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The Eagles of Rome - Book I (Les Aigles de Rome)
The Eagles of Rome - Book I (Les Aigles de Rome)
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Eagles of Rome, 3 Aug. 2016
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The Eagles of Rome is an English language translation of the series of books by Swiss-born Italian artist and writer, Enrico Marini. Sadly, the book is only available Kindle format, but hopefully there will be hardback and paperback editions, similar to the ones available to Italian, Spanish and French readers.

The book follows the adventures of a half Roman/half German nobleman named Falco, an arrogant hot-headed young man, and his barbarian counterpart, the Cherusci Prince - Ermanamer - better known by his latinised name Arminius. Anyone familiar with the history of the Early Empire will at least have some idea of how this story will unfold in later books, but so far it's early days as we follow Falco and Arminius through their teenage and young adult years as they grow up in the Italian countryside, before making their way into the Roman Army. In some ways this series follows the same events as Ben Kane's series of novels, also called 'Eagles of Rome', but it does so in very different ways.

The artwork and storytelling are both excellent, and a lot of historical attention to detail has gone into the look of the series - all in all this is a rather accurate rendering or Rome during the Early Principate. Also you can easily tell that this book was a labour of love for Marini - each panel is beautifully illustrated and painted. At only 60+ pages long, my only wish was that the book had been longer but luckily there are other books in the series, as well as more on the way in the future. A caveat though. Despite being a comic book this is certainly not aimed at children. There are graphic depictions of violence, sex, nudity, and swearing in the book, so be advised.

Overall - if you are a fan of Ancient Rome or just love a good comic book adventure, this book ought to go on your reading list. Here's hoping for a hardback or paperback version in the future!


The Age of Charlemagne: Warfare in Western Europe, 750-1000 AD (Men-at-Arms)
The Age of Charlemagne: Warfare in Western Europe, 750-1000 AD (Men-at-Arms)
by Dr David Nicolle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Age of Charlemagne, 10 July 2016
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Age of Charlemagne is an old classic first published over 30 years ago by one of Osprey's most prolific writers, Dr. David Nicolle. Charlemagne's impact on European history has been noted by many acclaimed historians, but inspite of this there's a real lack of popular works about the man or his times. There's even less about his army, and so this book fills a useful gap in that regard.

I'm not well versed on the subject at all, and as a result I'm not very familiar with any strides made by academics on the topic of Charlemagne's military since 1984, but I found this an interesting if slightly dry introduction to this field of research. The book covers most aspects of Charlemagne's military, such as equipment, organisation and arms and armour, as well as a very short and broad potted history of his reign (complete with chronology). At 48 pages, this book cannot hope to get into too much detail, but I was surprised about the amount of topics covered - it's not simply about Charlemagne's forces but it includes other topics such as very brief overviews of the armies of his enemies such as the Avars and Saxons, as well as outsiders but contemporaries such as the Vikings up to the eleventh century (which is far outside Charlemagne's lifetime) .

The book contains basic black and white maps and photographs, but the highlights include several pages of full colour artwork by the renowned historical artist Angus McBride. It would be worth getting this book just for the colour plates. All in all, a good book.


The Late Roman Army
The Late Roman Army
by Gabriele Esposito
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.98

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Late Roman Army, 10 July 2016
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This review is from: The Late Roman Army (Paperback)
First things first, I've been struggling on whether to award this book a three star or four star rating as it's something of a curate's egg. I suppose it's a three and a half or more/less depending on what you want to get out of it. As a guide for wargamers and miniature artists you'd rate it much higher, but as a history book you might rate it lower.

As far as the positive features go, I'm glad that someone has finally taken the time to write a popular history book on the Late Roman Army. There's dozens of well illustrated and accessible books on the armies of the late Republic and Imperial Periods, but nothing on the later eras. As a result I was looking forward to this book's release. The illustrations and colour plates by Giuseppe Rava are excellent - they are vivid and expressive, and would sit quite well alongside any 'Osprey Military' title. The icing on the cake is that there's quite a few of them too.

