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Videssos Cycle: Volume One: Misplaced Legion and Emperor for the Legion (The Videssos Cycle Book 1) [Kindle Edition]

Harry Turtledove
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Experience one of the most beloved series in fantasy—as could only be imagined by “the standard-bearer for alternate history” (USA Today).
 
Harry Turtledove’s many New York Times bestsellers provide an intriguing take on history’s most crucial moments, but he honed his speculative talents in a different genre: fantasy. The Videssos Cycle is the perfect fusion of the two. Collected here are the first two novels of Turtledove’s one-of-a-kind saga, in which a Roman legion is transported to a strange realm where magic rules.
 
THE MISPLACED LEGION
 
In a duel for survival, the Roman military tribune Marcus Aemilius Scaurus raises his sword, blessed by a Druid priest, against a Celtic chieftain, who brandishes a blade of his own. At the moment the weapons touch, Marcus and his legion find themselves under a strange night sky, full of unfamiliar stars, where Rome and Gaul are unknown. They are in an outpost of the embattled Empire of Videssos—a world that will test their skill and courage as no soldiers have ever been tested before.
 
AN EMPEROR FOR THE LEGION
 
In the capital of Videssos, a coward and betrayer has seized the throne. There, behind great walls that have always made the city impregnable to storm or siege, he rules with the aid of dark sorcery. Overthrowing him seems impossible and the imperial army has already fled in panic from the savage victors. But there is no panic in the legion. Now Marcus Scaurus leads his men through the chaos and enemy hordes in search of winter quarters, to regroup and do the unthinkable: take the untakeable city.


Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Harry Turtledove is the award-winning author of the alternate-history works The Man with the Iron Heart, The Guns of the South, and How Few Remain (winner of the Sidewise Award for Best Novel); the War That Came Early novels: West and East, Hitler’s War, The Big Switch, and Coup d’Etat; the Worldwar saga: In the Balance, Tilting the Balance, Upsetting the Balance, and Striking the Balance; the Colonization books: Second Contact, Down to Earth, and Aftershocks; the Great War epics: American Front, Walk in Hell, and Breakthroughs; the American Empire novels: Blood & Iron, The Center Cannot Hold, and Victorious Opposition; and the Settling Accounts series: Return Engagement, Drive to the East, The Grapple, and In at the Death. Turtledove is married to fellow novelist Laura Frankos. They have three daughters: Alison, Rachel, and Rebecca.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I

The sun of northern Gaul was pale, nothing like the hot, lusty torch that flamed over Italy. In the dim stillness beneath the trees, its light came wan, green, and shifting, almost as if undersea. The Romans pushing their way down the narrow forest track took their mood from their surroundings. They moved quietly; no trumpets or bawdy marching songs announced their coming. The daunting woods ignored them.

Peering into the forest, Marcus Aemilius Scaurus wished he had more men. Caesar and the main Roman army were a hundred miles to the southwest, moving against the Veneti on the Atlantic coast. Scaurus’ three cohorts—“a reconaissance in force,” his superior had called them—were more than enough to attract the attention of the Gauls, but might be unable to deal with it, once attracted.

“Only too right,” Gaius Philippus answered when the tribune said that aloud. The senior centurion, hair going gray and face tanned and lined by a lifetime on campaign, had long ago lost optimism with the other illusions of his youth. Though Scaurus’ birth gave him higher rank, he had the sense to rely on his vastly experienced aide.

Gaius Philippus cast a critical eye on the Roman column. “Close it up, there!” he rasped, startlingly loud in the quiet. His gnarled vine-staff badge of office thwacked against his greave to punctuate the order. He quirked an eyebrow at Scaurus. “You’ve nothing to worry about anyway, sir. One look and the Gauls will think you’re one of theirs on a masquerade.”

The military tribune gave a wry nod. His family sprang from Mediolanum in northern Italy. He was tall and blond as any Celt and used to the twitting his countrymen dished out. Seeing he’d failed to hit a nerve, Gaius Philippus took another tack. “It’s not just your looks, you know—that damned sword gives you away, too.”

That hit home. Marcus was proud of his blade, a three-foot Gallic longsword he had taken from a slain Druid a year ago. It was fine steel and better suited to his height and reach than the stubby Roman gladii. “You know full well I had an armorer give it a decent point,” he said. “When I use a sword, I’m not such a fool as to slash with it.”

“A good thing, too. It’s the point, not the edge, that brings a man down. Hello, what’s this about?” Gaius Philippus added as four of the small army’s scouts dashed into the woods, weapons in hand. They came out a few moments later, three of them forcibly escorting a short, scrawny Gaul while the fourth carried the spear he had borne.

As they dragged their captive up to Scaurus, their leader, an underofficer named Junius Blaesus, said, “I’d thought someone was keeping an eye on us this past half hour and more, sir. This fellow finally showed himself.”

Scaurus looked the Celt over. Apart from the bloody nose and puffed eye the Romans had given him, he could have been any of a thousand Gallic farmers: baggy woolen trousers, checked tunic—torn now—long, fair hair, indifferently shaven face. “Do you speak Latin?” the military tribune asked him.

