The Fall of Rome
Attila is dead. The Western Roman Empire is tottering. As every source of order crumbles, life, already brutish and short, is becoming more so. Michael Curtis Ford’s novel about Odoacer, an actual historical figure, is set in this Hobbesian world. The son of a Hunnish father and a woman abducted from a conquered Germanic tribe, he flees into exile when his father, unjustly accused of revealing the site of Attila’s tomb, is murdered. He seeks out his mother’s people, but only finds a temporary refuge with them. Fighting on the side of the Romans, he becomes a true leader of men. Finally, he seeks to avenge his father, and reaches for something beyond mere survival. Fate takes a hand, and the climax has all the action and startling twists any reader could want.
The relationships between the characters are sketchily drawn, and events that might have been milked for drama, such as Odoacer’s first encounter with the grandfather who never knew he existed, are given cursory treatment. The prose is marred by some glaring bloopers: unfortunately, no editorial eye caught “noisomeness“ being misused as a synonym for “noisiness” in the book’s opening paragraph. The best writing is in the vividly imagined and meticulously researched battle scenes, which are full of terror, gore, heart-jolting excitement, and hair’s-breath escapes.
Any reader hoping for romantic intrigue will be disappointed, as none of the female characters rates so much as a line of dialogue. Even the city of Rome seems to be populated exclusively by power-driven men. In this harsh world, honor motivates but survival and preeminence are the real prizes. This novel is for those who enjoy high octane fictionalized military history with no frills.
Phyllis T. Smith