EMPIRE: FORTRESS OF SPEARS
Anthony Riches, Hodder & Stoughton, 2011, £12.99, hb, 340pp, 9780340920367
Young Marcus Aquila (calling himself Centurion Corvus) has hidden himself in the Roman Army, and is serving in one of Rome’s most far-flung outposts: the northern frontier in Britannia. But the emperor’s assassins are closing in, wanting to kill Marcus. Meanwhile, he’s fighting a hard and nasty campaign against the Caledonian tribes. Will Marcus survive the dirty war, and will the assassins catch up with him?
This is the third outing for Riches’ Empire series set in the late 2nd century. The author chooses, for the most part, to use translations of the Roman names of places, so that those of us who have learnt the Latin names are left wondering which fort is being referred to. There is a map in the front of the book, fortunately, but it doesn’t include the Roman name of, for example, White Strength, so we need to be certain of our geography.
Riches subscribes to the Scarrow School of Roman Swearing, so readers of a delicate disposition be warned. The harsh realities of war are to the fore, and this novel is firmly in the historical adventure genre. Madcap heroic deeds, violence, intrigue and mayhem all make this a perfect book for fans of tales of the Roman Army.
(This review first appear in the Historical Novels Review, August 2011)