The only answer he got was a one-eyed glare and a head-shake. He shrugged. “Liscus!” he called, and the unit’s interpreter trotted up. He was from the Aedui, a clan of south central Gaul long friendly to Rome, and wore a legionary’s crested helm over bright curls cut short in the Roman fashion. The prisoner gave him an even blacker stare than the one he had bestowed on Scaurus. “Ask him what he was doing shadowing us.”

“I will that, sir,” Liscus said, and put the question into the musical Celtic speech. The captive hesitated, then answered in single short sentence. “Hunting boar, he says he was,” Liscus reported.

“By himself? No one would be such a fool,” Marcus said.

“And this is no boarspear, either,” Gaius Philippus said, grabbing it from a scout. “Where’s the crosspiece below the head? Without one, a boar will run right up your shaft and rip your guts out.”

Marcus turned to Liscus. “The truth this time, tell him. We’ll have it from him, one way or another. The choice is his: he can give it or we can wring it from him.” Marcus doubted he could torture a man in cold blood, but there was no reason to let the Celt know that.

But Liscus was only starting to speak when the prisoner, with a lithe twist and a kick, jerked free of the men holding him. His hand flashed to a leaf-shaped dagger cunningly slung below his left shoulder. Before the startled Romans could stop him, he thrust the point between his ribs and into his heart. As he toppled, he said, “To the crows with you,” in perfect Latin.

Knowing it would do no good, Scaurus shouted for a physician; the Celt was dead before the man arrived. The doctor, a sharp-tongued Greek named Gorgidas, glanced at the protruding knife hilt and snapped, “You ask too much of me, you know. I’ll close his eyes for him if you like.”

“Never mind. Even while I called, I knew there was nothing you could do.” The tribune turned to Junius Blaesus. “You and your men did well to find the spy and bring him in—not so well in not searching him carefully and keeping a lax hold on him. The Gauls must have something in the wind, though we’ve lost the chance to find out what. Double your patrols and keep them well out in front—the more warning of trouble we have, the better.” Blaesus saluted and hurried off, thankful to get away with no harsher reprimand.

“Full battle readiness, sir?” Gaius Philippus asked.

“Yes.” Marcus cocked an eye at the westering sun. “I hope we can find a clearing before dusk for an encampment. I’d feel safer behind earthworks.”

“And I. I’d feel safer still with a couple of legions at my back.” The centurion went off to make the needful changes in the Romans’ marching order, bringing his spear-throwers forward and tightening up the distance between each maniple and its neighbor. An excited hum ran through the ranks. Here a man hastily sharpened his sword, there another cut short a leather sandal strap that might trip him in action, still another took a last swig of sour wine.

Shouts came from up ahead, out of sight beyond a bend in the path. A minute or so later a scout jogged back to the main body of troops. “We spied another skulker in the bushes, sir. I’m afraid this one got away.”

Marcus whistled tunelessly between his teeth. He dismissed the scout with a word of thanks, then looked to Gaius Philippus, sure the centurion felt the same certainty of trouble he did himself. Gaius Philippus nodded at his unspoken thought. “Aye, we’re for it, right enough.”

But when another of the advance guards came back to report the path opening out into a sizable clearing, the military tribune began to breathe more easily. Even the small force he led—not quite a third of a legion—could quickly build field fortifications strong enough to hold off many times its number of barbarians.

The clearing was large, several hundred yards of meadow set in the midst of the deep wood. The evening mist was already beginning to gather above the grass. A stream trickled through the center of the clearing; half a dozen startled teal leaped into the air as the Romans began emerging. “Very good indeed,” Scaurus said. “Perfect, in fact.”

“Not quite, I’m afraid,” Gaius Philippus said. He pointed to the far edge of the clearing, where the Celtic army was coming out.

Marcus wasted a moment cursing; another hour and his men would have been safe. No help for it now. “Trumpets and cornets together!” he ordered the buccinators.

As the call to action rang out, Gaius Philippus’ voice rang with it. The senior centurion was in his element, readying his troops. “Deploy as you debouch!” he shouted. “Three lines—you know the drill! Skirmishers up ahead, then you front-rankers with your pila, then the heavy infantry, then reserves! Come on, move—yes, you there, you worthless whoreson!” His vine-stave thudded down on the slow legionary’s corseleted back. Junior centurions and underofficers echoed and amplified his commands, yelling and prodding their men into place.

The deployment took only minutes. Beyond posting an extra squad of slingers and some protecting spearmen on the slightly higher ground to his right, Scaurus kept a symmetrical front as he waited to see how many enemies he faced.

“Is there no end to them?” Gaius Philippus muttered by his side. File after file of Gauls moved into the clearing, slowly going into line of battle. Well-armored and powerfully armed nobles shouted and waved as they tried to position their bands of retainers but, as always among the Celts, discipline was tenuous. Most of the men the nobles led had gear far poorer than theirs: a spear or slashing sword, perhaps a large oblong shield of wood painted in bright spirals. Except for the nobles, few wore more armor than a leather jerkin, or at most a helmet. Of the cuirasses to be seen, most were Roman work, the spoil of earlier battles.

