by William Dietrich
Category: Fiction / Historical
400 pages; ISBN: 0060563710
Rating: 10/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner
HarperCollins, Mar 2004, $24.95
Over two centuries old Hadrian’s Wall was built to keep the feral Celtic tribes away from easy attacks on the Roman fortresses. However, the Roman Empire seems weaker than ever to the Celtics, especially Chieftain Arden Caratacus, who wants the invaders off the island. His enemy amoral brilliant tactician Senior Tribune Galba Brassidias understands the Wall and the people on both sides of it as he leads the deadly Petriana cavalry in keeping the Celts at bay.
Feeling he earned the position, Galba expects his success and his loyalty will have Rome name him in charge. Instead he learns that an island born Roman citizen is beneath those born in Rome for an aristocratic scholar Marcus Flavius arrives to take charge of the Petriana. Marcus is accompanied by the even more blue-blooded fiancée to Lady Valeria. Knowing that he is a victim of prejudice, an angry Galba pretends loyalty to his new Commander while encouraging Arden to attack. Marcus is a helpless warrior. Only Valeria, who has fallen in love with the dynamic Arden, might stop a bloody war.
The story is actually told in flashback form by a Roman investigation into what happened at the Wall in 368 AD. That technique not only adds to the sense of history that readers will feel, but sounds so eerily close to how western nations look back at scandal and traumatic events. The story line is action packed and the audience will feel they are trudging alongside Inspector Draco as he makes inquiries. The prime foursome seems genuine especially in their interactions; they and the support cast furbish readers with a powerful Ancient Rome tale that will elate historical novel readers.
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