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3.0 out of 5 stars Rather good, despite some little problems, 2 Sep 2012
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JPS - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ironroot (Paperback)
This is the second book that I have read and liked from SJA Turney, although for different reasons. Just like Interregnum, Ironroot is set in the author's alternative Roman Empire, a bit like Harry Turtledove's series in his alternative Byzantine Empire. The story is about one Captain Varro (the equivalent of a Primus Pilus since he commands a cohort) of the Fourth Army (read "Legion"), a veteran of the Civil War now posted on the Northern Border, who will strive to uncover an act of treason committed more than a decade ago and which has brought its author fame and glory.

The story is mostly good and I wondered almost right to the end as to whether Varro would succeed and survive against the odds, or not. The ending, in particular, has a few nice twists and some bitter irony that I was not expecting and that I found quite original. I did groan a couple of times when the hero and his ladylove, after being wounded and summarily patched up, kept galloping around the countryside, jumping in and out of windows, and climbing up and down the crumbling fortifications of a ruined villa a few days after their injuries. However, between the hero filled up with drugs and pain killers and the protection of one powerful God, this is just about credible.

The last fight is heavily inspired by Gladiator, with the hero even stooping down to pick up some earth and rub his hands with them to ensure that his sword will not slip from his grip just before it begins. This was also a nice touch and so was the duel itself, which was quite original. The epilogue is also bittersweet, of the kind that the author has accustomed us to with Interregnum.

One little gripe, however, is the number of typos across the book. I understand that this is a self-published work. However, typos such as "Var5ro" - where the finger obviously slipped over the number when typing could easily be avoided by the use of a spellcheck. Another little issue, which in my view makes this volume not quite as good as Interregnum, is that the author tells us rather little about his alternative Empire, with the exception of the description and history of Vengen, first built by Cassius (read Julius Caesar) the great conqueror of the North who only ruled for 12 years. This is one thing that I missed a bit: Interregnum had lots of glimpses of the Empire's past history, with rather fascinating adaptations and transpositions being made by the author. There were fewer of them in this book but then the book's context was not as favorable as in Interregnum. Having said that, there were however a number of nice touches such as the description of the Imperial WAy Station and the fortress at Saravis Fork (and its weaknesses).

Ideally, I should have given this book three stars and a half. Since I did prefer Interregnum, which I rated four stars, I'll give it three at the risk of being a bit harsh.
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Ironroot
Ironroot by S. J. A. Turney (Paperback - 22 July 2010)
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