Empire III: Fortress of Spears Paperback – Jun 28 2011
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This is fast-paced and gripping "read-through-the-night" fiction, with marvellous characters and occasional moments of dark humour. Some authors are better historians than they are storytellers. Anthony Riches is brilliant at both.―Conn Iggulden
'An unputdownable read.'―Good Reading Magazine on Wounds of Honour
Stands head and shoulders above a crowded field . . . . real, live characters act out their battles on the northern borders with an accuracy of detail and depth of raw emotion that is a rare combination.―Manda Scott
Riches has captured how soldiers speak and act to a tee and he is very descriptive when it comes to the fighting. It is a novel full of power, lust, envy, violence and vanity. The very things that made Rome great and the very things that would lead to its downfall. If you like historical novels, read this book.―NavyNet on ARROWS OF FURY
Cornwell, Iggulden, Smith - Beware. There is a new power on the rise.―www.bookgeeks.co.uk on Wounds of Honour
Ancient adventure at its pulsating best! . . . A military expert, Riches brings top-notch drama, vivid storytelling and historical realism to his tales set in a turbulent time.―Lancashire Evening Post on Arrows of Fury
A damn fine read . . . fast-paced, action-packed.―Ben Kane
'With Wounds of Honour Anthony Riches has produced a terrific first novel that focuses on the soldiers of the Roman Empire in great detail. He vibrantly portrays the life in an auxiliary unit.'―Canberra Times on Wound of Honour
About the Author
Anthony Riches began his lifelong interest in war and soldiers when he first heard his father`s stories about World War II. This led to a degree in Military Studies at Manchester University. He began writing the story that would become Wounds of Honour after a visit to Housesteads in 1996. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and three children.
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So here we have a rather nasty team sent from Rome to capture him amongst the running battles with the local barbarians.
I enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed the previous two books, the author writes with an easy but compelling style and handles action and character very well. The `brotherhood' of the Roman troops, the banter, loyalty and affection is perfectly blended with the action and a sense of loss when characters we have grown fond of do not make it.
I think Anthony Riches is the equal at least of the other famous names in this genre and I incline towards the view that he is probably better, but that is down to personal taste. At the end of this book it looks like the troops might be heading for Germany and that's probably a good move, not many Brits actually left to crush! Were I to offer the author some gentle advice, it might be to park the fugitive aspect of his hero as the formula has been repeated (although very effectively) through three books and Mr Riches obviously has the talent to refresh the series with some new elements for us to enjoy.
I'll not paraphrase the praise that has been heaped on A. Riches for Fortress of Spears but will only make a few comments.
First, it is relatively rare for the third installement in a series to be as good as the first two. For me at least, only Scarrow, Cornwell and Cameron have managed to do this.
Second, one of the author's forte - which he almost overdoes at times - is his very realistic descriptions of the horrors of war. Somebody has compared him to the lamented Pressfield and there is something to it, although Gates of Fire - for me at least - is still a notch above. Nevertheless, it is superbly written. There are a few cliches (the blue-eyed hero fighting gladiator-style with the two swords etc...), although these may be difficult to avoid.
As another commentator mentioned, the frumentarii (a mix of secret service and imperial assassins) are depicted as having little choice than to carry out their orders and do their job. However, this is not entirely true since they also seem to take great pleasure in it...
This book starts off a little slow, and to some level confusing (unless you read the other two books right before this), but stay with it. The story picks about one third of the way through and then continues. At the end, I couldn't put it down because the story line drew me in with interest in what was going to happen next.
Like the other books, this one has plenty of action with battle scenes that are exciting, but to some level confusing. Further, as one of my criticisms of the book, the graphic dwelling on blood and gore and torture can be concerning at times.
One other area of confusion, was the spy from Rome - he was called a "corn officer". Just what is that, the author never really spends the time describing that, and as some of us know, the food, corn, was really not developed until later in the new world, purportedly initially by the Aztecs (I believe, but am not 100% sure).
In spite of these two small criticisms, I still highly recommend this book and give it the highest rating possibly especially for any reader interested in Roman history and Britain. I highly recommend that you read the two starter books in the Empire series by this author first.
Once again the cohort is called on to do duty, and they march forth gathering to them additional misfits that swell our hero's retinue. He soon will have more friends to guard his back then the emperor and the Pretorian Prefect who wishes him dead. Once again that subplot appears, and I fear it will appear continuously. Even when in makes little sense at all. Here, the enemies are so far removed, and already hunting this one man has been so costly, one would think that it has run its course. That the logic of it diminishes adds to the strikes against the story. Drama=Conflict, but there is already more than enough conflict fighting the war and the internal politics of the cohort that one does not need this external plot to drive the story. Riches is too attached to this mystery which it appears he wants to make his hero with an added depth to his character. Plenty of time to explore that when the character returns to Rome. However the Hungarian Auxiliary Cohort is becoming a little too invincible as well. Beginning to eclipse the legionnaires that they SUPPORT.
Other tales of Roman Soldiers show, and my knowledge of the period adds, that an auxiliary cohort is not trained to the same level of a legion, where the soldiers have been in training since they were children. There should be plenty of trouble for a unit of auxiliaries to get into, but now we seem to be creating illogical and unhistorical situations for our hero to go win and drags along a unit that would not be given the task over that of a cohort of legionnaires.
All that aside, and suspending my disbelief in this, I can find the tale interesting, though better survived if the three main problems, the Heroes Comic Book like superiority, his evil enemies in Rome who want him dead, and his leadership in a group of auxiliaries instead of legionnaires, had been dealt with.