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VINE VOICEon December 15, 2011
This book is the continuing saga of Ballista, the Warrior of Rome, being the fourth book in the series. I do not recommend reading this book until you read the other three books in the series. All of which are better than this one.

Unlike the other reviews of this book, in my opinion, this is a pretty good book but not as good as the others. I think that is probably because of the story line. In this book, we find Ballista waiting for Gallienus' decision on his fate, because he "assumed the purple" in the last book, albeit for only a few days as a result of killing a usurper to Gallienus. While Ballista is waiting, he experiences an earthquake in Ephesus and the attack of Gothic pirates who he keeps from sacking one city and one town.

Gallienus' decision is to send Ballista to the Caspian Gates, at the edge of the known Roman world, which is the key pass through the Caucasian mountains (between current ex-Russian province of Georgia and Turkey). He is sent there to strengthen the gates from Alani incursions and also to get support from the client kingdoms from the Sassanid King of Kings. At least this is the formal reason. Of course, a main reason for this is to send Ballista into exile where he can't harm the emperor and where he can do some good.

Although the same characters are there: Ballista, Maximus and group and it is of the same period. However, the story doesn't have the same urgency to it. I didn't find myself reading it quickly in order to see what happens next. The story seemed to drag. Again, as I mentioned above, this is probably because of the story line which doesn't have as much imperial intrigue or action as the previous stories.

In spite of that, unlike the other reviews, I do recommend this book, because like the other books in this series, Warrior of Rome, the characters are well developed, and the description of Rome and its environment in the third century are well developed. This author knows the history of Rome and does a good job of translating it to a readable story. If you like Roman history of course, these books will be more enjoyable to you and as I mentioned above, read the previous three books to this series first.
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on July 31, 2013
Loved the book, the story and the thrill of the entire book.
I read it in 4 days.
I could not put it down.
You can almost feel the thrill of being there with the main people in the book.

My only disappointment was that it ended, now I am waiting for the next in the series.
Amber road follows this and it is as good if not better.
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on May 22, 2012
This is a great series and wish the books were longer. The main character is very believable and the action takes place at a time that most novels and non fiction about Rome do not cover. The friendship and his marriage ring true. This particular book takes places near the Caspian Sea among people I has no knowledge of, and I am looking forward to future books about this area. The author is a professor, so the writing is good and the research is excellent. Some parts can be bloody but it was a time when life was not valued. Would be a great movie. Highly recommended.
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on February 9, 2015
I like novels about the Roman Empire and there are plenty of good ones out there. But I think I like Harry Sidebottom and his several novels the best. They all are meticulously researched. He knows his stuff and has done his homework. But he is also great at the craft of novel writing. This combination is hard to beat. I plan to search out and read every one of the "Warrior of Rome" series. I have not read them all, but "The Caspian Gates" I have read and thoroughly enjoyed.
If this is your cup of tea, you certainly will not be disappointed.
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on January 8, 2016
The Caspian Gates is the fourth novel in Harry Sidebottom's outstanding historical fiction series Warrior of Rome, set in the turbulent 3rd Century C.E. Although the series has consistent elements, it avoids being overly formulaic; it's as if with each instalment the author sets himself the challenge of incorporating something different and distinctive.

Consequently, in The Caspian Gates readers can expect the characters to be familiar friends, the Angle-born Roman military commander Ballista and his 'familia'. They can expect the meticulous attention to place - geographical features, topology, climate conditions. They can expect to be introduced to at least one culture most of us will find exotic - in this case, the kingdom of Suania, the Caucasus region now known as Georgia. They can expect that the narrative will be driven once again by Ballista and his familia being sent on a perilous political mission.

What they might not expect is that The Caspian Gates is, simultaneously, a reworking of the ancient Greek legend of Jason and Medea: Jason being the leader of the famed Argonauts, in quest of the Golden Fleece; Medea being his sometime lover turned harpy. The lands Ballista travels through in The Caspian Gates are infused with mythic 'memories' of Jason and Medea. Ballista is about to find out that the past is never really past.

Harry Sidebottom writes so well, and so intelligently, that reading these books is a pleasure. Yes, Ballista behaves badly in this tale. But we really wouldn't want him to be predictable. Would we?
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on July 12, 2011
I am a long time admirer of Dr. Harry Sidebottom and I intend to keep buying his books. However, this fourth installment of the "Warrior of Rome" series has been beyond disappointment. I am not sure whether this is what the author has always wanted to write-- an easy to read historical treaty-- or whether he just ran out of inspiration and decided to add some sure ingredients for success (fighting and sex) to a long list of historical terms.
I am a researcher myself and I appreciate Dr. Sidebottom's extensive knowledge, but I thought the purpose of this book was not a lecture in ancient history. Nothing of what we loved in the previous volumes: interesting characters, subtle references to long-forgotten customs, military strategy and Ballista, a lovable hero, can be found in "The Caspian Gates". Ballista keeps wondering from one place to another, with no apparent fictional purpose and no significant role in the events (scarce as they are). I kept reading page after page, hoping to re-discover the world from the previous books, yet the miracle didn't happen.
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on February 15, 2014
Harry Sidebottom is at par with Bernard Cornwell. This is a well written and well researched novel. It holds the reader's attention in a compelling manner. Easy to read action novel. A must for all miniature war gamers especially Ancients aficionados. Of general interest to all historians and antiquarians.
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on November 3, 2015
Excellent reading on the Roman Empire. Fast paced and gives an excellent idea as to times of the Roman Empire. Author knows his business, both historical as well as writing ability.

Can't wait for the next in the series!
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on November 14, 2012
I think Harry Sidebottom may be my favourite writer in the historical Roman genre - and that is saying something in such a strong field. His books are fast paced, full of action and adventure and some excellently done battle scenes. Add to that the author's real expertise as a scholar and professor of the period, his decision to avoid the crowded principiate period (Julius caesar to the end of teh 1st Century roughly), and his excellent manner of educating the reader without making the reader feel that they are being educated. Add also the excellent characterisations, the rough humour, and plenty of suspense, rivalry, violence and betrayal and you have a first class series of books. Readers of Conn Iggulden should read these too - no doubt about it.

This is the fourth book in this series, and I am not sure how many the author plans. Marcus Claudius Ballista is a thorn in the flesh to the new emperor - a man that he wants out of the way, and so he is deployed to a far flung regions of empire to restore the Caspian Gates. A mission he is perhaps not meant to succeed in. But first he must get there, and that is a whole adventure in itself.

First class storytelling from a great author.
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on May 25, 2014
The late empire, Rome in th age of steel and rust. The empire has become a cosmopolitan coalition of Italians, Greeks, Egyptians and Northern barbarians.

Sidebottom has taken this and woven a series of interesting tales.
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