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Dark North by Gillian Bradshaw

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Joined: April 2009
Location: Nr. Bristol, SW England

Dark North by Gillian Bradshaw

Post by parthianbow » Tue August 14th, 2012, 4:54 am

I was recommended this book by Annis. Knowing that we share some tastes in books, I bought a copy. I'd heard of Bradshaw a number of times over the last few years, but this was the first time I'd picked up one of her novels. The first surprise I got was that the book is only available in hardback. My second surprise was that it's also gone out of print - and it was only published in 2007. If that's happening to books as fine as this one, we live in a sad world indeed.

Given that it had been highly recommended to me, it wasn't a surprise that the novel was a good read. The setting - the arrival of the emperor Septimius Severus and his sons in Britain in the early third century AD, is an unusual and attractive one. Anthony Riches' Empire series will get there eventually, but I'm not aware of any other books set at this time.

Memnon, the central character, is an African scout of considerable ability. A practical joker, he's also an excellent tracker and dangerous enemy. He's no simple soldier either, but a scarred individual with a deep sense of right and wrong. Bradshaw excels in her portrayal of him, and this is what makes the book so engaging. There are other interesting characters too - the bewitching slave Athenais, and the emperor's freedman Castor. Severus' campaign to quell the troublesome British tribes north of Hadrian's Wall, as well as large dollops of political intrigue and skulduggery, combine to form a vivid backdrop for the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would give it four and a half stars. So why not five? One thing jarred with me throughout the novel. As a novelist myself, I know how necessary it is for the reader to suspend their disbelief for the story to continue. Memnon just did it too many times. A mere scout in the emperor's army, he seemed too well at ease with situation after situation that would have had such a man trembling in his boots (or sandals). It's a small gripe about an excellent read.
Ben Kane
Bestselling author of Roman military fiction.
Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

Twitter: @benkaneauthor

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