Empire: The Emperor’s Knives

Written by Anthony Riches
Review by Chris James

The Emperor’s Knives is the latest in Anthony Riches’ Empire series, set in AD 184. It takes the hero of the saga, Marcus Valerius Aquila, back to the centre of the Empire: Rome. His purpose is right the wrongs that led to him fleeing the imperial city: to take his revenge on those who killed his family. To do this he must take on a group of deadly, depraved assassins known as the Emperor’s knives. Even with his resourceful and determined companions it will be no easy task, and on top of this, will vengeance ever put his soul to rest?

Like Riches’ previous novels, The Emperor’s Knives is full of vivid and bloody action scenes, giving it appeal to those after a military page-turner. In the best of these battles, the book is truly hard to put down. A large element of the novel deals with the gladiators in the Roman world, who were idolised yet equivalent to the lowest slave in society. There is simply no modern comparison.

I did not find the book as thrilling or addictive as previous instalments of the series, although this may be in part due to its reduced focus on the Roman army, set as it is in the capital. I would nonetheless warmly recommend The Emperor’s Knives, and the series as a whole, to the general reader as well as those with a particular interest in the period and, in this book especially, to those interested in gladiators.