The text by Gabrielle Esposito is readable and accessible. Esposito is a historian with an interest in 19th century colonial history, and as a result his writing, although easy to read, is not authoritative. Much of the sources used for book are fairly simple - a few Osprey books here and there, and some pop history works as well. Few of the works used are modern academic titles ( I counted less than five), although to be be fair it's a select bibliography and is in no way exhaustive.

More disturbing is that quite a lot of the research is based on Wikipedia articles. These are largley unreliable as their content can be easily edited and vandalised by amateurs, and their use as citations by students in essays is often frowned upon by scholars and university professors for these reasons. It's true that some smaller topical articles can be maintained by a dedicated team of experts but usually that's the exception and not the rule when it comes to Wikipedia; so to see its use in a history book is not very promising. Quite a number of pictures, maps and diagrams (such as the 'High Command Structure' diagrams on pgs. 68-69) have been lifted directly from wikipedia too. Some of the text found in the book, especially the section on the Laeti (pgs. 41-45), seems to have been heavily influenced by the respective wikipedia article.

You should never judge a book by its cover as the old saying goes, but there's little doubt that this book has somewhat low production values. The front and back cover look as if they have been hastily assembled, although to be fair it would seem that the book is published by a small team and therefore they cannot afford to produce some of the glossy and expensive productions of Osprey Publishing and Pen & Sword books.

Also, as the other reviewers have noted - the book has been printed on very poor quality paper - it's flimsy, thin, and delicate and just like tracing paper you can see the text/images on the next page through the one you are reading. Another problem that arises from this is that some of the illustrations tend to be very grainy or washed out, while others look like pixellated low resolution digital images that have been re-sized and have lost their sharpness. It's disappointing to to see this considering the high price (£20+) that's been asked for the book.

Overall, the book is quite flawed. Rava's illustrations are fantastic, and the final third of the book - pages 86 to 147 - is useful for miniature artists and wargamers working on their shield emblems from the Notitia Dignitatum ( lots of pages of colour images of shields) but it's of little use to casual readers and amateurs as the latin terminology and lack of framework (where were the units stationed?, what was their purpose? etc) makes their inclusion difficult to fathom.

It would be best to purchase this book (mostly for the colour plates) after the price has dropped as for the moment it's too expensive considering much of the information included within the book can be found for free online. I'd recommend it as a illustrative guide for Wargamers but this is not the definitive pop history of the Late Roman Army I'd hoped it would be, although the author deserves kudos for paving the way for what will, hopefully, be accessible and well illustrated titles on this subject in the future.


Planet Dinosaur [DVD]
Planet Dinosaur [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nigel Paterson
Price: £5.55

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but Slightly Outdated, 10 April 2016
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This review is from: Planet Dinosaur [DVD] (DVD)
This fascinating BBC documentary was first broadcasted in 2009, and as John Hurt's gravelly voiced narrator informs us at the start of every episode "We are living through the golden age of dinosaur discoveries." The downside to living in such a golden age is that a lot of the information imparted in this show is now obsolete, despite there being only seven years since its inception.

Take for instance the depiction of the famous Spinosaurus as seen on the cover. Recent research from 2014 has shown that Spinosaurus didn't walk around like a two legged theropod but would have had looked more like a frilled (or perhaps even hunchbacked) crocodile - having short stubby hind legs. Some Paleontologists even think it may have used its arms like a chimpanzee by walking on its knuckles!

Recent research also shows that Tyrannosaurids may have had significant feathery covering across most of their bodies (the jury is still out on T. rex ). The same can be said for a lot of the Cretaceous period Coelosaurian Theropods, but to the show's credit they do dedicate an entire episode to the lesser known 'feathered dragons'.

