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Blood & steel di Harry Sidebottom
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Blood & steel (edizione 2016)

di Harry Sidebottom

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Rome, AD238. An assassin masked as Emperor Maximinus' messenger murders the Prefect and announces to Rome that their Emperor is dead in the north and that Gordian I and II have taken the Throne of the Caesars.But Maximinus is not dead. Secretly he is gathering an army on the banks of the Danube waiting for his moment to strike on the Goths.In Rome, the Gordiani are enthroned and Maximus denounced as an enemy of the state along with any known followers. As bloodshed ensues on the streets, and news spreads back to Maximinus, tension rise in the fight for the imperial purple, which will culminate in a mighty battle of Carthage.… (altro)
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This well-written volume picks up where Iron and Rust left off. Maximinus has become a tyrant, concerned only with his Northern army. The main theme is the Gordian Revolt against Maximinus Thrax. The Gordianii, father and son, are acclaimed joint emperors, although Maximinus still lives. First blood is drawn: the Praetorian Prefect, Vitalianus is stabbed to death by Menophilus, a senator and Gordian supporter. Father and son are declared emperors by the Senate; Maximinus is hated for his policies, cruelty, and uncouthness. The book consisted of several subplots like Book 1 in the series, with many of the same characters, now aligned either for or against Maximus and for or against the Gordianii. Conspiracies, treachery, and betrayal run heavily through the book. We also see the seamy side of life in that period as represented by a die-cutter--never named, who has a secret life, a knife-boy, and a prostitute. The Machiavellian action switches between Gordian supporters and Maximinus supporters, with side trips to the slums of the Subura and to battle with Sassanid Persians, now a rising power.

Outstanding moments for me: an exciting wild animal hunt in Africa, also an ambush of brigands in Spain. Maximus's winter battle against the Iazyges Sarmations had my blood pumping, as well as the Battle of Carrhae against the Sassanids and final face-off between the Gordianii and Capelius, Governor of Numidia in Africa, at Carthage. The elder Gordian and Capelius had hated each other for years and both fought hard.

The stories of several characters still left alive at novel's end lack closure; maybe that will come further along.
Some of the sex depicted was too graphic for me but I suppose it fits in with the stories of Iunia Fadilla, the abused wife of Maximinus's dissolute son, Maximus, and of the prostitute, Caenis, forced into that life by necessity. She dreams of escaping and finding a decent husband. That would remove the stigma of infamia from her. I wish the author would have softened the sex aspect. I saw no point to the chapter on the mime performance; the book would have lost nothing with its being left out. I could sympathize with Maximinus as far as he saw himself, not because of his actions and the way he presented himself to the outside world, that didn't know his motivations. Most characters were reprehensible.

The author followed the same format: maps, lists of characters--one short with only the most important, the other with everyone as they first appeared in the novel, and other supplementary material.

Highly recommended. I urge people to read a little on the Year of the Six Emperors beforehand, and on the six individuals. This novel covers the first three. ( )
  janerawoof | Jun 1, 2015 |
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Rome, AD238. An assassin masked as Emperor Maximinus' messenger murders the Prefect and announces to Rome that their Emperor is dead in the north and that Gordian I and II have taken the Throne of the Caesars.But Maximinus is not dead. Secretly he is gathering an army on the banks of the Danube waiting for his moment to strike on the Goths.In Rome, the Gordiani are enthroned and Maximus denounced as an enemy of the state along with any known followers. As bloodshed ensues on the streets, and news spreads back to Maximinus, tension rise in the fight for the imperial purple, which will culminate in a mighty battle of Carthage.

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