Shop now Shop now Shop now Up to 70% off Fashion Shop All Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Amazon Fire TV Amazon Pantry Food & Drink Beauty Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Listen in Prime Shop now Shop now
Customer Review

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fortress of Spears, 29 April 2011
This review is from: Fortress of Spears: Empire III (Empire series) (Hardcover)
"Fortress of Spears" marks the third outing for Antony Riches' erstwhile hero, Marcus Aquila - aka Centurion Corvus - of the 2nd Tungrian Auxiliaries, set in 2nd Century Roman Britain.

Fresh from the climatic battle of "Arrows of Fury", Riches wastes no time in throwing young Marcus back into the fight and the opening of `Fortress' is a bloody mosaic of shield crunching action. What sets Riches apart from many of his peers is his ability to write the big set-piece piece battle, the one-to-one fight scene or the dirty little skirmish with equal aplomb. Anyone who has read the author's previous two works will know that his brand of action comes with a healthy dose of realism. In Riches' world, war is a stinking, filthy business - and a dangerous one to boot.

Riches is heartless with his readers in this aspect: characters - well loved characters in some cases - are killed. Sometimes with drama, but more often than not, with little ceremony in the prose. Someone falls in battle scene, we're not sure who, only that it's a centurion or a tribune (for instance)... only later do we discover who has died and the impact it has on the men that have lived with, worked with and fought alongside him for long.

For me, this is one of Riches' greatest strength as a writer: his merciless pragmatism about the horror warfare. The reality he brings to these action sequences, the confusion, the fear and indeed the heroism of the men - on both sides - is brought into stark relief in a way I've not read since Pressfield's "Gates of Fire."

All that said, it would be wrong to think that this novel (and the others in the "Empire" sequence) survive on action alone. Each of the characters are well drawn and fully realised. The hunted Marcus Aquila, the indefatigable Dubnus, the grizzled Frontinius and more, each has their own motivations and raison d'etre that go far beyond simple plot mechanics.

In this latest outing, Riches throws some new faces into the mix, the nominal villains Rapax and Tiberius Varius Excingus. I say nominal, because in Riches' brutally real Britannia, these men are only serving their emperor and doing what it takes to get their job done.

In this case, their job is to hunt down and kill Marcus Aquila. And they're fully prepared to do what it takes to get it done.

It's rare that so much care is lavished over the antagonists, and I can't help but think that the author was particularly gleeful in his execution of these two `frumentarii' (translated literally as `corn collectors' but this was a nom de voyage for the emperor's secret service). Rapax and Excingus blaze a bloody and ruthless trail through Britannia, using every advantage available to them to bring their quarry down - up to and including the kidnapping of his pregnant wife-to-be. Nice guys these are not, but as depicted by Riches, you understand why they do what they do. Except, perhaps, these chaps enjoy their jobs a little too much for you warm to them!

The plot of Fortress of Spears is multi-faceted, taking us with Marcus on his journey to the titular stronghold, the quest of the frumentarii to bring him down, the newly made Centurion Dubnus and his mission to retrain a failed squad into effective soldiers and much more besides. By focusing on the auxillaries rather than the legions, Riches affords himself - and us - a broader range of military action than would otherwise be feasible. Anyone that has read the first two novels in the series will realise that Riches is taking us through the various arms of the Roman military. "Wounds of Honour" is primarily an infantry novel, "Arrows of Fury" focuses on the archers and here, in "Fortress of Spears" we get a grunt's eye view of the cavalry unequalled since Breem's "Eagle in the Snow."

I think that with "Fortress of Spears", Riches has come of age. The Empire series as a whole are amongst the finest historical fiction novels I've ever read, but "Fortress of Spears" is the best to date. A good sign, as the author is getting better and better, book by book.

Riches writes with an effortless style but his works are anything but light-touch. Sumptuously researched, action-packed and containing plot lines that twist, turn and surprise, these novels are a must for any reader of historical fiction. No longer a new voice in the genre, Riches is setting a new benchmark in quality for the action-historical.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
 

Comments


Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Nov 2011 12:27:34 GMT
Mike Reed says:
A very good write-up Russ. I've read it before, very precise. Mike Reed.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details