War at the Edge of the World by Ian James Ross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I recently had a long trip ahead of me for work and decided to get an audiobook from Audible to listen to during the interminable flights, waits in airport lounges and taxi rides. I have had my eye on Ian Ross's debut, War at the Edge of the World, for some time, so I downloaded the book onto my phone and away I went.
The blurb on the book is as follows:
"The epic first installment in a new series set at the end of empire in the reign of the Emperor Constantine, The War at the Edge of the World follows newly promoted centurion Aurelius Castus into the tumultuous battle for the future of Rome.
Once a soldier in an elite legion from the Danube, now stuck in Britain's provincial backwater, Castus believes his glory days are over. But fate is about to intervene. When the king of the Picts, the savage people beyond Hadrian’s Wall, dies in mysterious circumstances, Castus is selected to command the bodyguard of a Roman envoy sent to negotiate with the barbarians.
But the diplomatic mission ends in bloody tragedy. Castus and his men are soon fighting for their lives and the legionary discovers that nothing about his doomed mission was ever what it seemed."
I haven't read a lot of Roman-era historical fiction, which I think might well have been a good thing here, as I am sure there are many comparisons that could be made to the work of other writers such as Riches, Scarrow and Kane.
As it is, free from the fetters of comparisons, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey into Ross's blood-spattered vision of 4th century Britain. The story is quite straightforward, but the gruff protagonist carries the story as easily as he dispatches his enemies with sword, spear or his bare hands.
The narrative rattles along, with a good dose of intrigue and more than enough action for this reader. The story was satisfying, with some great battle scenes. The only area I thought the book lacked a little was in the depth of the supporting cast. For the most part, they come and go, and I was not that upset if they died, or pleased if they survived the bloody uprising of the Picts.
Having said that, Aurelius Castus is a great, strong heroic figure who I am sure will go on to more exciting adventures in the future novels of the series.
An action-packed, blood-soaked vision of the untamed northern fringes of the Roman Empire of the 4th century.
Jonathan Keeble reads the story with verve and passion. Of the handful of audiobooks I have listened to in the last few years, Keeble was the best narrator by some distance. Each character has a recognisable voice with nuances and a specific delivery of dialogue that really lifts the narrative. The battle scenes are gripping and Keeble easily conveys the excitement and horror of facing enemies who are close enough to smell their breath and sweat.
4 out of 5 stars
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