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An Emperor for the Legion (Videssos Cycle) Mass Market Paperback – April 12, 1987
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had slain the Emperor. Now the army of Videssos, betrayed by one man's craven folly, fled in panic from the savage victors. But there was no panic in the Legion, mysteriously displaced from Gaul and Rome into this strange world of magic.
Wearily, Tribune Marcus Scaurus led his men through the chaos and enemy hordes in search of winter quarters, to regroup and seek to join up with Thorisin Gavras, now rightful ruler of Videssos.
But in Videssos the city, capital of the beleaguered realm, Ortaias Sphrantzes, whose cowardice had caused their defeat, now sat upon the throne. There, behind great walls that had always made the city impregnable to storm or siege, he ruled with the support of evil sorcery. Overthrowing him seemed impossible.
Grimly, Marcus Scaurus began the long march through hostile country toward that seemingly hopeless attempt.
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: Hitler’s War, West and East, The Big Switch, Coup d’Etat, and Two Fronts; 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, andIn at the Death. Turtledove is married to fellow novelist Laura Frankos. They have three daughters: Alison, Rachel, and Rebecca.
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The Emperor has been slain by foul sorcery and army betrayed when self-centered, cowardly Ortaias Sphrantzes flees the field leaving the left wing in chaos. With panicked soldiers flee in terror, the Romans maintain discipline and are able to find winter quarters and find Thorisin Gravras, now the rightful ruler of Vedessos.
In the meantime the cowardly Ortaias has fled to Vedessos and assumed the throne and rules that impregnable city with the support of an evil sorcerer.
What follows is a thoroughly entertaining tale of war, betrayal, schemes and all the other "fun" pastimes that plague this world. A "can't put it down" story.
This book is a continuation of The Misplaced Legion and book two of the Videssos Cycle. It takes place in a world populated by Videssans (basically Byzantines) and their neighbors. A group of Roman soldiers have ended up in their empire and are serving the emperor. There is a bit of magic but not much. Most of it comes from the vile sorcerer opposing the Videssan state. He seems to be everywhere at once.
This book suffers from some of the same problems as the first one. The magic is kinda lame and the world too solely Byzantine. Fortunately there isn't as much of either. They spend most of their town outside of Videssos and their attendant magicians. Which means that the series can do what it does best: intrigue. Getting into Videssos is not easy, and there are many on both sides who cannot be trusted. Generally this book is a better read than the first one since it offers a more basic story and leaves out the bits with magic swords and interdimensional rifts. The main influences for this book seem to be the sieges of Thomas the Slav and Justinian II, with plenty of data from other sieges thrown in.
It continues to use Greek words instead of simply making terms up. The most obvious (and annoying) one was trigon, the game played by children in both the Roman and Byzantine empires. The Romans seem utterly unfamiliar with it outside Videssos which doesn't make any sense. This would be like a fantasyland where Americans are introduced to a new sport called 'baseball' and have no idea what it is. Would it kill him to put a little more work into coming up with this stuff? It's not that I don't like him using Greek, I do. There are a number of cool names that people who know Greek can decipher for little extra hints: Apokavkos means from the cup, Gavros means haughty, akritai (the native troops) means both confused and endless, and (my personal favorite) Thorisin seems to come from the word Thouris which means impetuous. I love knowing that. But it just doesn't make sense when you throw Romans in the midst of it. I feel like he wanted to actually tell a time travel story but hadn't yet settled on writing alternate history.
Having read this I look forward to the next one. The politics and international angle is quite good and worth reading. The flow is a little odd at times. They go from fighting for survival, to besieging, and then spend a good deal of time after the siege lounging about with nothing much going on. The ending isn't a real turning point, but just comes up quite abruptly. Still, there is much good here. And much of the oddness is due to setting up information for future books. The following books are The Legion of Videssos and Swords of the Legion. Hopefully they will continue to improve upon this book.
I enjoyed this second book in the four book series. I do agree with one of the other reviewers that Turtledove does not really dive into the characters too much. With Marcus he does, but would like to have read more on the Gaul, Viridovix, and Marcus's right hand man, Gaius Philippus. However, overall a good continuation of the series.