Fortress of Spears by Anthony Riches

Book Review by Melvadius

In his new novel, following on from Wounds of Honour and Arrows of Fury, Riches returns to the tale of Marcus Aquila, in his faltering guise as Centurion Corvus amongst the Tungrian cohorts. A man hiding in plain sight from the Emperor’s covetous rage and the actions of Imperial agents sent from Rome to ensure his death as an ‘enemy of the state’.

Anyone who has read the previous books will know what to expect and they will not be disappointed; war, conflict, messy deaths and a very small touch of romance in a novel where sub-themes of failure, redemption and revenge also lie just below the surface.

The action starts with events in Rome in August, AD 182 before returning to Britannia in September, AD 182. Here one rebellion is in the final stages of being bloodily suppressed north of Hadrian’s Wall but not before another part of the province has flared into open revolt.

Marcus again has his hands full in keeping him men together as a fighting force while seeking revenge for the loss of a close friend. Although on the run the rebel tribesmen have not been defeated and have plans for how they can turn the tables and defeat their pursuers. While the Imperial agents have their own plans for extracting Marcus from the support of his fellows and bringing their own form of "justice" to him for past actions.

It is down to Marcus and the increasingly diverse group of men he is leading and fighting beside to overcome his various foes, denying them the fruits of their various cunning stratagems.

In this book there are new foes but also new allies and the interaction of the various characters, as well as the manoeuvring of the competing armies, is a particular strength in Riches writing. Again Riches shows his increasing confidence as a writer making use of his knowledge of the terrain and the arms and equipment of the period to spin a fast moving tale.

The realities of war in the period are not pretty and many will die messily before the eventual victors are declared. Will this be the end of the series? Will his legion of fans leave this author and his heroes bereft and wandering in the wilderness?

Somehow I doubt it; some of his enemies may have survived to carry tales to others and there are more than a few hints of troubles in other parts of the Empire. Historically there was some 30 years of conflict in this period so I for one look forward to where the tale leads us next and how Marcus and his diverse and polyglot unit will overcome the new challenges that are sure to arise.

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Union Jack Fortress of Spears for the UK