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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 11 March 2018
This is okay. It is of the Boys' Own Adventure school of Roman historical novels - not dissimilar to Simon Scarrow, although not as well written (a tendency towards vastly overlong sentences) but rather grittier (which is good). The story is a little conventional and quite predictable but there is plenty of it, with lots happening, and it is laudably free of the sentimentality so common to this kind of book. Would have liked to see more historical detail, but there you go. Undemanding but I quite enjoyed it, and will probably buy another in the future
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on 17 May 2018
I tend to avoid a long book series (there are nine, with a tenth coming soon at time of writing) but after reading the free preview I was hooked. For those also put off by that, I would recommend that you see his first three books as a trilogy.

The story opens with a nice bit of action as our hero is given an abrupt introduction to his new home in 2nd century Britain. Forced to live in exile, not only does he have to battle both the ambitions of a ruthless barbarian warlord who would unite the northern tribes and the petty machinations of a fickle and jealous emperor, but also fight for acceptance in his new auxiliary cohort.

Riches has a great way of writing historical fiction in a way that leaps over the hurdles that most authors would stumble into and fall over. By using anglicised terms, Riches improves the flow of his prose so there's no flicking back to the glossary to remind yourself what a Tesserarius is mid-sentence.

I don't like to give star ratings, so full marks in this case because I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 9 March 2013
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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on 25 February 2018
This is one of the best stories I’ve ever read.The story of a young man who has lost his whole family but who still triumphs over whatever is thrown against him. The battle scenes are superb and very believable . This is an author to take note of !!
Great stuff !
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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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on 10 November 2016
Super writing with a very good storyline. I still find it more difficult electronically to refer to the map and back to the story than in paper form but that's my fault nothing to do with the book. Thoroughly enjoyed this one. I have read a few of these blood and sandals stories but this is one of the best. Need to get on to read the next one now
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on 1 December 2016
Enjoyed this book immensely, looks like I have a lot of reading to do to catch up with the rest of the series. Looking forward to opening book 2.
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on 19 February 2017
Been a fan of Simon Scarrow for years, thought this would be too similar, however author has grabbed my imagination in a different way by painting a picture of personal struggle within the bigger arena of Roman conquest. Good read.
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on 13 November 2016
What a great story. Roman Empire, Hadrian's Wall, Scottish tribes, a Legion and battle action to savour and enjoy. Hero's and traitors with a lot of characters mixed in. Just brilliant. I am looking forward to starting the next book.
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