Friday, January 4, 2013

Book Review - Empire - Wounds of Honour (JS)

Empire- Wounds of Honour by Anthony Riches
Wounds of Honour
Review by Jacqui Slaney
As I have mentioned previously, I like books about the Roman Empire especially the armies, so when I found this series and read the description, I was hooked:
Marcus Valerius Aquila has scarcely landed in Britannia when he has to run for his life - condemned to dishonourable death by power-crazed emperor Commodus.  The plan is to take a new name, serve in an obscure regiment on Hadrian's Wall and lie low until he can hope for justice.  Then a rebel army sweeps down from the wastes north of the Wall, and Marcus has to prove he is hard enough to lead a century in the front line of a brutal, violent war.
This was the authors’ first book, so I was prepared for the writing not to flow as well as say Simon Scarrow, who has written numerous excellent books on the legions. I also had a few doubts after reading that the author had a military degree. Having read some well-written but very technical books in the past, I was wary of receiving a history lesson when all I wanted was to enjoy a story. I need not have worried, although the author has obviously researched his subject matter and has a great deal of knowledge, this is incorporated into the writing quite naturally so an entertaining world of 2nd Century Britain and the Romans is created for the reader.
I can hear you say that there are numerous other Roman books out there so what makes this one different. I know that there are many of these books, I have read quite a few of them, but the style of writing in this one makes it different.  The story sounds a bit familiar, a young man suddenly finds him self alone after his family is killed and is forced to make his own way against all the odds, hiding his identity. The writer takes this simple idea and builds on it creating a situation and a character that the reader can believe and sympathise with.
There are some great characters in this book that support Marcus the young centurion who suddenly gets his world turned upside down by being declared traitor. To name just a few, you have Rufius the veteran, Dubnus, who Marcus names his chosen man, Antenoch, who initially thinks that Marcus will be an easy target to beat and then becomes his man and saves his life and the First Spear who knows Marcus’s secret.
There is action from the word go in this book with no let up in the pace of the story, with plenty of intrigue to keep you interested.  In fact, you find yourself so caught up with the plot that you do not want to stop reading.
 I read some reviews that criticize a lack of polish in the writing with some of the characters speeches being unclear. This is slightly true, but in no way does this take anything away from the story. Speaking as someone who is struggling to write a book, if I thought anything I was writing could get up half as good as this one, I would be over the moon.
I would recommend this to anyone, not only those who likes Roman books but anyone who is looking for a good book to lose themselves in for a while.
9 out of 10