what price he will pay for his own freedom. Only the fearless and only those whom the gods will spare from hell can now save the empire from a catastrophic ending. Ballista, the Warrior of Rome, faces his greatest challenge yet.
Another exhilarating episode … another drama packed tale … another seamless melding together of history and fiction … another reason to read the Warrior of Rome series.
5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I fell in love with the Warrior of Rome series many years ago in the era known as the PBR – or Pre-Book Reviewing era. However, for some inexplicable reason, I only read the first four books. Therefore, in order to rectify that situation, I decided to reread them in preparation for reading the rest of the series and thus, reviewing them as I go a long. I call that a win-win scenario as I get to read them again and you, my peeps and fellow travelers, get to read my penetrating, yet humble reviews. In the first installment, Fire in the East, we meet Marcus Clodius Ballista, son of a Germanic chieftain but raised as a Roman, and who rises through the ranks of the Roman army to become the Dux Ripae of a force given the seeming impossible task of defending the city of Arete on the banks of the Euphrates. Their opponent is the Persian King of Kings, Shapur and his far numerically superior force. To many in the Roman establishment Ballista is seen as a warrior leader of immense experience and ability. Others, however, view him as nothing but a barbarian bastard far beneath their social standing. The tale is at once intriguing, exciting; full of surprises as it progresses through Ballista’s arrival, the preparation for the coming battle and siege and finally the battle of wills between this barbarian commander and the staggering, fanatic Persian host driven by the power of the King of Kings and bent on the total destruction of Arete. It is also a tale populated with wonderful characters, Ballista, his retinue – Maximus, Calgacus and Demetrius to name but a few. The historic research done is more than evident as you walk the streets of Arete; as you take in the defensive towers and the well placed artillery; the stone throwers and ballistas. A tension filled atmosphere permeates the pages as Ballista recognizes the near hopeless situation he has been thrust into; not only from Shapur but from assassins and secret agents out to see he doesn’t succeed. A highly entertaining read – glad I decided to give it another go. 5 stars