I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run
Tribes in Germania are hostile to the Roman Empire. They are led by the charismatic Arminius a supposed ally of Rome. The Romans west of the Rhine are under the command of centurion Lucius Tullus and provincial governor Varus. A battle is about to take place one in which the Romans have seriously underestimated the strength and cunning of the enemy.
There is little doubt that Ben Kane has a deep knowledge of his subject. Like many historical fiction authors, he uses the facts and the leading players of that time to create a fictional account of a certain happening in history. (Publius Quinctilius Varus was indeed a Roman general and is best remembered for losing 3 Roman legions when ambushed by Germanic tribes under the command of Arminius) However the quality of the story is very poor. We learn very little about the Roman Empire instead we are faced with a laborious monologue some 430 pages long (paperback edition) about a confrontation the outcome of which is already known. The most irritating feature of this story is the constant reference to the “gods” as if this adds anything to an otherwise mediocre tale….”The gods be with you, he said”….”May the gods be with us”…”May the gods grant it be so”…”Preparing himself asking Mars for his help”…”offering up silent prayers of thanks to Mars”…”Mars was kind to me”…”Fortuna appeared to have cast her capricious gaze elsewhere”…”Only the gods knew what time of day it was”…”as if the gods were laughing”…”Fortuna wasn’t finished with him yet”…”truly the gods blessed you”…”the gods were unhappy with them”……These constant references to divine beings only emphasize the poor quality of the writing.