Overall this programme is still very informative and entertaining. The CGI reconstructions stand up well considering the show's age and budget; while Hurt's narration lends gravitas to the various depictions of prehistoric life.

Far more attention is paid to the scientific background to the reconstructions compared to 1999's Walking with Dinosaurs, but at the end of the day it's light viewing; and it never manages to capture the grandeur of the BBC's earlier documentary. Parents ought to take note though that the programme can get a bit gory sometimes.

All in all it's definitely one to watch for anyone interested in the Prehistoric past, even if some of the reconstructions have become dated.


Legions of the North: With visitor information (Trade Editions)
Legions of the North: With visitor information (Trade Editions)
by Michael Simkins
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Legions of the North, 2 April 2016
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Legions of the North is a 44 Paged so-called 'tourist' guide book published by Osprey in 2000. I say so-called because the reality is that it's actually a repackaged copy of Osprey's earlier title 'Men-at-Arms 93: The Roman Army from Hadrian to Constantine' from 1979. They've changed the cover and added a new title, which they've justified by adding a small map of Northern England to the back cover. This map includes some of the key locations of Roman sites from across Hadrian's Wall.

Overall, despite the book's age it's still worth getting as it's an informative and well illustrated guide to the Roman Army from the late Principate to the early Dominate period c. AD 150-300. Just don't expect too much information on Rome's prescence in Northern Britain at this time. Also please note that if you already have a copy of Simkins and Embleton's The Roman Army from Hadrian to Constantine (1979) then there's no need to purchase this book.


Celts, The (Peoples of the Past S.)
Celts, The (Peoples of the Past S.)
by Robin Place
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The Iron Age Resurrected, 2 April 2016
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You may well ask yourself what's the point in buying a forty year old children's history book that's been out of print for decades? Personally I bought it because I have very fond memories of reading a worn out old copy of this book from the school library as a kid. Sure, it's not exactly scholarly, and in many ways Robin Place's text is badly out of date - take for instance the claim that the Celts originated in Central Europe in c. 700 BC - something that's been overturned in recent years.

Yet for me, one of the main attractions were the colourful, deatiled and archaeologically sound reconstructions of Iron Age life by the renowned illustrator and historian Peter Connolly. His paintings of Celtic life, such as two ferocious duelling warriors, Druidic ceremonies, and family life around the hearth help bring this distant and mysterious era back to life. It's such a shame that in the four decades since this book's publication there haven't been any other works on Iron Age life that have attempted to illustrate the era so beautifully as Connolly achieved with 'The Celts'. Simply put, it's worth getting a copy of this book just for illustrations alone, and they sit quite nicely along Connolly's other books from ther era such as The Roman Army (1975), The Greek Armies (1977), and Hannibal and the Enemies of Rome (1978).


Attila the Hun (Command)
Attila the Hun (Command)
by Nic Fields
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Introductionary title on Attila the Hun, 14 Dec. 2015
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This book, at only 64 pages long, should act as a short introduction to the life and times of Attila the Hun. Obviously you're not going to get much information from this book as you would from other more academic titles, so unless you're a diehard Osprey collector or someone who knows next to nothing about the infamous king of the Huns, there isn't much point in getting this book.

As an introduction it keeps the information short, sweet and easily digestable. Like a typical Osprey book it contains plenty of maps, photographs and some excellent colour plates courtesy of Steve Noon. This book also deals lightly with controversial topics such as the supposed origins of the Huns - were they the Xiongnu of ancient Chinese records, ord did they originate elsewhere in central Asia? The author Nic fields treads the traditional line and avoids some of the modern scholarship presented by Dr. Christopher Kelly on his work on the Hunnic King.

The book has some weak points, but that's mostly to do with the format. It's obvious that the 'Command' series of Osprey books were written with modern commanders in mind, as some sections of the book make little sense when you consider the dearth of primary sources from Attila's era. For instance in one part of the book we have a section that attemtps to delve into the mind of the general - this makes sense for men like Churchill, Napoleon etc where there's plenty of letters, diaries or other materials written by the men in question, but for the illiterate Hun leader we have nothing except descriptions by Romans, or a Gothic account written over a century after his death.

