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Fortress of Spears: Empire III (Empire series) Paperback – 29 Mar 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 173 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (29 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340920386
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340920381
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 90,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

This is fast-paced and gripping "read-through-the-night" fiction, with marvellous characters and occasional moments of dark humour. Some authors are better historians than they are storytellers. Anthony Riches is brilliant at both. (Conn Iggulden)

A damn fine read . . . fast-paced, action-packed. (Ben Kane)

Stands head and shoulders above a crowded field . . . . real, live characters act out their battles on the northern borders with an accuracy of detail and depth of raw emotion that is a rare combination. (Manda Scott)

Book Description

The Romans take the fight north from Hadrian's Wall - to the enemy's greatest stronghold.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 May 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'll not paraphrase the praise that has been heaped on A. Riches for Fortress of Spears but will only make a few comments. First, it is relatively rare for the third installement in a series to be as good as the first two. For me at least, only Scarrow, Cornwell and Cameron have managed to do this. Second, one of the author's forte - which he almost overdoes at times - is his very realistic descriptions of the horrors of war. Somebody has compared him to the lamented Pressfield and there is something to it, although Gates of Fire - for me at least - is still a notch above. Nevertheless, it is superbly written but with a few cliches (the blue-eyed hero fighting gladiator-style with the two swords etc...), although these may be difficult to avoid. As another commentator mentioned, the frumentarii (a mix of secret service and imperial assassins) are depicted as having little choice than to carry out their orders and do their job. However, this is not entirely true since they also seem to take great pleasure in it...
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the third book of the series, I think Anthony Riches has surpassed the previous books with the story and the first two were fantastic. The action comes thick, fast and quickly, as soon as you open the book and that's fast and there's little let up throughout in an intriguing story that gets better with each page. The bone crunching, blood letting and all out fury of ancient warfare is brought to life so vividly that you almost have to check yourself to make sure you haven't been splashed with blood or wounded whilst reading.

It isn't all smash and gore however, as Mr Riches combines those elements with a story that splits into different arcs where he introduces new characters, kills some off and has laugh out loud humour in certain things the characters say to each other or 'at each other'. Ultimately the story brings all tribal elements and Romans together for the final battle and a few issues that need to be dealt with at The Fortress of Spears.

Central to all this is Marcus Aquila, aka Centurion Corvus who has been taken refuge with the Tungrians after the murder of his father in Rome. As the Hyenas of the Praetorian Guard close in on Aquila and his allies on their mission to destroy him and those who have given him shelter, the book takes you way beyond Hadrian's Wall and deep into enemy territory where the hostile environment wears the soldiers down and those with Calgus are on home soil and work to eliminate those who are not indigenous to the region and some who are.

I won't spoil the story for those who want to read it with specific details but suffice to say, if you like a fascinating story that's authentic, action packed, full of humour, a torrid journey in a horrible environment and descriptive scenes that may make you wince, Fortress of Spears is a book for you as it was for me. Anthony Riches has without doubt ramped up every element in this book, buy it, you will not be disappointed.
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With no time for us, or hero Marcus Aquila, to draw breath, the third instalment in Anthony Riches' superb Empire series pushes Centurion `Corvus' even further north, beyond Hadrian's Wall, in pursuit of lord Calgus, who has now committed more than one personal atrocity against the young, wronged Roman officer. Some we know about from the previous two books in the series but the latest is a shocker and sets the pace for Fortress of Spears. However, too merciless even for the locals opposing Rome, Calgus is now a prisoner of the very tribes he sought to unite. They head north and the Second Tungrians, including Corvus, are on his trail. Their goal is the Fortress of Spears, the northern fort of Dinpaladyr, famous for its deadly defences.

Life is even more complicated for Marcus now, he is in love with Felicia, the soldiers' doctor. The possibility of future happiness tantalises Marcus but Rome and Commodus are getting nearer and are more determined than ever to uncover the identity of the supposed traitor Marcus Aquila. Two frumentarii - corn collectors or spies - are sent after Marcus, travelling relentlessly though this most dangerous of borders, accompanied by murderers and rapists. There is one clear way for the spies to distract Marcus from his determined quest for Calgus and that is to kidnap his love. But Marcus is not alone. He is surrounded and supported by a group of prefects, decurions, first spears and centurions that we have grown to care deeply for over the preceding two books. These feelings only intensify in Fortress of Spears.

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I've waited until I finished the third book in this series before posting a review of any of them, and for a particular reason. Most of the historical series I've read consist of a new separate story with each book, often defined by a narrator's pause or some such device. Most series are different stories with different themes that build a series.

Wile clearly part of a series, Tony's first three Empire books are different. To me they follow on so closely and seamlessly that the series so far could easily be seen as one huge story spread over three books with appropriate pauses between releases. The stories are readable independently, for sure, but the best will be got from them by reading them one after the other. Quite simply, you can't read one book of this series without wanting to go on with the story. In order to get the best from the story, you need to read them all, and for the best possible results, I would suggest back-to-back.

A second thing that I would say that concerns each of Tony's works is what I consider his greatest strength as an author: The gritty military reality of his tale-telling. I have spent some time in my life, in a civilian situation but alongside men of military units, and there is something so authentic about Tony's characterisation that it felt truly familiar and real. You will find it hard to disbelieve anything about Tony's depiction of the legions, auxiliary troopers, the cavalry, their structure, style, attitude and actions. While no one can confirm exactly how soldiers then spoke and acted, it's hard to believe they were any different from the modern military and Tony has made these ancient soldiers understandable and relevant to the modern reader.
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