Theoderic by Ross Laidlaw

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Theoderic by Ross Laidlaw

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: This is the story (based on the life) of Theoderic Amalo. He seems to have all of the necessary qualities to be a successful leader in turbulent times (AD 468 onwards) but he desperately aspires to be something he's not and this book is about that quest.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 320 Date: June 2010
Publisher: Polygon
ISBN: 978-1846971112

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This is a historical tale with a capital 'H'. A Glossary, Historical Note, Prologue plus a map entitled The Barbarian Kingdoms and the Roman Empire are all for the reader's maximum interest and (hopefully) maximum enjoyment and all before settling down to the first chapter. This very much sets the tone of the book.

We meet the young Theoderic, a steadfast scholar ensconced in foreign soil - Rome. He feels very much at home - but he'll never be fully accepted. He'll never be one of them. He's a barbarian. And here the reader is given a smattering of fairly recent history during a conversation which centres around Attila (the Hun) and his sons. And the bible is mentioned, so we know we are in AD - but only just. And the current talk on the lips of the Romans is all about war - battles, bloodshed, pillaging and the like.

Laidlaw warms to his subject very early on with plenty of historical footnotes and most pages are also heavy with historical facts, information and data. One thing I did appreciate was that the majority of chapters start with a quote.

Amongst the schoolmasters at this elite place of learning, ridicule is also present. Theoderic is often referred to as the pet barbarian. We can see that no amount of classical education will cancel out his dreadful genes, his nationality. An example of bullying amongst his peers is given after which Theoderic reflects to himself that Now he knew how Moses must have felt when, having led his people to the Promised Land, he alone was not allowed to enter. But he's a smart boy and he learns quickly.

Theoderic has a trusty side-kick, Timothy. At times, reading the book, I felt that the lowly but intuitive Timothy dealt with awkward, sometimes dangerous situations better than his educated master. Less hot-headed. But then, he has nothing to lose. Unlike Theoderic (who he calls Deric throughout). Both men have a mammoth task in trying to gather lawless, marauding men together for a common purpose. And Laidlaw takes the reader through many of these situations, detail by detail. And there's the odd map or two to leave the reader in no doubt as to what part of Europe this book centres on.

We see Theoderic grow into a man and grow into his role. But at times it seems like a poisoned chalice. I particularly enjoyed the description of the trek through the Alps. The sheer numbers involved and associated donkeys, oxen etc was mind-boggling.

While this book is not weighty in an academic sense, it is jam-packed with the history of that era. So if history is not your thing ... Surprisingly, the dialogue between most of the characters is refreshingly modern. You may think that it wouldn't work, would seem a bit odd perhaps, but I liked it. It helped me to engage with the text, some of which I found a little dry.

And unsurprisingly, there's quite a number of pages at the end of the book devoted to Appendices, Afterword, Author's Note and a fair few pages of notes. This is definitely for history and historical fiction fans.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a coy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try Sacred Treason by James Forrester.

Buy Theoderic by Ross Laidlaw at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Theoderic by Ross Laidlaw at

Buy Theoderic by Ross Laidlaw at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Theoderic by Ross Laidlaw at


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