The Roman Empire is crumbling, and a shadow looms in the east....
376 AD: The Eastern Roman Empire is alone against the tide of barbarians swelling on her borders. Emperor Valens juggles the paltry border defenses to stave off invasion from the Goths north of the Danube. Meanwhile, in Constantinople, a pact between faith and politics spawns a lethal plot that will bring the dark and massive hordes from the east crashing down on these struggling borders. The fates conspire to see Numerius Vitellius Pavo, enslaved as a boy after the death of his legionary father, thrust into the limitanei, the border legions, just before they are sent to recapture the long-lost eastern Kingdom of Bosporus. He is cast into the jaws of this plot, so twisted that the survival of the entire Roman world hangs in the balance....
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A visceral historic cross-section
Obvious care and painstaking work went into the military history of the piece. Armed units, organization and procedure rolled out with a feel of authenticity, and you could feel the author's enthusiasm for his work.
The ending provided a sequel hook by hinting a previously mentioned character would soon come into the story. This came out of the blue, however. The lack of context kept me from feeling the intrigue.
Simon's vocals are smooth and ambient. He makes the bone, blood and guts story pleasant to the ear, and oddly relaxing to listen to.
"Live by the Sword."
Decent book, stellar performance
I would recommend this audiobook to anyone who loves a good adventure yarn and would enjoy following the travels of a boy battling for his life across the tapestry of a lush but brutal history.
Hard for me to say, as I'm not much of a historical fiction reader. If anything, though, I would say this reminded me of Louis L'Amour's "The Walking Drum." Lots of action, shallow characters, plenty of fun.
I enjoyed the bar scene in who Pavo drunkenly escapes a thrashing by kicking his far superior opponent in the privates -- not because of the cheap comedy, which wasn't bad, but because it encapsulates the sense of rowdy, slapdash, seat-of-your-pants action that typifies the story.
Simon Whistler's narration of this tale is a joy. His English accent gives it a sense of Old World majesty while his enthusiasm is infectious. He clearly enjoys the material (or he's very gifted at faking it). I would love to listen to more books read by him.