Empire’s Edge (The Borderlands, 2)

Written by Damion Hunter
Review by Fiona Alison

85 CE: following a successful campaign backing Tuathal Techtmar’s rightful claim as Hibernia’s High King, Centurion Faustus Valerianus returns to Isca Silurum. From there he is reassigned to the bleak and unforgiving fortress of Castra Borea, in the far north of Caledones lands, his reward for not having complied with certain people’s hopes he would get himself killed in Hibernia. Britain stirs rebelliously as the peacekeepers are siphoned off for far-distant Empire defenses, and Faustus is tasked with quelling Cornovii uprisings in the wake of Agricola’s departure from Northern Britain. Faustus’ widowed sister, Silvia, arrives with her six-year-old son in tow. His reluctant new role as paterfamilias leaves Faustus in a quandary, complicated further by his deep yearning for his Orcades lover, Einian. Do the women have the fortitude to endure army life?

Empire’s Edge is a thrilling four-year adventure of warfare, family, and love on Britain’s frontiers. Hunter’s narrative supports a large cast of diverse characters. Faustus is a multifaceted individual who straddles two worlds: ancient Britain through his Silurian mother and Rome through his deceased father, whose shade persistently haunts him as a reminder of his father’s disappointment in him. Faustus is a fine soldier, a skilled negotiator, and a leader men will willingly follow into battle, but Hunter does not limit him there, instead, defining a man struggling with his conscience of family, duty, loyalty, and responsibility.

The second in the Borderlands series is everything it promises to be. Battle scenes are well-drawn without being overly graphic. This vivid tale ventures into legend drawn from the mythology of ancient Britain, and an element of the supernatural, weaving a skilled narrative around the scant facts available. The novel stands alone, although I would have liked to better understand Faustus’ connection with his friend, Constantia. Richly painted, this will appeal to readers of M. C. Scott, Adrian Goldsworthy, and Conn Iggulden.