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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Up Close And Personal
The author of Marius's Mules has made a number of key decisions in planning what will (hopefully) be a long series of historical novels. Firstly, he has selected a model, in this case the professional officers of the Roman Army behave not unlike professional officers of the British Army - the enemy being of less importance much of the time than internal loyalties and...
Published on 10 Aug 2011 by Charles Vasey

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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what the fuss is about...
It's not often I come across a book I can't finish through sheer boredom... but this book succeeds.

I bought this book on the strength of the reviews here on Amazon and I'm quite baffled as to what the fuss is about. This book isn't badly written, it flows well enough and the style is easy to read - hence two stars, but that's it.
There is simply no depth...
Published on 30 May 2012 by Craig Chandler


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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Up Close And Personal, 10 Aug 2011
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Marius' Mules I: The Invasion of Gaul (Paperback)
The author of Marius's Mules has made a number of key decisions in planning what will (hopefully) be a long series of historical novels. Firstly, he has selected a model, in this case the professional officers of the Roman Army behave not unlike professional officers of the British Army - the enemy being of less importance much of the time than internal loyalties and rivalries. This worked very well indeed in the novel "Imperial Governor" by George Shipway and S.J.A Turney uses it to advantage here. This model gives us men who, while living in an alien world, address it much as we would. Secondly, he has decided to proceed (as armies proceed) slowly. This novel only takes us up to the defeat of Ariovistus. It will take a number of novels to complete De Bello Gallico. This means characters and their actions are not hurried along but develop at their own pace. The result will be immensely pleasing to a lot of readers, especially those who do their homework on the subject.

I could not quite stretch to five stars (though 4.5 is what I wanted) because I found the characters suffered to a degree from Richard Sharpe Syndrome, they were often either all Good or all Bad. The hatchet job on P. Licinius Crassus is excellent for plot (a rich useless aristo just like Sir Henry Simmerson) but not, I think, for history. The sketch of C. Julius Caesar was much more complex however, he is clearly a leader of men, and a bit of a rotter in the eyes of our hero, the stern M. Falerius Fronto.

However, who knows what lies ahead for I see we are off to fight the fearsome Belgae in the next volume.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story but the editor should be sacked, 19 Aug 2011
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I enjoyed this story for much of the time, but a few of the elements were worryingly grating: in both this and his second story, the plot elements are very similar: hero fights against over-whelming odds, gets injured, best friends are killed, Roman discipline, technology and tactical superiority save the day, hero gets drunk with mates and argues with Caesar who puts up with it.
But worst of all, the man who edits the story has not done a very good job. There were cases when the sentences did not make sense, where words were spelled incorrectly [ e.g. keep soldiers on a tight `reign' rather than `rein'] and some of the sentences were poorly constructed with repetition of words within them. A good editor should have spotted all these flaws.

I am no English teacher, but this is something I have rarely seen in published works, and would prefer not to.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Verging on excellent, 26 Dec 2012
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I have recently been an avid reader of historical novels and am always on the lookout for something new.
I agree with the majority of reviews on SJA Turney's books , but would like to add that I am particularly impressed by his battle descriptions.
I have often found descriptions of battle scenes and tactics by other authors to be 'clunky' and difficult to follow.
Not so in this first book. His ability to give clear discriptions of complicated scenes sets him out from others in his field.
Very readable. I look forward to much more.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't believe ..., 11 Sep 2012
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... that I finished this series of books months ago and haven't as yet scribbled a review. I read a lot of Roman history, both fiction and non-fiction, the usual suspects ... Scarrow, Davis, Riches, Saylor, R.W Peake et al. No question, SJA Turney is a highly accomplished writer, and for those of us who like captivating story lines, who secretly imagine themselves sharing a campfire with their legionary tent mates, and who like to KEEP on following their new found buddies (that's a hint), you'll not regret enlisting with this legion.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very readable!, 17 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Marius' Mules I: The Invasion of Gaul (Paperback)
Considering this is the author's first novel, I enjoyed it immensely. The writing style is highly entertaining and carries the story along nicely.
I did think the senior officers spent too much time drinking or occasionally acting a little slapstick, but overall the story flows along nicely and is a pleasure to read.
If you enjoy your Roman war fiction, you should have fun with this - I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.

Steven A. McKay, author of Wolf's Head (The Forest Lord) and The Wolf and the Raven: 2 (The Forest Lord)
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Self Publishing does Work, 11 Jun 2011
By 
Parm (A bookshop near you) - See all my reviews
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When I was asked to look up this title I have to say I was unsure!
Its not main stream publication, its got little or not marketing behind it...etc. etc...
But im a sucker for a roman historical fiction book, and the tag line:
"It is perhaps time we looked at Caesar more as a scheming warmonger than a heroic warrior."
This appealed to me, ole JC gets his behind kissed a bit too much so it would be good to see him portrayed a little differently.

This is the up to date more edited version, an advantage over the big publishing houses, the author has the ability to go back do those corrections and updates and edits and then resubmit them for the next print run very easily. especially for the kindle versions of this book.

This is a great title, with a great bunch of characters, set in a pivotal period of history. really is a winner on so many levels, don't miss it!
(Parm)
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historical Fiction at its best, 22 April 2011
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This story is a well paced, page-turner, charting Julius Caesar's invasion of Gaul. If you are a fan of Historical Fiction from the likes of Simon Scarrow, Conn Iggulden and David Gemmell, then this really is a book for you!

With great characterisation, bloody battle scenes and political wranglings, the author tells a very different story of one of Rome's greatest Generals; revealing him to be a power-hungry politician rather than a hero of his people.
Written from the POV of the men under his leadership, you get a believable depiction of not only the man, but those under his command.

