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Fortress of Spears: Empire III (Empire Series Book 3) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Fortunately, the Votadini Prince, Martos, captured by the Romans in book 2, now shares their cause and harbors nothing but hatred for Calgus and the Selgovae who so ruthlessly betrayed him. Martos will prove invaluable in the ultimate attack on the "Fortress of Spears." But capturing the fortress is not the only obstacle to Roman victory. The Venicones king discovers the Romans have his treasured torc, found when the original encampment was seized, and vows to take it back or die gloriously in the attempt.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Marcus, the corrupt Praetorian Prefect in Rome, Sextus Tigidius Perennis, has dispatched a Praetorian assassin and a "corn" officer to hunt down Marcus, the last surviving son of a proscribed senatorial family. Perennis' son, the villain of book 1, betrayed Marcus' biological father's Sixth Legion to engineer a promotion and accolades from the vile emperor Commodus. The younger Perennis' treachery was, as is often the case with wealthy, powerful men, covered up by the legion. So, the elder Perennis mistakenly believes Marcus killed his son and is being protected by an auxiliary unit of Tungrians serving on Hadrian's Wall.
In the novel, the Praetorian assassin holds a rank equivalent to a centurion but I was confused about the presence of a "corn" officer. However, if you read up on the importance of those charged with supervision of the Roman grain supply, it becomes quickly apparent that such officers carried quite a bit of clout.
"In classical antiquity, the grain supply to the city of Rome could not be met entirely from the surrounding countryside, which was taken up by the villas and parks of the aristocracy and which produced mainly fruit, vegetables and other perishable goods. The city therefore became increasingly reliant on grain supplies from other parts of Italy, notably Campania, and from elsewhere in the empire, particularly the provinces of Sicily, North Africa and Egypt. These regions were capable of shipping adequate grain for the population of the capital amounting to 60 million modii (540 million litres / 540,000 cubic metres or 135 million gallons / 16.8 million bushels) annually, according to some sources. These provinces and the shipping lanes that connected them with Ostia and other important ports thus gained great strategic importance. Whoever controlled the grain supply had an important measure of control over the city of Rome." - Wikipedia, Cura Annonae (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cura_Annonae)
Throughout most of the Republican era, the care of the grain supply (cura annonae) was part of the aedile's duties. The annona was personified as a goddess, and the grain dole was distributed from the Temple of Ceres. As early as 440 BC, however, according to Livy, the Roman Senate may have appointed a special officer called the praefectus annonae with greatly extended powers. His staff apparently carried a paramilitary rank and could have theoretically been suborned for "special" duties.
Perennis' assassins harbor no qualms about slaughtering anyone who gets in their way and they leave a bloody trail in their pursuit of Marcus.
Once again, Riches develops intriguing characters and empathetically portrays the comradery that develops between men struggling to survive north of Hadrian's Wall. The action scenes are superb and draw the reader right into the beating heart of Roman military life. Riches artfully transitions between scenes in the multithreaded plot and successfully maintains a high level of suspense until the novel's climactic conclusion. I highly recommend this series and have already plunged ahead into subsequent installments.
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'd say a solid 5-star rating.
I would like to provide further textual content on that Rating as part of this Review, however am unable to do so.
The ACDLT has restricted my ability to Comment or Reply (and doing so without any prior warning, any specific notification, any identification of specific alleged problems or appeal).
That being so, an inability to respond to Review comments by others (positive, negative, indifferent) would be unfair to myself and others. I would therefore request no Comments (or, if so, recognize that I do not have an ability to respond to same).
But it is a solid 5-star book in this genre.
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...