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Swords of the Legion (The Videssos Cycle, Book 4) Mass Market Paperback – September 12, 1987
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From the Inside Flap
In Videssos the city, tribune Marcus Scaurus was bored. The legion that had been magically transported to this strange world was far away. But the Emperor's niece Alypia was near -- and willing.
When their secret trysts were betrayed, Emperor Thorisin Gavras was forced to condemn Marcus as a traitor -- but with a promise of freedom and Alypia, if he could reclaim a rebel province from a fanatic usurper, with no military aid. With only centurion Gaius Philippus, Marcus set out to try the seemingly impossible task.
But the fates conspired against them, driving them further westward, into the innermost sanctum of Videssos' great enemy Yezd -- and toward the torture chambers of the evil, deathless wizard-prince Avshar.
But behind them, without orders, the men of the legion were on the march!
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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"Swords" had the most action of the 4 novels. The series was enjoyable as a whole, though there were parts in books 2 and 3, that really slowed the pace. The only thread that was never resolved was Scaurus's wife and children leaving. Not sure how the Romans really were, but if my children were taken from me, you better believe I would have taken my Legion and stormed the shores of Namdalen.
The wandering embassy with Vividovix and Gorgidas to the Arshaum are pursuing Avshar into Yesd. Scaurus is stuck in Videssos the city, once again in charge of the seal-stampers and feeling lonely since Helvis abandoned him. Alypia is near, but pursuing her could mean the headsman's axe. The bulk of the Legion is wintering in Garsava.
What happens after that is what makes Turtledove's stories so engaging and hard to put down. I loved every page and I'm sorry to see this part of the series come to an end.
One of the many things which make this series interesting is that the heroes are from Caesar's Rome. Rome is young energetic vibrant and, most of all, expanding at this time. They are transported to the Byzantine/Videssos Empire while it is in a period of decline. (If it were the real Byzantine Empire, it would be the final decline, but we can still hope for a revival of the Videssos Empire.) The decadence brought by a thousand years of Empire is sharply contrasted with the vibrant patriotism of our heroes who remain unknowing that this is the destiny of their empire too.
This isn't just a military book where the legion moves from battle to battle. This is a much more realistic and complete world where the hero is thrust into the middle of court politics, and has to fight to overcome the shear inertia of the Empire's slide towards collapse. The hero spends more time facing corruption, political intrigue, distrustful monarchs, intolerant monks, and tax collectors than he does facing mounted cavalry units.
I don't want to repeat the excellent review about the warfare in this series written by Robert, 12 MAR 99, under "The Misplaced Legion" (Videssos Cycle, Book 1). I would like to add though, that this is not a series about a general. This is not a David Drake/S.M. Sterling series about Belisarius. As Robert points out, the hero of this series stands in the middle of the battles, and seldom knows more of what's going on than immediately to his left and right. The battles themselves are mostly standup fights where two sides hack at each other. This is really much more realistic though. Most battles, especially in the Roman era, were fought this way. Even though nowadays it seems like every book we read is about Belisarius, brilliant generals with innovative battlefield ideas come along only once in a thousand years or so. Most battles are fought without them.
"The Misplaced Legion" (Videssos Cycle, Book 1) is followed by "An Emperor for the Legion" (The Videssos Cycle Book, 2), "The Legion of Videssos" (Videssos Cycle, Book 3), and "Swords of the Legion" (Videssos Cycle, Book 4). There are two prequel series about Videssos. The first is the Tale of Krispos series, beginning with "Krispos Rising." This is actually a two book story, which is excellent, and a third follow on novel which is very good. The other prequel, The Time of Troubles series, begins with "The Stolen Throne". This series is entertaining, but not really as good as the first two series.
Although there are ten other books about Videssos, there can never be enough. And there are only four books about the Misplaced Legion. There needs to be a sequel series not another prequel. Perhaps "Legion of Videssos: Next Generation" where Marcus's son, born and raised in Videssos, can become Emperor, with Dad and his Legion helping out of course. This could lead to a new golden age for Videssos, and maybe even . . .