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Battle For Rome (Twilight of Empire) by Ian Ross

Be warned - spoilers ahead for the first two books…

Battle For Rome (Twilight of Empire) by Ian Ross

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The third in the 4th century Roman Twilight of the Empire series continues in the way that Ian Ross fans are accustomed: action-packed, informative and exciting historical fiction of the first order.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: January 2016
Publisher: Head of Zeus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1784081201

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Aurelius Castus, tribune in Emperor Constantine's army is preparing for the battle everyone (including us) has been waiting for: the fight against Maxentius, Tyrant of Rome. Meanwhile, Castus' marriage to the aristocratic Sabina has borne him a beloved son but coldness lurks between man and wife where there was hot passion. Castus' suspicions are further fed by his wife's name being on the lips of a dying officer; truth or pre-death ramblings? Meanwhile, Sabina has bought a new slave and Castus swears he's seen her somewhere before…

With this, the third Twilight of the Empire series Ian Ross has maintained the superlative standards of Book 1 and Book 2 and explains why he's becoming a must-read for fans of writers like Simon Scarrow and Ben Kane. I should imagine the only person less than chuffed about another outing is our hero Castus. To say that he's been through the mill while trying to help hold a split Roman Empire together is an understatement. He's lost friends and has been betrayed by lower orders and high-ups alike. Now he's married and a father perhaps it's time for the author to be more merciful in this instalment of his adventures? I'm pleased to say that it seems not.

Once again Ian places us in the centre of bloody action as Castus has to lead his men into battles with impossible odds and handicaps. We also witness his internal battles due to the tension between being a soldier compelled to follow orders and an officer responsible for the safety of his men. Whatever decisions he makes as a result, can he take the consequences?

Once again Ian allows us, the readers, to make our own minds up about his characters. They're human and this humanity is revealed in many shades of grey. Mrs Castus (Sabina) is a good example. She would be easy to paint as darkly callous. Yet we're shown the full picture so that we understand the webs she's fallen into and empathise, despite them being of her own making.

Yes, as always Ian imbues any situation with some wonderful twists, reinforcing that nothing in life (and therefore within these pages) is as simple as it seems.

While we watch a military that splits to fight a virtual civil war, we’re entertained by some great set pieces, including a Roman equivalent of the Nuremberg Rally, boasting 25,000 Roman soldiers. If you're interested in more contemporary examples of 'the more things change…', There are instances of having to fight using inadequate military equipment. Sound familiar?

Ian is definitely a writing masterclass in adding research and factoids that help rather than hinder the pace. Many of us will already realise that members of the new Christian cult fought beside traditional Roman polytheists but I'd never realised the connotations till Castus' adventures raised my awareness. If as a solder you believe your survival depends on gods who are displeased by the new one-god faith then having Christians beside you in battle becomes scary. In fact, they become as much a threat to your life as the enemy's attack.

My raving could continue as there's much more to this series than the satisfyingly ripping yarn rippling through it, so I'll just step back now and let you go buy or beg a copy.

(Thank you to the good people at Head of Zeus for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If this appeals and you've already read the first two books The War at the Edge of the World and Swords Around The Throne, then we also highly recommend The Road to Rome (Forgotten Legion Chronicles) by Ben Kane. Or perhaps you'd like some of the facts behind the fiction? In which case we direct you to the expert on all things Ancient Roman, Mary Beard.

Ian Ross's Twilight of Empire Series in Chronological Order

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