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Warrior of Rome I: Fire in the East Paperback – 1 Apr 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 146 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; paperback / softback edition (1 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141032294
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141032290
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 59,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A well-constructed, well-paced and gripping account -- Times Literary Supplement

An exceptionally gifted storyteller -- Tim Severin

Harry Sidebottom's epic tale starts with a chilling assassination and goes on, and up, from there
-- Professor Mary Beard, Chair of Classics, University of Oxford

Sidebottom's prose blazes with searing scholarship -- The Times

The best sort of red-blooded historical fiction -- Andrew Taylor

`A well-constructed, well-paced and gripping account' -- Times Literary Supplement

`Harry Sidebottom's epic tale starts with a chilling assassination and goes on, and up, from there' -- Professor Mary Beard, Chair of Classics, University of Cambridge

`I don't think I've ever experienced antiquity so directly: the brutality, the directness of expression and feeling, the deep bonds formed amid unmitigated violence' -- Professor David Konstan, Professor of Classics, Brown University

`It's the best sort of red-blooded historical fiction - solidly based on a profound understanding of what it meant to be alive in a particular time and place'
-- Andrew Taylor, Author of THE AMERICAN BOY

`Sidebottom's prose blazes with searing scholarship' -- The Times

Review

`A well-constructed, well-paced and gripping account'

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For a novel about the Roman world to succeed, in my opinion, it needs to combine historical accuracy, authority even, with an immediacy that snaps me out of the 21st century. I need to believe that the lives and events I am reading about could have existed, even if I know that they didn't. It needn't take much to throw a reader out of a historical novel but when the author is Harry Sidebottom the reader - and the characters- are in safe hands.

Harry Sidebottom is a Lecturer of Ancient History at the University of Oxford. By definition, that should mean that he knows his stuff. And indeed he does but it's the way that he carries this expertise that makes his Warrior of Rome series (or at least the quarter of it that I've read) so believable and readable. It helps, of course, that the series takes place during a difficult time in Roman history, the troubled third century, when more than one emperor was attempting to hold sway at the same time. The action also takes place in the mysterious east, in Syria, on the edges of the retreating empire. On both counts, Fire in the East is different from many other Roman military novels.

Fire in the East introduces us to Ballista, the long-haired barbarian from the north, an Angle, who has risen from dubious origins (to say the least) to be a commander of the Roman army. His mission is to fortify the city of Arete in Syria and hold it against the Persian King of Kings at all cost. Ballista has to dig in, win the favour of the mixed community within the city, and use all his wit, guile and courage to protect Arete from the thousands of soldiers and hoards camped around the city's walls.

With Ballista is his familia, gathered from across the empire, including Greeks and Spaniards.
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Format: Paperback
Other comments on this book have suggested it stands out from the competition because it is set during the decline of Rome. For me it stands out because it moves away from the common soldier and lower ends of society which is the perspecive used in other novels of this kind. The hero is a German favourite of the Emperor who is tasked to lead the defence of a town on the border of Roman-Sassanid territory.

The book divides into 3 parts - the journey to Arete, the preparations for the seige, and the seige itself. The novel contains naval warfare, spies, assassins, and a few twists and turns as well. Some story threads are left, presumably to be concluded in later books.

If you enjoy the Scarrow series of 'Eagle' books, Iggulden, or Jackson's Caligula you will enjoy this.
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Format: Hardcover
I have always been a keen reader of historical novels, especially covering the Roman to medieval periods. Warrior of Rome by Harry Sidebottom is set in the third century AD, when the Roman Empire had passed it's zenith and follows the character of Ballista, a northern barbarian in the service of the empire, who is sent to defend a border city against a threat from the east. As you would expect from a Fellow of Archaeology and Classical Art at the University of Oxford, this book has been carefully researched and is well written. Set on the borders of the Roman Empire, the story unfolds with irresistible momentum, bringing to life a violent and turbulent period. The characters are skilfully developed against a backdrop of everyday and political life in the period, heightened by the portrayal of exceptionally vivid scenes of siege warfare.
This is an exciting novel by a promising new author, which interweaves history and adventure to recreate a cracking good read in the style and class of Conn Iggulden and Bernard Cornwell. I found it difficult to put down. Now I can't wait for the next book in this promising series.
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By Parm TOP 500 REVIEWER on 15 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
Having taken a trawl through some of the reviews on here i am somewhat surprised at certain comments.
Ok the book is not an Iggulden, who lets face it is a natural fireside story teller, and he is not a Scarrow, who cuts straight to the action and delivers brilliantly real characters. But why do we want the same, surely we want something different, something new.
There seems to be a lot of Jump on the author for being an academic and oh no ...adding too much history to a historical fiction novel, now i for one don't want a text book when I'm reading fiction, if i want that i pick up a text book. But i want to be educated where possible, so bravo Mr Sidebottom, a book that entertains and educates, for me it was a real winner, one that i enjoyed.
Yes its a slow burner in comparison to others in the genre, but I'm happy with that and when i buy your future books (which i will be) then i will know to read them at a time that I'm in the mood for slow burn, great characters, great history, great plots, and well told tales.

Please keep it up and don't listen to those who say too much detail...just keep it tempered with the flowing blood and guts action. (Parm)
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By JPS TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 Mar. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book, which I bought from Amazon in 2008 but failed to review at the time, is, I believe, Harry Sidebottom's best so far. It is certainly the one that established his reputation as a writer of historical fiction. He is, of course, a Lecturer of Ancient History at Oxford, meaning that he can be expected to know his topic. This, however, is neither a prerequisite for writting a good historical book of fiction (Bernard Cornwell is not a historian, unless I am mistaken), neither is it always an asset (see, for instance, Victor David Hanson's painfully embarrassing The End of Sparta, which I started to read almost three months ago and still have not had the courage to pick up again and finish).

Essentially, I found Fire in the East excellent because it ticks all of my boxes for what a great historical novel should be, while mostly, if not entirely, avoiding the main pitfalls.

To start with the latter, one of the main pitfalls to which historians writting novels may be subject to is a tendancy to display their knowledge. This is often felt as pedantic, at best, or even pretentious, even by those who share a level of knowledge similar to the author's. As some of you will see if you scroll down all of the numerous reviews that this book has attracted, Sidebottom has not been able to entirely avoid this problem. However, such accusations are often quite unfair or even rather pointless. There can be many reasons for an author to display knowledge, apart from showing off. One of the most common reasons among historians is that he may have a passion for his subject and a wish to share what he knows about it with others, including the non-specialized readers.
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