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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 24 April 2012
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.

I feel that it is better for me to review the series as a whole, which I have given an appropriate 5 stars of 5, and then add a short section on the individual novel. I find it almost impossible to put down Tony's books and eagerly await the Leopard Sword to see what new direction the series might take.

Book One

Wounds of honour is a wonderful beginning, introducing a number of characters that you will love and that will go through the series with you.

From the protagonist, a fugitive from Imperial justice who will continue to take your breath away in exciting and violent ways as each new talent of his becomes apparent, to the grim centurions who have served long on the frontier, to the oily son of a Roman aristocrat seeking the hero's downfall, the story takes place against a background of violent war and tribal pride, beleaguered forts and inter-unit rivalries, and centres around a 'training of mistfits' theme that is both exciting and humourous at times. The book has a solid and exciting concusion while clearly not finishing the whole story. Wounds of Honour introduces the reader to life on Hadrian's Wall in an era of troubles, to the auxiliary units that serve there and, in particular, to the First Tungrian cohort, who will become central to the series.
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on 6 November 2009
This book fits neatly into the Roman fictional history genre and has a well researched structure similar to Harry Sidebottom's books, whilst containing plenty of action reminiscent of Simon Scarrow.

The author has quite cleverly created a unique and subtle writing style where the reader learns more about Roman military life and social customs, but in a way which does not detract the reader's attention from the story and most importantly the action!

With the ever increasing number of books which saturate this genre, you may well ask yourself whether you should bother with this one and begin a new series. Well in my opinion if you love Roman history, particularly Roman Britain, then this is a book for you. This is a superb first book which lays good foundations for a potentially excellent series.

Strong characters with intriguing personalities and mysterious histories combined with a breath of treason are aspects which feature strongly in this first book. A number of loose ends have been left at the end of the book and I expect that these will form the bedrock of the second novel.

An enjoyable, informative novel which I highly recommend to those who love the genre.
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on 24 November 2009
The content has been well covered in other reviews. I would just like to back this as a terrific read that would appeal to anyone who has enjoyed the likes of Patrick O'Brian, Bernard Cornwell, Julian Stockwin (Kydd series), or Robert Harris. It would be good if the author could polish his style slightly as it is occasionally a bit confusing about who is talking to whom, and what is actually going on - slightly tighter editing would help. However where it just shines out is in its ability to envelope the reader in an absolutely gripping tale of 2nd Century Britain and the military and political intrigues surrounding a young Centurion. I thoroughly enjoyed it and feel slightly mean for taking 1 star off for the occasionally confusing writing. Nevertheless it's a cracking read, and while the language is a little strong at times for Aunty Mabel, it's never superfluous or inappropriate. I can't wait for the next volume, and have high hopes of reading a lot more from this author.
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VINE VOICEon 4 October 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the first in a trilogy based on the Roman Empire - you could be forgiven for groaning, because it's all been done before hasn't it? Well the subject matter has been covered before, but Riches brings to life the experiences of soldiers at the Empire's front line in such a vivid fashion, it would be a shame if this series is ignored.

While the intrigues and power struggles of Rome form the basis of the plot, it forms only a minor part of the story, which focuses on life at Hadrians Wall, the far reaches of the Empire, where practical concerns take centre stage. And so we follow a refugee from those power struggles, as he overcomes adversity to earn the right lead his troops in a bloody battle against overwhelming odds.

The book really falls into 2 parts, the first covering the arrival of Marcus Valerius Aquila and his elevation to Centurian, and the second the campaign against the barbarian hordes from North of the Wall. Riches detailed knowledge of the Roman Army is well to the fore throughout, with a host of interesting details which add to the plot without overwhelming it. The descriptions of the campaign and the climactic battle are simply superb, providing an insight into the reasons why the Roman Army was such a formidable fighting force. The only reason why I didn't give the book 5 stars is because I found some of Marcus early exploits' were a little too hard to believe, but that's being picky.

This is a rattling good yarn, full of duty and comradeship as well as betrayal and treachery. If you have read any of the many books which cover tha same topic (by Iggulden, Scarrow at el) I suspect you will really enjoy this - I know I did, and I'm looking forward to the next instalment
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VINE VOICEon 8 October 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The book hits the ground running. It starts out with an excellent description of a fight, which introduces all the key characters in one strong swoop.

Marcus Valerius Aquila, the main character, is a young man, many miles from home because his family has been accused of treason. He is naive about the realities of politics and life, yet has a strong hand for sword-play.

We meet Dubnus, a Briton who is fighting with the Romans. A hard man who after a while takes a liking of Marcus and is his right-hand man for the remainder of the book.

Rufius is the older, wiser man who understands the games of the world and knows how to play them to his advantage. Although he doesn't feature hugely in this first book, I have a strong feeling his input into Marcus' life will increase over the next 2 installments.

The pace of the early part of the book continues as it begins. The plot thickens rather rapidly with the introduction of varying layers of Roman hierarchy.

The writing is easy to follow, has some choice words thrown in, which fit with the characters. The book kept me interested and kept me going back to it as often as I could.

However, I felt the end drag a little and maybe that was partially my confusion with the interchange between sometimes referring to a character by their title and sometimes by their name. Also the end was concentrated very much on the tactics of battle which meant digging into ones imagination to try and picture the scene. The writing doesn't necessarily bring up the images easily.

It ends at a bit of an anti-climax but that is understandable given it is one of a trilogy.

If you are expecting to learn about the Roman history in Britain, this isn't the place to look. This is set many years into the occupation of Britain. It doesn't deal in giving reason for invasion or any of the historical background. Having said that, it provides a more 'earthy' insight into what life was like for the Roman army, and also the local tribal armies etc.

