Legionary: The Emperor’s Shield

Written by Gordon Doherty
Review by Xina Marie Uhl

The latest book in the Legionary series takes place in the Roman Empire of 386 AD. Although I had not read any of the previous eight volumes in the series, I had no trouble jumping right into this novel’s historical world thanks to author Doherty’s addictive writing style and the front matter’s maps and diagrams of the armies of both the Western and Eastern Roman Empire.

The brutal world of Thracia (today’s southeastern Balkans) is laid bare as Numerius Vitellius Pavo struggles to recover from grievous battle wounds while helping on the splendid isolation of his farm where he lives with his wife and son. Despite the companionship of his family and the peace and quiet all around him, Pavo longs for the lean, rough life of a soldier. But the wounds he bears from a climactic battle three years prior have left him crippled and in pain, and there is no way he could take up a soldier’s armor even if he wanted to. The outside world has other ideas, though. The truce with the Goths hangs by a thread; war rumbles in Persia; and the illegitimate ruler of the throne in the West grasps for power.

Vivid with the sights, sounds, and smells of the ancient world, the novel is thick with adventure, intrigue, and high drama. Doherty is a skillful author who draws the reader in with the force of his vision. If you like battles and wounds and gritty details, this is the book for you. Although Doherty sometimes skips the opportunity to string out his characters’ angst, his storytelling is so strong that the reader is carried away nevertheless.