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url 2018-08-10 14:15
My one hundred fourteenth podcast is up!
Cleopatra's Daughter: And Other Royal Women of the Augustan Era - Duane W. Roller

My latest podcast is up on the New Books Network website! In it I interview Duane W. Roller about his new study of the lives and roles of royal women in the early years of the Roman empire. Enjoy!

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review 2018-03-29 01:35
A useful introduction to an important monarch
Charles V: Elected Emperor and Hereditary Ruler (Men in Office) - Manuel Fernández Álvarez

Charles V stands as one of the greatest monarchs in history. As king of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, he ruled over an empire that stretched over four continents to total over 1.5 million square miles. His reign included innumerable wars, dynastic struggles, and the growing challenges posted by the Protestant Reformation to the religious stability of Europe. Yet for all of Charles's prominence there are few biographies available in English about him, leaving readers with few options when it comes to studying the life of this fascinating figure.


This problem only enhances the value of Manuel Fernández Álvarez’s short study, which provides a concise description of Charles’s life and reign for interested readers. Álvarez presents Charles as a devout ruler who struggled to manage such a diverse and far-flung empire. Much of his reign was spent in transit, having to deal with various expensive crises at one end of his European realm or another. Succeeding to the Spanish throne after the death of his grandfather, Ferdinand, he had to address the discontent of many Castilians, which broke out into open rebellion. Winning election to the Holy Roman Emperorship in 1519 only added to his burdens, particularly with the challenge posed by the French king Francis I. Francis emerges in Álvarez’s narrative as Charles’ bete noire, particularly after Francis broke his oath to the Holy Roman Emperor after his release from Charles’s custody in 1526, and the two often struggled for dominance in Europe. Though Charles enjoyed further successes, final victory was perhaps unattainable, and a series of setbacks led Charles to retire from the throne three years before his early death in 1558.


To summarize such a reign is no easy feat, and it is a measure of Álvarez’s ability that he does so as efficiently as he does. Yet the author’s narrative suffers from a lack of analysis. There is little sense of his subject’s inner life, and his explanation of Charles’s motivations, strategies, or broader goals is similarly deficient. Though such an absence is somewhat understandable in a book as short as this one, it is lamentable given Álvarez’s expertise on his subject and the dearth of English-language biographies of this fascinating figure. As a result, English-language readers desiring to learn about the emperor might find themselves having to settle for this informative yet ultimately limited study, which serves as a good introduction but for now has to fill a larger gap than it should.

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review 2018-02-04 16:24
Are Heroes Human Beings?
The Heirs of Fortune - Heather Domin





The tale of Drusus Germanicus , who was a Roman politician and military commander / January 14, 38 BC– summer of 9 BC / , is told from an interesting perspective. I will not focus on this-
overall, just as in the first book, the whole depiction of the setting is great. 

Please, keep in mind the book is quite heavy on historical facts and with not so much focus on romance. 


What I expected was maybe to see the characters more as humans, not so much as heroes. 
I wished they would surprise me, I hoped to think and feel with them. In stead, I felt more like a bystander, and they were more untouchable than ever. 
Which I didn't really expect, since the first book laid the foundation for different understanding on the image of the Classical Hero. 

As far as I checked, the author is planning on writing a third book- Valerian's Legion: The War of Illyria - maybe that's where the surprises I hope for will be. 

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review 2018-02-04 16:07
Now Fight!
The Soldier of Raetia - Heather Domin



Except for the fact that Augustus Caesar preferred Raetian wine to any other, I knew close to nothing about the region and the system for dislocation of auxiliary troops in Raetia. ..

Heather Domin has done an impressive work with this book - the factual information about that place at the time is so well incorporated in the fiction , that at some point I found myself looking at maps, reading about legion formations and articles describing hierarchy of the Roman Empire. 

Despite how little is known about the religious practices of Raetia,the author has used that scarce information so thoughtfully, that the picture of spiritual life in the book does not feel even for a second incomplete. 

And besides all the things I learned about SPQR, I was introduced to two very intricate characters. 
I wanted to know more about Valerian- the man behind the titles and military honors, and Dardanus - the young soldier, constantly inspired by his readings of Homer's works . Yes, the reference to Achilles is there, with a twist. 

The action though is not driven by their relationship and throughout half the book a possible affair between them seems like a very improper thought.

I like how different those two are. The age difference between Valerian and Dardanus was serving the purpose of creating a bigger contrast between them in terms of experience and status , and at the same time it was to some extent the reason for their feelings about each other. 

The first books builds a very solid foundation for development of Dardanus' character, and I really hope to see him as a strategist rather than a field legionnaire in the next book. 

As fоr Valerian- the general begins to look more and more human to me as the story unfolds and i really want to know how much of his character will be revealed.

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review 2017-11-13 16:19
Excellent mashup! Legion of the Undead by Michael Whitehead
Legion of the Undead - Michael Whitehead

Legion of the Undead really hit the spot; I need a second helping! First, I love Roman Empire stories and I’ve come to love zombie fiction in the past few years. Now we have the perfect mash-up. Hungry zombie horde, meet the Roman legions! Cue evil laughter!

Often with ancient Roman historical fiction, I don’t see too many female characters and the few that are present are usually only there to act as someone’s love/lust interest. Not so with this book! Yay! The ladies are true to accepted Roman Empire gender roles but they also get plot-relevant stuff done. Even the minor but evil Sevillia did something that affected the plot. And I love Lucia, who is a 16 year old thrown into the midst of this zombie uprising. She’s not a cliched uber-tough zombie stomping heroine but she is practical, saves the day a time or two like the other heroes, and doesn’t fall to pieces when she needs to be rescued.

Of course Vitas Protus is my favorite. He’s an archer that is catapulted up into the ranks as the zombie issue becomes a real problem. He keeps his wits about him, takes advice from those around him, and gets stuff done. I loved how he watched out for Regulus, the 14 year old lad that was forced into the military. Then there’s big Antonius too. He’s also a practical sort, giving the soldiers orders to aim for the heads if they want to take out the zombies.

Starting out on the outskirts of Germania where the Roman legions were pushing back the German tribes, Vitas has to get his little band to safety. First, it’s to the their encampment and then on to the estate of Governor Clemmons. There Vitas gets his orders to head to Rome with a dire note and Lucia, who can speak to her merchant father’s home being overrun with these Risen (as the zombies are called in this book). Not everyone makes it out unscathed. In fact, a character I had gotten a little attached to takes one for the team before the end. There’s also a touch of intrigue and betrayal!

Anyway, it’s just a really good book and since we’re in November, I can safely say it’s one of my favorites of the year. Legion of the Undeadhas set a new bar for zombie Roman Empire historical fiction! 5/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Terry Self really out did himself with the narration. Just a great performance all around. He has distinct voices for all the characters and his female character voices are feminine. There’s a few accents as well (Spain Spanish, Gaulish, and Chinese) which he pulls off quite well. In fact, Terry Self sounded like he was really into the story, it never being a dull moment. There were no technical issues with this audiobook. 5/5 stars.

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