Top critical review
Implausible and the weakest of the series
on 30 April 2015
This is volume 3 of the Legionary series that takes place during the reign of Emperor Valens (reigned AD 364 to AD 378) in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, it is also the weakest of the series because almost everything in it – historical settings, plot, characters, and battle scenes – are implausible. In other words, I am afraid that I did not like this one, to use Amazon’s terminology, and had to force myself to finish it. However, the next one in the series, which has already been published, is much better, if only because the author reverts to form with his usual little bunch of heroes (plus and minus one or two that get killed off or join the group) back in Thrace facing the Goths.
This one, however, is problematic on just about all counts: it is implausible and unbelievable from the very beginning and throughout the book.
First, it is very unlikely, to put it mildly, that an Emperor would call up a couple of centuries from the other side of the Empire to carry out a “special mission” when he has all of his field army and crack troops directly at his disposal. This is even less likely when said “other side of the Empire (Thrace, to be specific) is being overrun by a horde of Goths and needs each and every of its soldiers to contain, yet alone repel, the invasion.
Second, the errand on which these two centuries of XI Claudia are sent is, of course, crucial for the safety and the future of the Empire. However, I failed to see how recovering a copy of a fifteen (not quite) year old treaty signed by the predecessor of Valens and Shapur, the old Sassanid King of Kings would necessarily help protect and preserve the Eastern Roman Empire unless one is naïve enough to believe that Emperors and Kings necessarily and always kept his word in all circumstances and would not want to be seen as having reneged on it.
A third bunch of hard to believe features is the secondary errand that Pavo, our hero, carries out, searching for his lost father, without knowing where to search, and miraculously finding him still alive after spending close to fifteen years of forced labor in a salt mine. Related to this is the just as implausible and miraculous escape from said salt mine with his comrades (the usual bunch for those who have read the first episodes), the pursuit of their mission – retrieving the missing copy of the treaty in the “enemy’s den”, reuniting with Gallus and, of course, the “reckoning” with the “arch-nasty” magos and their pursuit by his creature, the young and warped warlord.
A fourth set of implausible events is the author’s tendency – already noticed in previous episodes – to have his heroes systematically and rather obviously “saved at the eleventh hour”. It happens in just every volume but it happens twice in this one: once when Bedouin Arabs, led by a minor version of Queen Zenobia (whom our hero becomes rather fond of, of course), and a second time with the improbable appearance of the old “Shahinshah” come to set everything right. The story does not tell who on earth could have warned him on what was going on in one of his somewhat distant provinces.
Also somewhat annoying are the rather long sessions where one of the main characters (pick your choice: Pavo, his father, Gallus and a few others) give the reader the impression of moaning, whining and generally feeling sorry for themselves.
Anyway, there is no need to go on and on: by now, anyone reading this review will have fully realized that I simply did not like this title because very little in it worked for me. Two stars.