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VINE VOICEon 30 April 2012
The Leopard Sword is the fourth in the Empire series. The first three were set on Hadrian's Wall with young Centurion Marcus Tribulus Corvus hiding under an assumed name, escaping the politics of Rome. The books centred on his adventures on the Wall and the barbarians beyond, while finding his home in the camaraderie of his Legion colleagues. Very entertaining they were too, but Anthony Riches was wise enough to realise he needed to throw something fresh into the series, and indeed he has.

The Leopard Sword sees Marcus and his colleagues being sent to their original home, Tungrorum in Germania. Their role is to protect the town from bandits and ensure the supply routes for grain are kept open. On arrival they find the bandits have been united by a mysterious masked leader, and nothing is what it seems at first sight.

Of course it roars along at a great pace and sucks you in straight away, the signs of a great story-teller and with a great cast of characters. The author is clever enough to spread the story a bit and it works really well, Marcus is in there but he is not the main focus. I have to say my favourite character is probably the Tribune, Scaurus. A clever and multi-layered character, but that is true of many of the individuals in here, and the author finely balances the story around them.

So, much to enjoy here and a welcome addition to a series that dares to grow and challenge the reader.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 6 May 2012
If you are looking for a piece of historical fiction that is also part thriller and part adventure story, then look no further: Anthony Riches has done it again in this fourth installment of his "Empire" series. Since he mentions his intention to write on through top the end of the regin of Septimius Severus (in AD 211) and the book takes place in AD 182, readers can probably expect another dozen book over the next few years. The book is a superb read, one of those that readers would be adviased to start on a Friday evening only, or, even better, on a Saturday or Sunday morning with nothing else planned for the rest of the day. Otherwise, you'll finish it around 2 or 3 am while having to go to work the next day.

Having said that, the book is not quite perfect (although you could just as well argue that no book ever is!). I, possibly like a few other reviewers, hesitated between four and five stars. I went for the latter for a number of reasons.
- However much I might quibble about the story - I found out rather early on who the "nasty" was - it is well written, with something happening every 20-30 pages or so and it also includes a few "hed herrings". There is simply no way a reader will be bored here
- It is also very well researched, with an interesting emphasis on the plague (or rather the series of plagues) that hit the Roman Empire during Marcus Aurelius' reign and under Comodus and its dire consequences in terms of population and financial and economival resources. Another very interesting point is that it also lead to wide-scale banditry within the empire. This could disrupt the army's provisioning and create major issues especially since the legions and cohorts wedre still mostly stationed along the borders.
- A related point is Anthony's historical notes: accurate and to the point, neither too much, nor too little. This is particularly true when presenting the Roman army of the second half of the second century. For instance, the size for the whole Roman army that he comes up with has been subject to controversies among historians for at least 50 years or so. However, the estimates that he has chosen happen to be the most widely accepted ones and the same goes, more or less, for the size and organization of the imperial legions and auxiliary cohorts
- At times, you still get the impression that Marcus Aquila - our blue-eyed boy hero - is a bit of a "superman", but less than in the previous volume. For instance, Marcus is not entirely sympathetic - he has a bit of a killer instinct in him and seems to enjoy it at times. He is also rash enough to get himself into serious trouble, and the fact that he manages to get out of it might feel a bit implausible to some.
- Another huge quality of this book, in my view, is that you can read it without having already gone through the previous episodes, which is not so frequent in series. Note however that if you do this, I have little doubt that you will want to pounce on the three previous volumes as well.

So, not a perfect book - assuming there is such a thing - but I enjloyed it so much that whatever little quibbles I can think of sound rather petty. Note that even the editing is much better than what you find in most other comparable novels. A Gem...
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on 30 September 2012
Where do I start with The Leopard Sword? Strangely, with a comparison.

You see, I've been a fan of Tony's books since the first Empire novel, but to me there is a definitely change between the first three books and this fourth one that makes a comparison viable. I have recommended the first three novels to numerous people since I started them (and bought copies as presents for some) but the target audience for that recommendation was fairly specific. The Empire books have been distinctly miltary in nature, bloodthirsty (aka not for the faint-hearted), rude (in an entirely appropriate way - The Romans has a fairly crude sense of humour and let's face it, the military is pretty similar throughout history.) So I've aimed my recommendations at people with an interest in that area and who I know will appreciate the style.

The Leopard sword has lost none of these things. Everything that a fan of the first three books enjoyed is here. You will enjoy it. Believe me.