Overall, it was a decent read. The storyline itself is not exceptional, and neither would I say was the writing, but if you are a veteran at such novels, or trying one for the first time, you can't really go wrong with Wounds of Honour.
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In AD 181, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius is dead, and he has been succeeded as Emperor by his son Commodus. In Roman Britain the northern tribes are restless, and it seems that trouble is being stirred up by several parties both at Rome and in Britannia - but to what end, and who will pay the price? When Marcus Valerius Aquila lands in Britannia, he quickly finds himself in the middle of more trouble than he can at first comprehend.

This is a very well-researched and written historical novel. It is certainly interesting to read of the lives led, and the actions undertaken, by the Roman and native soldiers living at and around The Wall, and for that alone, the book is well worth reading. I did find some of the story to be a bit "Boys' Own Adventure"-like, with cussing and fighting, and teaching men to be men which all seemed to be laid on bit thick. All very well and good, but it did seem to detract from the narrative and story, which in itself was excellent. I enjoyed reading about the politics, in Britannia and the ramifications of politics and intrigue far away in Rome. I enjoyed reading about the native kings and their struggles against the invaders. It really did have a very good immediacy to the story in those parts, as did the battle scenes.

The first in a series, this was a really good start. Recommended.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Aiming for a cross between the old-fashioned adventures of Rosemary Sutcliffe's classic young adult adventure stories and the grittier approach of Bernard Cornwell's novels, Anthony Riches' Wounds of Honour gets off to a terrible start with an atrociously written opening chapter. It's not so much what happens as how it's described, which reads like a collection of every pulp cliché you thought had been drummed out of service years ago. Thankfully, while the editor must have missed that chapter, the rest of the book is a huge improvement - the writing may not be high literature but it is very decent storytelling that doesn't let clichéd writing make the plot seem even more clichéd than it is too often. And the plot is rather familiar, to put it mildly, with a disgraced young Roman officer sent to the end of the Empire to be executed after his father falls from grace and the Emperor orders his family wiped out. Instead he finds himself hiding out in a hardened regiment stationed along Hadrian's wall, having to - almost - work his way up from the non-commissioned ranks, earn the respect of his untrusting men and survive to clear his name at just the same time as the local natives are getting restless...

While at times it's hard to shake the feeling that Sutcliffe's Frontier Wolf (Puffin Books) - also about a disgraced young officer who finds himself beyond the Wall during an uprising - was a particular favourite of the author (completely wrong, as it turns out), it's an entertaining yarn that does exactly what it sets out to. It may not leave a lasting impression or do much that's new, but it's certainly recommended for fans of the genre.
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on 29 July 2016
This is all the fault of Ben Kane! he got me into Roman Historical novels and whilst waiting for his next novel I looked around for another author. So glad I did, this had me hooked from the first line! The best thing about finding a new author (to me), especially one with so many books is that I will always have a book to read! Enjoyed this so much I have already started number 2 in the series. Bravo Mr Riches and sorry for being so late to the party!
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
No doubt this review will attract derision from many who are dedicated to the ever going plethora of novels based on or around the Roman Empire. So I am ready for negative comments on this review.

That said I am a great fan of the genre and historical novels more generally. I prefer best those that recreate on the page the minutia of and detail of the 'lost country' which is the past. As a professional University-based historian I value the allure of these re-creations and, to a lesser degree, the addressing of significant events impacting on and involving the Roman Empire.

I am afraid that this book is amongst the poorer of the offerings. Its tale is a little improbable focussing on an exile from Rome who, travelling to the far extremity of the Empire - Hadrian's Wall - is both discovered and largely protected. Of course the young exile, although previously an aristocratic member of the Pretorian Guard, is not tested in battle. He performs surprisingly, but predictably in the novel's context, well. It reflects the writings of Scarrow which likewise focus on individuals and equally lack the the historical minutia of books by many others. Furthermore it is not as readable as the lightweight Scarrow (although I admit I have his latest book awaiting reading in a bookcase) and the second half of the novel is rather predicable and rather tedious.

Finally, the map included in the front matter of the book is poor, as many historical novels have poor maps, but fails to include several key locations. For subsequent novels - and this is already a trilogy - the author/publisher should spend a little money on a cartographer.

Overall there are better authors and better books about. See other of my reviews selecting, in my limited view, some of these. This is the first book of a trilogy, as is the fashion with such novels. For me the author needs to raise his game, but I have said much the same of Scarrow (whose Napoleonic novels are even worse). If you are used to the genre I suspect many will agree, if nothing else, that there are better novels. If you are a Roman historical novel lover but have read little it's worth a look - hence two stars.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 June 2011
When i first saw this book in the shops i thought GREAT... an new roman author....and I hope its not a hack job with no love of the subject. or too much love and no substance...there are so many out there these days. I'm after authors who can compete with Simon Scarrow, Conn Iggulden etc..

I think within 10 pages i knew i was on to a winner, Anthony Riches has a way with words that yanks the reader straight into the past, but retains the language the reader understands, does not bamboozle them with history and Latin phrases (that's not to say its not researched or authentic, because he obviously has a real love for the period and the subject matter). It reminds me more of Simon Scarrow than any other author because your Roman Soldier is a squaddie, and should act like one no matter what time period he is in, they swear, they are crude, and they like a laugh at the bizarre the obscure and the ridiculous, in short they are real men in War.

I had so much fun reading this book that when i finished i started again and re read it. There are few books that i have read that have given so much plot pace power and great characters in a debut, i will without a doubt be reading more of this mans books.

a full 10 out of 5 stars from me.

Keep it up and write faster.
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