island of ghosts
This is the story of Ariantes, a Prince of Sarmatia, land of nomadic tribes beyond the Danube. Newly conquered by Rome, their armies are exiled to Britain, an island beyond the world’s edge. The Roman Empire of Marcus Aurelius is on the cusp of disintegration: in Britain it has relinquished the north to the Picts and withdrawn behind the re-commissioned Hadrian’s Wall, the setting for most of the story.
As auxiliaries, such barbarians comprised a large part of the Roman army at this time and the Sarmatians, likeable rogues who esteem loyalty and honor above all things are skilled riders and archers, but unskilled in the ways of Rome and native Britons.
The book is an enthralling read, and vividly descriptive; the atmosphere of the period comes to life with conspiracies, battles, Druids, Christians, and of course, a love story. There is sadness too, and humor: I particularly enjoyed “northerners who dislike having to take advice from southerners in togas” – just to show that, in Britain at least, nothing really changes.