All in all though, this isn't too bad. It's nicely written, the illustrations are great, and you could easily read it in one sitting. I'd recommend it as a good introductionary title, but those looking for something a bit meatier might be better served reading Professor Christopher Kelly's 'The End of Empire: Attila the Hun & Fall of Rome' or even John Man's lighterweight travelouge/history book on Attila the Hun .


Godzilla [Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]
Godzilla [Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Price: £7.99

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Roar or Bore?, 22 Nov. 2014
I really, really wanted to like this film but there's no getting behind how average it is. I suppose like many others I got duped by the teaser trailer that came out before the film's release which focused on some portentous dialogue delivered by Bryan Cranston over scenes of carnage. This trailer seemed to deliver two false messages about the film - one, that Bryan Cranston would feature prominently in the film; and two - that Godzilla would be delivering lots of carnage and destruction. Suffice to say, both of these things play little role in Gareth Edward's 2014 remake.

The film does have many positives as well as negatives. I liked how this Godzilla looks more like the original Toho Films version from Japan in comparison to the Emmerich/Devlin version of 1998. I also liked how the director holds back from the action every now and then. The film would have been dull if it was just two hours of monster mayhem.

Unfortunately though this film pulls too far in the other direction. There is far too much focus on the dull human characters and their trials and tribulations. Focusing on the human drama rather than the monster can work well in films like Spielberg's Jaws, when the characters themselves are dynamic and interesting, and there is chemistry between the actors.
Sadly I didn't care much for Aaron Taylor-Johnson's soldier and bomb disposal expert - Ford Brody. A large chunk of the film follows his attempts to get back home to his wife and son in San Francisco, but we rarely get to see them interacting with each other - perhaps ten minutes at best - and so there's no reason to care about them. It doesn't help that the dialogue is rather forgettable and that Ford and the others are all one dimensional.

The rest of the human-centred scenes focus on that old favourite trope of the 1950's B-movie - scenes of scientists and military personnel discussing the monster in portentous dialogue while looking at maps, screens and graphs; like in the 1953 film version of the War of the Worlds. The only thing that's missing are scenes of the US President speaking with his advisors. These scenes help raise the tension somewhat, but they drag on and there is far too much of them.

After more than two hours of these scenes we finally get to the big monster fight at the end... and it's disappointing. Every single scene with Godzilla in the entire movie only adds up to around seven minutes - and most of those are shots of his foot, leg, arm, or back; or blurry footage seen on TV news screens in the background. I suppose the director put these in to raise the tension before the big reveal but they don't make much sense as we all know what Godzilla looks like anyway. He's a 60 year old cultural icon - we don't need to be teased as if he's some unknown creature like Cloverfield! I mean he even features prominently on the DVD/Blu-Ray cover.

The final battle lasts around five minutes and it's impossible to make out what's going on. The fighting takes place in pitch black with lots of smoke and dust whirling around - so I honestly couldn't figure out what was happening. I read afterwards that this or that happened in the battle - but I can't confirm anything as I might as well have watched this part with the sound on and the visuals off. I couldn't even tell you how Godzilla disposes with one of the key enemies of the film.

After having to wade through two hours of dull scene-setting for an anti-climax, I can say that this film has failed to live up to the hype. It feels like what it actually is - an origin movie in a film franchise, rather than a good stand alone title. I half expected the end credits to roll up with 'Godzilla will return in Godzilla 2: King Ghidorah's Vengeance'. I sincerely hope the sequels will pick up steam.

Overall, Godzilla is a hit and miss. It has some memorable scenes such as his arrival in Hawaii, and some good performances from Bryan Cranston and Ken Watanabe. Overall though it feels too much like a compromise between the original 1954 version, some of the old Toho Monster battle sequels, and the 1998 American remake rather than a truly original take on the much loved 'King of the Monsters'.


