Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Book Review - Arrows of Fury (JS)

Arrows of Fury- Empire II by Anthony Riches

Arrows of Fury

Review by Jacqui Slaney

I do not often go straight into a book 2 but having enjoyed Wounds of Honour, I could not resist. I am normally slightly wary as some second books are a bit of a let down, especially with a new author as they can struggle to continue, the growth of the characters and the story can stagnate, and there was no such problem with this book.

This is the description:

The Battle of the Lost Eagle saved Hadrian's Wall, but the new Roman governor of Britannia must stamp out the rebellion of the northern tribes or risk losing the province. Rampaging south with sword and flame under the command of their murderous chieftain Calgus, they have stretched his forces to the limit.
For Marcus - now simply Centurion Corvus of the 1st Tungrian cohort - the campaign has become doubly dangerous. As reinforcements flood into Britannia, new officers with no reason to protect him from the emperor’s henchmen surround him. Death could result from a careless word as easily as from an enemy spear.
Worse, one of them is close on his heels. While Marcus is training two centuries of Syrian archers to survive a barbarian charge and then take the fight back to their enemy, the new prefect of the 2nd Tungrians has discovered his secret. Only a miracle can save Marcus and the men who protect him from disgrace and death.

As with Wounds of Honour, this is an enjoyable read as you are carried along with the pace of story, there are excellent descriptions of the battles scenes and the general lives of the soldiers.
The author shows a great understanding of the role of both the ordinary men of the army and their officers and this contributes to the reader’s enjoyment of the book. With Marcus, you have a character that is both a natural fighter and someone whose men will follow him anywhere. His ability is believable and he makes a very good central character. In many books, the rest of the characters would be shallow figures that are only mentioned in passing, here though Marcus is clearly the hero; the others have a life of their own and have their own scenes so take the story forward, Rufius and Dubnus just to name two.

In this story Marcus is given a cohort of unwilling infantry- Syrian archers who are unused to the foot slog of the Roman soldiers, the sub plot of him turning these into a fighting unit is entertaining, with their abilities being laughed at by the other soldiers until the day when they start using their normal weapons of the bow and arrow to kill.   
As in the first book, there is plenty of quite brutal action, with the description of the punishment of the soldier in the 2nd cohort being graphically described. There is less intrigue than in Wounds but there is enough sub plots still to keep anyone’s interest.

For anyone who likes Roman stories I would thoroughly recommend these books and definitely this author, he makes the storyline interesting and accurate without drowning the reader in cold facts and making it feel like a history lesson rather than a book of fiction, in fact I can hear book 3 calling me as I write this.

10 out of 10