Wolves of the North
The fifth entry in distinguished classicist and military historian Harry Sidebottom’s Warrior of Rome series sees the hero Ballista on a mission to the Heruli, supposedly to ransom Roman prisoners, but really to ensure that they continue fighting with their neighbors. Ballista, originally from the Germanic Angles, has risen within the ranks of the 3rd-century A.D. Roman army, even briefly acclaimed as emperor. Currently Ballista is pursued by the curse of the pythonissa, a priestess disappointed in their brief love affair, a broken oath from 28 years before when he killed the emperor, the guilt over a comrade left to die, the ever-present frumentarii who spy for the emperor, and a mysterious murderer who has been mutilating his victims ever since the prologue. Ballista’s companions include a dour Caledonian and a stock Hibernian drunk who aid him in skirmishes with the Alani on their way to meet with Naulobates, the Heruli chief the author says was partially based on Pol Pot. The characters, even the barbarians, identify and correct each other’s quotes from epic poetry, Greek drama, philosophy and history. Not recommended, although earlier series entries are better.
432 (US), 480 (UK)