Legionary — Gods & Emperors

Written by Gordon Doherty
Review by Anna Belfrage

In the late 4th century BC, the eastern parts of the Roman Empire are overrun by Goths, war-bands roaming freely over the Thracian plains, leaving carnage in their wake. Emperor Valens assembles a huge army to meet the invaders, counting on the support of the Western Roman Empire to crush the invaders. As the summer months pass, it becomes evident there will be no support from the West, and Valens draws up his legions to face the Goths at Adrianople.

One of these legions is the XI Claudia, at present suffering the absence of their Tribune, Gallus, and his second-in-command, Dexius, the two men having ridden west to beg for help. Instead, leadership falls on the combined shoulders of four men: Pavo, Sura, Zosimus and Quadratus.

The story is told in alternating viewpoints, mostly of the four men stuck in Thracia, but also of Gallus, who has been brutally detained by the Western Emperor and is desperate to get back to his legion before it’s too late.

Mr Doherty obviously knows his history – and his Romans. At times, this results in too much detail, page up and down describing various types of Roman soldiers, their equipment and organisation. However, the pace is fast and furious, violence and treachery lie in wait behind every corner, and inevitably it all comes to an explosive end. After Adrianople, the world will never be the same.

Mr Doherty is a capable writer, both when it comes to the various battle scenes and the descriptions of the landscape. Personally, I feel the cast would have benefited from having at least one female character of note. As it is, this is a world rank with testosterone – not necessarily surprising, but maybe a tad one-dimensional?

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