Pompey (Command)
Pompey (Command)
by Nic Fields
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnus or Carnifex?, 15 May 2013
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This review is from: Pompey (Command) (Paperback)
Pompey will always play second fiddle to his one time friend - and later rival - Julius Caesar. Having been on the losing side of the Civil War, Pompey's earlier career tends to be overlooked as nothing more than a prelude to Caesar's ultimate glory. So does Pompey deserve title conferred on him by Sulla of 'Magnus' the Great?

Nic Fields does a great job with the material on offer. Trying to condense the life of a towering figure like Pompey into 40+ pages is no mean feat, but Dr. Fields succeeds admirably. He analyses the whole of Pompey's career, from his early years as the 'Teenage butcher' of Sulla's regime to the Civil War era. Most of the emphasis though is on his campaigns in Spain against Quintus Sertorius, the Roman general turned rebel, as well as his famous 'blitzkrieging' of the Mediterranean pirates. Attention is also paid to his Eastern campaigns, from his stealing the victory against Mithridates from Lucullus (something he also did to Crassus during the famous Third Servile War) and his short siege of Jerusalem.

Along the way, Dr. Field's discusses the subject of what makes a good general, with frequent references to the work of the famous Napoleonic era military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz; and whether Pompey fits the criteria. Was he really a great commander or just an egotistical monster with a knack for taking the limelight? Has Pompey's reputation being tarnished by his loss at the hands of Caesar, and does his career deserve a re-evaluation?

The book is a joy to read, and shows how far Dr.Field's prose has come since the rather dry 'Roman Civil Wars: 88-31 BC' (2008). The book also contains a few great colour plates courtesy of Peter Dennis, along with the usual photographs, diagrams and maps that come with Osprey titles. All in all this an excellent short introduction to this fascinating figure of the late Roman Republi. Highly Recommended


Assassin's Creed III (Exclusive Edition)[PS3]
Assassin's Creed III (Exclusive Edition)[PS3]
Offered by bnhlmt
Price: £20.69

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Parkouring the Shark, 5 Jan. 2013
When thinking about Assassin's Creed 3 that familiar idiom pops into my mind - 'jumping the shark'. For movies you have Indiana Jones's 'nuking the fridge', but for video games I know of no equivalent. One thing I have realised is that whenever a succesful franchise approaches the 18th century, the quality begins to decline considerably. Consider the classic PC strategy series 'Age of Empires' or the 'Total War' saga; both had much loved titles set in earlier periods, but when they reached the Revolutionary War period, they produced duds in the form of Age of Empires III and Empire: Total War. Assassin's Creed 3 follows in their ignoble footsteps.

The original Assassin's Creed was a fun if incomplete experience. Feeling more like a Beta version of the real thing, the first Creed showed great potential at least. That potential was fulfilled with the Renaissance era sequel, AC2, and its excellent add-on 'Brotherhood'. Revelations on the other hand was a bit of a let down considering the success of Brotherhood but it was still a good game, albeit being a diluted and directionless re-hash. Because of the disappointment of Revelations I had low expectations for AC3, as I felt the New World setting wasn't as interesting as the Holy Land or Italy. At the very least though, I expected to be entertained by AC3; but even with lowered expectations this game still managed to disappoint.

First off I'd like to point out to fans of the series that Ubisoft have once again gone and changed the controls, and this time it's definitely for the worse. It's incredibly frustrating trying to fight your way across this game, as most of the challenge seems to come from battling the controls rather than the game's antagonists. The controls for AC were never perfect but now they are much worse, lacking the intuitveness of previous titles. As a result the fights lack fluidity, while running or jumping from one place to the next feels clunky. Why on earth have Ubisoft done this? It's like forcing someone to read a book backwards and up side down, even though it's everyone second nature to do it the other way round.

