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Review: Warrior of Rome. Fire in the East

Harry Sidebottom

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Warrior of Rome. Fire in the East

The book “Fire in the East” is the first five-volume historical novel entitled “Warrior of Rome”, in which the author Harry Sidebottom weaves the fate of the Romanized Briton – Ballista – into the war with the Sassanids in the East. The barbarian is sent by the emperor to the great river Euphrates to fortify and prepare the fort of Arete before the huge Persian army of King Shapur, who is about to come. At this time, the Roman Empire is in a major crisis: Rome is at war on many frontiers; there are fights for the throne; there is an economic regression.

Balista is a thirty-something man who grew up in Rome as a hostage to the Romans. As a sixteen-year-old, he killed the emperor Maximinus Thrax and since then the ghost of the murdered man haunts him at night. Ballista has a group of faithful slaves at his side: the mighty former gladiator and bodyguard of Maximus, the biting but helpful Calgacus, and the young and intelligent secretary of Demetrius. However, due to his origin, the hero has many enemies, including the proud Roman patrician – Acylius Gabrio and other high-ranking soldiers. Ballista has to build his position from the beginning and fight for the trust of his soldiers. To make matters worse, Arete cannot count on large reinforcements, and the city is full of spies and traitors. Despite all these adversities, the young Roman commander has to face a powerful Persian army.

The novel is written in an extremely colorful and interesting language that has been adapted to our times. There are often Latin words that add flavor and atmosphere. The author tried to recreate the mentality and emotions of those times. Each of the characters is expressive and adds its own value to the story. Due to the lack of numerous historical sources for this period of history, the author allowed himself to play with history a little. Any ambiguities or changes are explained in the afterword, encouraging readers to explore their knowledge of the region and the history of this period on their own.
The author also often weaves various tidbits and historical descriptions into the plot, which makes it easier to understand the events and the background of the action.

Placing the barbarian commander at the center of events is not accidental. On the one hand, the author, as an excellent historian, wanted to emphasize the complexity of this century in the history of the Roman Empire. It very often happened that, due to the lack of their own commanders, Romanized barbarians were used, who were then sent to the outskirts of the empire to defend the borders of the state. On the other hand, establishing an Anglo-Saxon as the main character of the novel was simply to interest American readers in the plot.

This item is a great proposition for lovers of ancient history, but also militaria and battles. The description of the siege lasting many months is presented in an extremely professional and careful way, which emphasizes the author’s vast knowledge and knowledge of the subject matter. The book is a pleasure to read, which encourages you to reach for the second volume of the novel.

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