Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review - The Leopard Sword (JS)

The Leopard Sword - Empire by Anthony Riches
 The Leopard Sword
Review by Jacqui Slaney
I had promised myself that I would take a break from reading Roman books, especially this series, as I lately seemed to finish one and then dive in to the next.I should not make promises that I cant keep to my self, as having this series sitting on the shelf half read was too much of a temptation for me.
This is the description:
Britannia has been subdued - and an epic new chapter in Marcus Valerius Aquila's life begins.
The murderous Roman agents who nearly captured Marcus have been defeated by his friends. But in order to protect those very friends from the wrath of the emperor, he must leave the province which has been giving him shelter. As Marcus Tribulus Corvus, centurion of the second Tungrian auxiliary cohort, he leads his men from Hadrian's Wall to the Tungrians' original home in Germania Inferior.
There he finds a very different world from the turbulent British frontier - but one with its own dangers. Tungrorum, the center of a once-prosperous farming province, a city already brought low by the ravages of the eastern plague that has swept through the empire, is now threatened by an outbreak of brutally violent robbery. A bandit chieftain called Obduro, his identity always hidden behind an iron cavalry helmet, is robbing and killing with impunity.
His sword - sharper, stronger and more deadly than any known to the Roman army - is the lethal symbol of his unstoppable power. And now he has moved beyond mere theft and threatens to destabilize the whole northern frontier of the empire . . .
The writing in this instalment as in all the others is fast paced and bloody. You get a real taste of the brutality of this world that the Romans are trying to civilise.
Although the setting has moved from Briton all the familiar characters  are here, although in this one, focus slips slightly from Marcus and highlights Julius his friend and senior centurion as he returns to his home of his youth.
The book starts slow as the reader is introduced to some new characters one of which is Belletor a legion tribune who thinks he can command both his legion and the Tungrians. He is soon corrected on this idea with some great dialogue by Scaurus- Marcus's Tribune. In Tungrorum, it soon become apparent that there is a spy for the bandits in the Roman camp, as Obduro's seems aware of all their plans and the Romans know that they must enter his home grounds of the dark woods to defeat him.
Why do I like these books? It’s the ability of the writer to not only show you the history of the time, but to do it in a way that it is enjoyable to read. I have read some books that are supposed to be fiction, but feel like a history professor has written it and is expecting you to write a paper on it, as it is factually brilliant but the characters in it are wooden with stilted dialogue.
In the Empire books, the characters all seem real, the way the men talk, gamble, their religion, the way that they look after each other, an example of which is Scarface and Marcus, a soldier looking out for a liked young officer. You also get the different prejudices, legion against auxiliary and the different ranks in the officers etc.  There are decent storyline too, in this one there is intrigue and mystery as to who the bandit leader is, how is he spying and why, not to mention the amount of action and the great descriptions of the different scenes.
I would recommend this one, I would say though to read these in order, as they are not really stand alone novels and lots of enjoyment could be lost just by missing the earlier books.
10 out of 10