“What do you make of them? About three thousand?” Marcus asked when the Celtic flood at last stopped flowing.

“Aye, about two for our one. It could be worse. Of course,” Gaius Philippus went on, “it could be a damned sight better, too.”

On the far side of the clearing the Gauls’ commander, splendid in armor of black and gold and a cape of crimson-dyed skins, harangued his men, whipping them up into a fighting frenzy. He was too far away for the Romans to make out his words, but the fierce yells of hi...

Product Details

  • File Size: 3111 KB
  • Print Length: 673 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B009KT7V2W
  • Publisher: Del Rey; Reprint edition (April 2, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009QJMTVO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,536 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Of My Favorite Series July 26, 2013
Format:Paperback
I've been re-reading this series of books I read back in the late eighties or early nineties. It's about a group of Roman legionnaires and a single Gaul soldier flung into a fantasy world where magic exists while not being common place. It's an interesting concept. The story doesn't spend a lot of time exploring the hows of what brought the Romans to Videsso. I like that on the one hand, I just let it go and accept the premise on face value. On the other hand it leaves a lot of questions that I think would be interesting if they were more deeply explored. Turtledove might go into it deeper later on but if it sticks to the style of the books so far I doubt it. I'm half-way through the third book and it doesn't show any sign of becoming more than what it is. I'll get to that in a minute.

I originally loved the first two books, for some reason I never got around to the last two. Reading them now it's interesting to see how my reading sophistication has been refined. Or maybe how I've just come to expect more. The big thing I remember about these stories was the political intrigue. The story is based on events taken from Rome's actual history, something Harry has been marketing for decades. I remember thinking at the time how twisted and deep the plot line was and while it still is, it isn't what my memory had it built up as.

I would liken the book to a frozen lake, the thin sheet of ice being what we see and the water below being what we could have seen. The characters are flat with not much personality. Even the most colorful character (Viridovix, the Gaul) is only interesting because of his funny lines and behavior, it's a superficial type of interesting. The people only seem to be there to further the plot, not to engage the reader.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of Turtledove June 16, 2013
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Videssos Cycle is H. Turtledove's crowning achievement out of all of his efforts, imho. The Worldwar series had flashes of greatness also, but as a cohesive tale spanning four books this is his best effort and all the more impressive for being partially based on actual historical events. The characters are believable, the descriptions of the environment and surroundings are easy to visualize, and the action is gripping. I particularly enjoy the very last paragraphs of the series, where the protagonist wins out and Turtledove has the cheek to have one of the characters say "this is the happy ending that only occurs in romances, not in real life". The other books in the Videssos universe (the Krispos series) were a lesser effort, and "Bridge of the Separator" was nearly unreadable. It was a real disappointment to read the first "Supervolcano" book and I have no intention of purchasing the sequel. But for the Videssos Cycle, I have destroyed several sets of the paperbacks and I really wish someone would see fit to part with their set of hardbacks. It may become necessary to purchase a tablet and Kindle app just to have a permanent copy of this work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Story but a little slow July 5, 2013
By MCC
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love the story but in reading the book I felt that it is a little wordy. Also the characters names are a little too hard to even pronounce in your mind. I know that it is fiction and the author had liberty to use any names he wants but If not for the preceding I would have given it a 5.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good June 10, 2013
Format:Paperback
If you liked Jack Whyte's series on Merlin, Arthur, and Camelot, you will probably like this too. If not, probably not so much. I liked it.
a ;oiile magic mixed in but magic doesn't much affect this world. It's politics, religion and war.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Turtledove March 21, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The "Videssos Cycle", of which this edition contains the first two novels, is a classic Harry Turtledove "what if". Told in his inimitable style, 3 cohorts of one of Caesar's Gallic legions find themselves transported by magic to he Empire Of Videssos. This fictional realm is a close analog to the Byzantine Empire of Constantinople, with one important difference ---magic works here, and is an everyday part of life. Young Tribune Marcus Aemilius Scaurus must somehow find a place for himself and his men in this strange new world. A real page turner!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent February 18, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Turtledove is a pioneer for this type of writing and he still may be the best at what he does. In the scope and complexity of his characters and plot lines, it is like reading George RR Martin or Ken Follet. Not necessarily the same style but you can tell that all of them have mastered their craft. The story moves along with a light touch that draws you in to the characters and their lives.
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More About the Author

Harry Turtledove is the award-winning author of the alternate-history works The Man with the Iron Heart; The Guns of the South; How Few Remain (winner of the Sidewise Award for Best Novel); the Worldwar saga: In the Balance, Tilting the Balance, Upsetting the Balance, and Striking the Balance; the Colonization books: Second Contact, Down to Earth, and Aftershocks; the Great War epics: American Front, Walk in Hell, and Breakthroughs; the American Empire novels: Blood & Iron, The Center Cannot Hold, and Victorious Opposition; and the Settling Accounts series: Return Engagement, Drive to the East, The Grapple, and In at the Death. Turtledove is married to fellow novelist Laura Frankos. They have three daughters: Alison, Rachel, and Rebecca.

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