There are other frustrations and failings that other reviewers have mentioned below. These include what feels like an interminable intro that acts like a tutorial (and a very unhelpful one at that) that runs about halfway into the game, which is around 5 to 7 hours long. This intro acts as exposition too, showing the protagonist's background and life story. Unfortunately it's incredibly dull and involves nothing more than carrying out the most trivial tasks such as playing a game of hide and seek as a child, trapping rabbits in the forest, buying items in a shop, or even walking from one place to next. Inbetween these boring quests are a never ending stream of cutscenes. It feels more like an interactive movie rather than a game at some points.

Which brings us to the protagonist himself, Connor. He doesn't make an appearance until several hours into the game, and by then you wish he hadn't. I don't know how but Ubisoft have managed to create a character that lacks even more charisma than the original Creed's Altair Ibn La-Ahad. At least Altair had an air of mystique about him and some quiet dignity at times. Connor doesn't even have those qualities. Despite a good scene earlier on with his mother, Connor fails win to you over enough to care about his journey for vengeance. While you may have rooted for Ezio, I expected to do the same with Connor. Playing as a Native American hunter turned assassin sounded like such an excellent idea on paper, but due to Connor's charmless character, it doesn't work. At least with Connor you now know where Desmond gets his dull personality.

The setting which Connor finds himself in doesn't quite work either. It seems it was chosen to appeal to the American market more than anything else, who are no doubt familiar with the people and places. For most of us though it feels like a let down compared to the majestic sights of Rome and Constantinople. I remember playing the Original AC and being blown away by the sight of Jerusalem at dawn while standing on a windswept cliff. I've had no similar feeling with this game. While Boston itself is beautifully realised, this small foggy town doesn't rival Venice in anyway. The wild 'Frontier' on the other hand no way matches to sights seen in the excellent Red Dead Redemption. Instead it all looks unnatural, is difficult to traverse, and there's not much to see except mountain ranges and rivers. You could hunt in the forest for cash, but it's no way as satisfying as Red Dead, and gets boring very quickly. As a matter of fact I couldn't even be bothered to finish all the tasks asked of me in my first hunt (in order to get 100% Synchronisation), let alone purposefully go out and and do it of my own volition.

The story itself is difficult to follow, and many times I've been left wondering why I'm supposed to do something, why I'm going to this area, or what I'm supposed to do. Characters are introduced and then killed off without reason such as 'Bulldog' Braddock, who seems to be the big villain of the first portion of the game, supposedly for things he has done off screen. The game skips from year to year, month to month and so on, leaving you confused as to how all the events relate to each other. I'm sure Americans have a better idea of what's going on, but unless you are familiar with the Revolutionary War expect to be confused a bit as all the historical references pass by unregistered.

Some additions have been made to the gameplay, but they feel half baked, especially the annoying sections where you have to unlock doors or chests, which once again highlights the poor and fiddly controls, which isn't to mention the frustration had with the unwieldy weapon selection or the menus and map. There other sections in the game such as playing boardgames or collecting flying manuscript pages for Benjamin Franklin that are tedious to play out. In Assassin's Creed 2 and Brotherhood I so enjoyed the mini games and side missions that I actively sought them out, but with this game I lose all interest.

I've been playing the AC franchise every year now for many years, and I've enjoyed them a lot, even if a few missions have left me enraged at times. I so desperately wanted to like this game, and I've been actively forcing myself to play through it, but it has left me so frustrated and annoyed that I feel like giving up. I can't even be bothered finishing Desmond's story even though I've been following it for the four previous games. It feels as if Ubisoft has churned this out unfinished as the missions feel uninspired, the characters lifeless and flat and the game riddled with bugs, glitches, and errors. I've even had several screen freezes. This is simply unacceptable for such a high budget release, and it's a terrible shame to see the series end on such a low note.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 19, 2013 3:29 PM GMT


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