The Caspian Gates

Harry Sidebottom, Author
Harry Sidebottom. Overlook, $25.95 (432p) ISBN 978-1-59020-782-6
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Book four of the Warrior of Rome series follows Angle-turned-Roman soldier Marcus Clodius Ballista as an earthquake and an emperor still angry over what happened in the last novel propel the stalwart member of the equestrian order out of Ephesus northward to the Caucasus to try to stave off the barbarian Goths attacking vulnerable outposts of the empire. Ballista leaves wife and children behind, forming new alliances, including an intimate connection with Pythonissa, a beguiling Hecate-worshipper engaged in a fierce sibling rivalry with her brothers. Accompanied by ever-loyal Maximus and Hippothous, Ballista fortifies the famous Caspian Gates while proving himself a master of battlefield tactics and hand-to-hand combat. Battista makes enemies and blood feuds mount. Noted Oxford classicist Sidebottom offers maps, glossary, biography, and bibliography, but his fiction rises above the research, bringing history alive in gory detail. He envisions military life down to the bad jokes that define male camaraderie. Set in the third century C.E., with the Roman empire unaware of its ascension, this novel places one man between civilized and uncivilized societies both east and west to negotiate the differences. Sidebottom remains consistently meticulous about detail, old-fashioned about storytelling, and astute in portraying political backstabbing worthy of the modern arena. Agent: James Gill, United Agents, U.K. (June)
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