“Warrior of Rome: Part 1, Fire in the East” by Harry Sidebottom (Penguin, 2008)

Fire in the Eaststarstarstar

Dr. Harry Sidebottom knows what he’s talking about when he writes about ancient Rome: he teaches classical history at the University of Oxford, and is a well-respected scholar on ancient warfare, classical art, and the cultural history of the Roman Empire.  It seems perfectly fitting that he should turns his writing abilities and knowledge to writing historical fiction on the world he is so familiar with.

It is the year AD 255 and the Roman Empire encompasses most of the western world, but it is being stretched thin, with issues occurring on the borders, revealing that this empire is finite.  In the east there is Persia and the massing forces of the Sassanid Empire.  The lone, isolated citadel of Arete is the important stronghold for the Roman Empire.  Ballista is the man chosen to lead the Roman forces; a former barbarian with a Nordic background and beliefs, and has seen what life has to offer.  Now it is up to him to unite the Roman forces and stop one of the greatest threats the Roman Empire has ever seen.

Sidebottom writes with a skill that works to combine details and information on the period without overloading the reader with facts and jargon, and at the same time making the story compelling, interesting and action-packed.  Writers of nonfiction rarely travel into the realm of fiction writing, and the reverse is also true, because it’s hard to do; Sidebottom is one of those special authors with the knowledge and background in the history, as well as the writing ability to carry this out effortlessly.

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Originally written on September 16 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.