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The series is moving right along with Tilla and Ruso diverted to a posting far away from the Emperor's planned itinerary... in order to run right into the imperial procession. I think this outing features the best mystery of all the books and I'm delighted to say that my favorite character, Tila, is as delightful as ever. I did miss Albanus. Can't he somehow become attached to Ruso so he can stay where the action is? Valens makes a return performance as well as Ruso's arch enemy Mettelus. As always, the dialogue is humorous and the relationship between Tila and Ruso hasn't grown stale at all. It's at the heart of all the books.
All I can do is hope that Ruth Downie is busy working on the sixth in the series. She left us with a slight cliff hanger. Totally recommend.
11 of 12 people found this review helpful
Downie set the story of Semper Fidelis book 5 of the series, in 2nd century Roman Britain during Hadrian’s rule. The protagonist Gaius Petreius Ruso, a Roman Army Medical officer and wife Tilla, a native Briton are back with the 20th legion. The Emperor Hadrian and Empress Sabina are visiting England. Ruso and Tilla are posted to fortress Eboracum (modern day York) only to find things are going seriously wrong there for the legion’s British recruits. Mysterious injuries and deaths have occurred. Ruso runs into problems with Centurion Geminus when he starts asking questions. Ruso suspects Geminus is preying on the recruits, how, why he set out to find out. Tilla brings to the Empress attention the plight of the recruits. I particularly like the section of the book when the British recruits appeal to the Empress Sabina to accept there petition and help them. They are chanting Sabina, Sabina and the Empress responses to them in such as way to reveal she has had very little attention paid to her. Downie does factually portray the relationship between Hadrian and Sabina. There are many twists, turns and setbacks for the protagonist. The characters major and minor are well drawn. The author does an enormous amount of historical research and weaves this into the story with such a light hand that you’ll hardly notice you’re being educated as well as entertained. I like the authors note at the end of the book providing the historical facts provided in the story as well as the modern day location in the city of York that are presented in the book. There is proof of the abysmal treatment of native recruits to the legions in Britain in the “Vindolanda Tablets” dated from 85 -122 CE they also tell of Hadrian’s visit to Britain in 122 CE. The award winning, Simon Vance does a super job narrating the story.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to Semper Fidelis again? Why?
Yes, I have listened to it twice because I enjoy listening about Russo struggles again humanity.
What other book might you compare Semper Fidelis to, and why?
The other Russo books.
Which character – as performed by Simon Vance – was your favourite?
It's always Russo but I also enjoyed listening to Valance (spelling?) and his father-in-law.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
Russo's very grim situation.
Ruso doesn't know that "no good deed ever goes unpunished"! His family in Gaul blame him for lack of cash, debts he didn't run up, failure to acquire high status and big earnings just to spite them.
He's a good doctor but never going to be a "society" favourite and worst of all he has a British wife - a "native" a "barbarian", who has her own ethical standards and a strong idea of women as independent agents. (This is of course Britannia before the English immigration, tough women who don't sit at home worrying about wrinkles.)
It is enjoyable to have a story which considers the Roman Empire from both sides. Ruso although a citizen is a "not-quite-Roman", being from what is now Southern France, and his wife Darlughdacha - I may not have spelled this as in the written version, but it is a name with many variants in writing, and I don't suppose she could spell it either - (aka Tilla) - is of a less male-dominated civilisation.
It's unusual to have the viewpoint of the occupied presented in any literature about the period of Roman domination of what is now the UK. (Possibly even rarer, given that the Romans left before the English came.) Once in a while Tacitus makes positive comments but generally there are collaborators or savages...
0 of 1 people found this review helpful