Blood Forest

Written by Geraint Jones
Review by Justin M. Lindsay

Minden, Germania. 9 AD. Found by the 17th Legion naked and covered in sacrificial blood, he has no name. He has no recollection of who he is or how he came to be in this grove deep in Germania. But Arminius, prince of Germany and ally of Rome, takes him in. Felix, as he calls himself, becomes a replacement trooper with a squad of infantrymen. They don’t know him, they don’t trust him, and both he and they have secrets they don’t want to have betrayed.

Three legions, 15,000 legionaries with thousands more auxiliaries and camp followers, march under General Varus’s orders to quell potential German unrest. They become mired in the depths of the hostile forest, strung out and unable to form up in open ground, where the Roman war machine thrives. All the while Felix seeks some escape, some way of not coming to feel any camaraderie with his mates. But as they fight their way through the forest, Felix begins to bond with these men. Just as the squad pulls together, the army is soon party to the worst military disaster in living Roman history.

Blood Forest is a brutal tale of war, told by a decorated combat veteran who brings to the pages his own experiences. It has all the authenticity of a modern war memoir, but told from the perspective of the rank-and-file Roman infantryman. Jones drops the reader headlong into a first-century Roman legion. The characters and setting are painfully real, and Felix’s perspective is hauntingly genuine to the times and imminently approachable to the modern reader. Not for the faint of heart, this novel is heavy with graphic violence and language, but again all of it true to the soldier faced with close-quarters combat while watching his mates fall all around him. Recommended.