Top positive review
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A superb, outstanding and unmatched Late Roman novel.
on 24 June 2013
This is an outstanding novel, and I mean that quite literally too - I can't think of any other novels or authors that get the reader to feel and become as immersed in this period as Francis Hagan does. While it is somewhat short, I guess this is understandable as part of a trilogy, and especially more so if one compare's it to his previous book - The Nowhere Legion - which was considerably longer and heavier going in places. In spite of this, I was pleasantly surprised that the novel suffers from no loss of depth or quality and that if anything the writing feels considerably stronger and the story flows at a very good pace.
The author clearly knows his history and his research into the subject and the gritty and forlorn Late Roman era is simply faultless. He does a tremendous job at portraying this rich and complex time in history, with the now irreversible decline of Paganism, the constant power games between Rome, Persia and the Armenians, in an enthralling and compelling story of shame and treachery through the standards of two legions and the eyes of a number of characters, all of which are very well fleshed out and with their own motivations and takes on this fascinating world. I very much enjoyed the extra attention paid to these as they really make the novel go above and beyond the already beautifully written and immersive story, compelling me to turn the pages and read on as I savour the little details and vignettes the writer has weaved into this tale. There are a few points in the novel which really make the reader stop and go "wow" with the quality of some of the scenes, you really have to take a minute to think over and appreciate just how brilliantly put together and written it is and how it makes you feel.
The prose is just so vibrant and the way the author describes a city or a battle, the day to day goings of a Legion or even the machinations and schemes of those men (and women!) in power - it is all so detailed and compelling that you really do feel you are there not so much as reading but rather seeing events unfold with your own eyes, and then with the very thoughts, prejudices, hopes and feelings of someone from that time. It is a skill I know very few authors to posses, to not only make you care, but to care and think as if you were seeing this tale unfold as a contemporary and not just through the eager but ultimately detached eyes of a modern reader.
All in all, this is a superb read. Whether you read it as someone familiar with the era or wanting to get a glimpse into that murky and elusive world, this is a must. I can't think of any other author who even gets close to matching Francis Hagan in his narrative prowess when it comes to this fascinating period. I eagerly await the next two novels; they can't come soon enough!