As an avid reader, I would have to say that this has been one of my favourite books this year.

A bloody triumph!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, 17 April 2012
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Having never heard of this author before I wasn't sure what to expect.i have thoroughly enjoyed this book and the characters he has created around Caesar and Brutus like Fronto, discovering Marius Mules has been a delight and I will continue to read my way through the rest of the series.I am definitely a fan!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what the fuss is about..., 30 May 2012
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It's not often I come across a book I can't finish through sheer boredom... but this book succeeds.

I bought this book on the strength of the reviews here on Amazon and I'm quite baffled as to what the fuss is about. This book isn't badly written, it flows well enough and the style is easy to read - hence two stars, but that's it.
There is simply no depth to the story, narrative or characters. It reads very much like a schoolboy adventure novel in the style of Willard Price. It's a convoluted series of events with no real detail or description of how these events occur the way they do, they just happen. Any hint of intrigue or sub plot is usually resolved within a dozen pages. I'm a fan of this period in history but the lack of detail and authenticity meant this novel could have been set anywhere and at any time. Fans of Roman history might be disappointed by the complete lack of atmosphere and it makes the likes of Scarrow and Iggulden look positively high-brow.

Every character is either a conniving yet strangely ignorant political schemer, or a quietly competent yet admirable career soldier. While we learn the history of the main protagonist there's nothing to distinguish him in terms of personality, outlook or dialogue from half the other characters. As such he is very two dimensional and uninvolving. Since he is effectively the narrator it makes for a pretty dull novel.

That being said it isn't particularly difficult to read. It's easy to put down and pick up again but I prefer something with a bit more depth and atmosphere.
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5.0 out of 5 stars it's not like that. The Invasion of Gaul is a very ..., 13 Nov 2014
I felt cheated a few times by this book: at first, I noticed it is the first one in a series, with a drug dealer type "first one free" technique. I feared I would get to the end only to be told that I need to buy the next book. Well, it's not like that. The Invasion of Gaul is a very round novel, with a classical beginning and end structure and a strictly chronological depiction of events. The ending is even built up, as the characters talk about it throughout. I am now however itching to read the next in the series, not because anything exciting is just about to happen to the heroes, but because I have come to know and like them and I have become too drawn into their lives not to follow them further. Besides, the price of the next books in the series is minuscule, and the author makes a point of it:

"I do, however, have control over the price of the electronic editions, and I have deliberately set them as low as the publishing system will allow. The reason for this is that I am passionate about both reading and writing, and I believe that books are becoming too pricey. If things continue with the current trend, people will stop reading unless they're quite wealthy, and will rely on TV. I would rather lower the price and encourage people to read."

Next thing I came to notice is how close the action in the books follows Caesar's De Bello Gallico. A quick research and a note at the end of the book reveal the author's full disclosure though: his purpose was to fictionalize Caesar's dry historical account in order to make it readable for the contemporary world. I'm not sure how I feel about this: while I feel it is a laudable enterprise, I think less of myself if I need fictionalization of the classics in order to access them. That's why I just started reading De Bello Gallico and will take up on Fronto's next adventures as soon as I finish it. So I'm guessing it's good then: a book that makes me read another book is always a good sign.

I do prefer fictionalizations in the style Charles Frazier writes, heavily documented and filling in with licences only when historical sources are mute. I did expect the main character, Fronto, to be drawn from some document or funerary stella and was a bit disappointed upon finding out it has not been the case. But Mr. Turney is excused considering this novel is spun solely out of passion for ancient Rome and he is not (or was not, at the time of writing) a professional writer.

That is not to say Marius' Mules is not heavily documented: on the contrary, the reader will be introduced to a lot of Roman terminology, way of thinking and military strategy. So much so that the book reminded me at times of Sun Tzu's Art of War. And I was always itching to play Rome: Total War and recreate Fronto's battles. It is just the characters that are plucked out of thin air, but they're all rounded out so well that it makes them all entirely credible.

An author's stated intention and a big plus of the book is to look at the men behind Caesar's successes and how they contributed to them. It is obvious that Julius Caesar could not have become the great commander he was without a number of supporters, but it is very easy to overlook the people whose name left no mark on the historical records.

A fault of the story is the chapter investigating the low morale of the army just before meeting the representatives of the Aedui tribes, and for now I cannot tell if the sub-plot is too thin because of the writing, because of the sources or due to a discrepancy between the Roman and the Western contemporary way of thinking. I did protest throughout about some lines that sound very British and very out of place when said by a Roman soldier, but I guess there's no getting around this: a Roman soldier would have an equivalent that would make little to no sense when translated literally from Latin. Another way around this would have been writing the whole damn book in Latin, but then we'd be talking about a completely different sort of an enterprise.

Just one last mention, and a very striking one at that: there is a very strong cinematographic feel to the book. Movements and costumes are described in so much detail that it would be a struggle not to view the action as a motion picture in the reader's mind. This book almost screams about being turned into a TV mini-series. I hope it will be, sooner rather than later and I would make an attempt at doing it myself, would it not be for the historical costumes and the huge number of extras involved, details that spell big budget production all along.

And that's pretty much it. I will probably have to say a lot more about not only Fronto, but also the likes of Aulus Crispus, Balbus or Ingenuus at the end of the seventh book. I am convinced that, would I have read this as a child, or even in my teen years, Fronto would have become one of my heroes, along with Winnetou the Apache, Tarzan of the Apes, D'Artagnan or Robin Hood. I can only hope that there is still a generation of kids out there who get their heroes from fictionalized history rather than Disney merchandise.
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Marius' Mules I: The Invasion of Gaul
Marius' Mules I: The Invasion of Gaul by S.J.A. Turney (Paperback - 18 Nov 2010)
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