Book review: Arrows of Fury by Anthony Riches

No hot-blooded Roman soldier would relish the cold comforts of defending Britannia’s Hadrian’s Wall - unless he had something to hide.

Fugitive Marcus Valerius Aquila returns to his post at the pitiless edge of the Roman world in the second of Anthony Riches’ all-action Empire series which pitches the might of an imperial army against ruthless native tribes.

We first met Marcus in the exciting debut novel, Wounds of Honour, and now the fearless warrior takes up his spear again to face danger, betrayal, disgrace and potential death in the next blood-soaked chapter of his extraordinary life.

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A military expert, Riches brings top-notch drama, vivid storytelling and historical realism to his tales set in a turbulent time of transition for the Roman Empire.

From battle scenes of terrifying ferocity and the lethal politics of the imperial masters to the dirty dealings of tribe leaders and the camaraderie of the troops, this is a stirring and brutal account of men at war.

The strains of defending thousands of kilometres of crumbling frontier, surrounded on all sides by hostile tribes, are starting to show and new legions are entering the fray.

Centurion Marcus Corvus of the 1st Tungrian cohort is the youngest, fittest and most inspirational of the officers. Known as ‘Two Knives,’ he is the kind of leader that any man would follow into danger without needing an order.

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But Marcus, real name Marcus Valerius Aquila, is on the run from the Rome of Emperor Commodus who has executed the young officer’s high-ranking father and family, declaring them all traitors.

The Emperor’s secret police are looking for Marcus and they’ll show no mercy when they find him.

The new Prefect Gaius Scaurus has only been in his job at Hadrian’s Wall for two weeks and already suspects that Marcus is the fugitive labelled a traitor to the throne.

Aware that Marcus’s men would spill the blood of anyone who tried to execute their leader, Scaurus makes a deal with him but whether it will save him from Commodus’ hunting dogs remains to be seen.

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Meanwhile, murderous northern chieftain Calgus is rampaging south with sword and flame, fully aware that the Romans are vulnerable and that their legions are ripe for defeat.

Only a miracle can save Marcus and his men from certain death.

Arrows of Fury paints a panoramic picture of one of the most violent periods of British and Roman history. Ancient adventure at its pulsating best!

(Hodder, paperback, £6.99)

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