Retribution is the third and final instalment of Riches’ trilogy covering the Batavian revolt of 69 AD, aka the Year of the Four Emperors. The Batavi were a Germanic tribe who resided in parts of what is now the Netherlands. Reputed as fearless warriors, they had previously acted as Rome’s most valued auxiliaries, such as in the conquest of Britain, before taking advantage of Rome’s internal strife with this revolt. With the civil war turning in Vespasian’s favour, the book presents a make-or-break moment for the Batavians, with victory seemingly within reach yet also the guarantee of Rome’s retribution.
Riches once again brings to life a turbulent era in his inimitable bloody and graphic style. Full of colourful characters, Retribution is a rip-roaring read for fans of the military/swords-and-sandals sub-genre of historical fiction. However, I do sadly have a few criticisms of this book: at times it is too dialogue-heavy, sometimes difficult to follow with the action switching between four main characters and it is, dare I write, a little too bloody and graphic! Overall, then, I would recommend it to those who have enjoyed the prior two novels but perhaps be hesitant to recommend to a wider audience. Personally, I think Riches’ first series (Empire) is a more complete, better body of work.