Iron and Rust: Throne of the Caesars, Book 1

Written by Harry Sidebottom
Review by Justin Lindsay

The murder of Emperor Alexander in the year AD 235 begins what is known to us as the Year of Six Emperors. It’s one of Rome’s bloodiest eras, and sees not only the end of the Severian dynasty, but also the rise of the first emperor from the barracks, General Maximinus Thrax. He sees his duty as carrying on the fight with the Germans, but his rule, though honest and direct, is a violent one. As rebellion and rival claimants take their toll on the empire, Maximinus suffers betrayal and the deepest personal tragedy. As he is driven to the edge of insanity, the empire’s very foundations are rocked.

Harry Sidebottom, acclaimed for his Warrior of Rome series, returns to ancient Rome with this first installment of his Throne of the Caesars series. As always, he paints a rich and thorough picture of the Roman world, complete with intrigue and brutality. Where Sidebottom’s previous series was largely action-driven, this one is slower in its pacing, giving the reader a full grounding in the politics that drive the novel. With a large cast of point-of-view characters spread across multiple continents, the plot is challenging to follow at times. The ending is frustrating in that it resolves little, bringing a conclusion that feels more like the close of a chapter rather than the end of a book. But fans of his earlier work will no doubt enjoy this one as well.