My version: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction Rome, Mesopotamia
Publisher: Michael Joseph
First published: 201o
From the cover:
Mesopotamia, AD 260.
Betrayed by his most trusted adviser, the Roman Emperor Valerian has been captured by the Sassanid barbarians. The shame of the vanquished beats down mercilessly like the white sun, as the frail old emperor prostrates himself before Shapur, King of Kings. Ballista looks on helplessly, but vows under his breath to avenge those who have brought the empire to the brink of destruction with their treachery. One day, maybe not soon, but one day, I will kill you …But first he must decide what price he will pay for his own freedom. Only the fearless and only those whom the gods will spare from hell can now save the empire from a catastrophic ending. Ballista, the Warrior of Rome, faces his greatest challenge yet.
Now this was an excellent book.
Like the first two in the ‘Warrior of Rome‘ series; ‘Fire In the East‘ and ‘King Of Kings‘; ‘Lion of the Sun‘ again follows our Roman soldier hero Ballista (actually from the north of Europe), who was traded as a hostage by his chieftain father as a child and brought up in Rome by his captors.
The action takes place in the east of the Empire, where he is caught up in everything from desperate battles, scheming politicians to the crazed whims of Emperors who threaten not just him, but his wife and children as well.
‘Lion of the Sun’ continues Ballista’s story, takes it on and leaves it perfectly set up for the next installment. You certainly get your money’s worth in terms of desperate action and big set-piece battles, unlike my previous read, that’s for sure. Ballista is a master tactician and has the respect of the soldiers in his command, so ingenuity is expected but the solutions, often including some finely-drawn supporting characters, are always pleasant surprises.
It is clear that Harry Sidebottom knows the period he is writing about intimately. According to the book cover, Harry Sidebottom is actually Dr Harry Sidebottom, a teacher of Classical History at Oxford University. This comes through loud and clear, but without ever being either a hindrance to the action or a problem for the reader who just wants to enjoy the fighting and intrigue.
As a review from The Times’ Bettany Hughes printed inside the cover, says;
“Dr. Harry Sidebottom’s prose blazes with such searing scholarship that there is enormous enjoyment in this rumbustuous tale of the late Roman Empire…He makes you feel as though you are there”.
I thoroughly enjoyed this one, couldn’t put it down and look forward tremendously to getting hold of the next one in the series, probably called ‘The Caspian Gates’ and I certainly hope it’s not the last in the series.