But more than that, Empire IV has taken Tony's writing (and most particularly, I think, his planning of novels) to a whole new level. I will recommend TLS to people who I would baulk at the thought of reading the first three. It shows not only a natural progression from the first three but also a maturity in style that I adored.

Moving from a 90% military plotline to a new and exciting mix of military, whodunnit and thriller, TLS had me guessing almost to the end, with its constant twists and surprises. Every time I thought I'd nailed part of the plot it evaporated like smoke. I could enthuse about this at length and give some fantastic detail, but I will NOT risk spoilers, so enjoy that aspect and be glad I didn't ruin it for you.

The first three books, for me, were very much a trilogy, and I worried, after the fairly definitive and enormous end of the third, whether Tony could really pull a fourth out of his hat. He's done that, and made me wish I'd given his earlier books a lower rating so that I could adequately express my high estimation of this one.

As well as the continued 'real' feel of the military seen in his earlier books, there is also a much more personal element to TLS for several characters. There are some new and impressive folk to meet, and the bad guy in TLS will rank among my top historical villains. From his very introduction, he exudes style and mystery. Oh, and one of the previously more 'supporting' characters has really come into his own in this book and taken a limelight role - not before time.

This book also has a far more complex and intricate plot that its predecessors, and a real feel for the time and the local environment, which play a very important role in the plot itself. The interwoven threads are so neatly tied, it pleased me immensely to see not a hint of a loose end.

Moreover, I feel that Tony may have shifted a tiny amount of his focus so that there is less concentration on the battle and viscera (though don't panic as there's still plenty of ICK!) and more on subtle plot twists and character growth. All in all, it's a subtle move in style, I think, but a welcome and mature one which loses nothing, yet gains everything.

Simply: I love it. Buy it. And - and I rarely will say this - even if you've not read the first three or don't fancy them, buy this anyway. You'll love it too.

Roll on The Wolf's Gold (now out in less than a month!)
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on 10 June 2012
I have read all of Anthony Riches' books, but for me, this has been his best, in what has so far been a solid series.

The story was reasonably complex and had enough twists and turns to keep me entertained until the very last few pages without going over the top.(thus inducing that 'WTF?' moment that you get with some other books.)

The characters were three-dimensional and in my opinion, the strongest part of the book. We have a fantastic leading man, but his mates aren't that bad either. Add into the mix some thoroughly detestable rogues, a tart with a heart, and a truly evil villain, and you have a nicely rounded cast of characters.

With believable dialogue, a solid knowledge of the history of the time, and some pretty impressive and eloquent writing, 'The Leopard Sword' is a book that in my opinion equals anything that has been written by Messrs Scarrow and Iggulden.

In short Anthony Riches is fast becoming one of my favourite authors of the genre. I very much look forward to his next instalment
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on 26 February 2015
Continuing the tale of the Tungrian Auxiliaries , Marcus Aquila and his colleagues face several new challenges after embarking to Germania. The book is fast moving and although success is coming there are many dramas and disasters along the way that keep the reader on edge. The plot is complicated and all is not revealed until the end of the book. Entertaining and absorbing continuing this great series.
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on 20 December 2014
have read this book twice now and am having it on "kindle". My only criticism is could we have the map lay outs through out the book please as when the action begins it would help to make the story line even better. Finally I realise the locations are based on the past but it would be nice to relate to modern Europe as well. But it is a great story well done.
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on 8 April 2017
This series is amongst the best in the genre right up there with Scarrow and Kane. Characters are great as is the storyline full of action. Great read
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on 10 April 2013
This episode takes our heroes away from Hadrians wall to Germany. I was sorry to see them go as it is an area that is well known to me but the action is as violent as ever with ver y good descriptions of skirmishes and battles. I felt the solution at the end was a bit contrived though I saw it coming. That said it was an exciting read even if you realise that the author would not dare to allow the death of the main character.
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on 1 August 2014
I'm starting to get rather annoyed with this Anthony Riches guy... I bought the first book in this series on a whim & without a clue as to his superb writing ability. He has that all too rare knack of being able to paint vivid realism from a few well selected words. On the field of ancient battle this results in a blood and gore fest that few other authors can conjure. Mr Riches also manages a similar feat with his development of characters. Corvus in particular is far from perfect, but as a reader one cannot help but like him. Now I know I'll not be able to buy another writer's material until this author runs out of words!
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on 29 June 2016
Disappointed in this book, having read the previous, didn't follow up on the characters from last book.
Good..but not good enough, let's hope the next book in line is back to 5.
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