Imperial Vengeance

Imperial Vengeance
Ian Ross
3.5 Mushroom Heads
This is the fifth in a series of books in what I call the ‘sword and sandals’ genre, describing life as a Roman soldier and citizen. I have read several authors in this style, enjoying them to varying degrees.

This particular tale is set at a time in Roman history with which I am not so familiar, 306 to 324 AD, when two Emperors, Constantine and Licinius, were fighting for control of the Empire. It takes in a massive battle at Gallipoli, which I found interesting in the context of events sixteen hundred years later, and also the sacking of Byzantium and its resurrection as Constantinople.

Against this background there is a lot of scope for Roman intrigue. Add in a second Imperial wife with a second family, an Imperial eldest son much admired by the military, and an Imperial Mother who is young enough to intervene in politics, and there is potential for a wide range of plots, sub-plots and adventure based on actual events at the time.

The story rattles along at a fast pace, and reaches its (entirely expected and fully telegraphed in advance) conclusion, with descriptions of battles, poisonings, murders, torture and love, with Our Hero coming through happily to appear in the next book in the series.

I found the writing a bit pedestrian in comparison to that of Simon Scarrow, whom I consider to be the ‘Bernard Cornwell’ of this genre, i.e. the benchmark against which all others should be compared. I didn’t empathise with or like any of the characters, except one slave girl who played a minor part, and I think the story could have been written better.

I’d recommend the book to someone who wants to read a fictional story set in the interesting time of the Two Emperors, but think there are better ones in the library.
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