Battle for Rome, by Ian James Ross

Battle for Rome, by Ian James Ross book coverGenre: Alternate History (historical fantasy)
Publisher: Overlook Press
Published: 2017
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Reviewer: David L. Felts

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Battle for Rome is the third book in the Twilight of Empire historical fantasy series, which takes place at the end of the Roman empire and focuses primarily on Constantine’s rise to power. It’s the year AD 312 and the empire is on the brink of civil war. Constantine controls the west while Maxentius, son of the former emperor Maximian, rules Italy, North Africa and Rome.

This book follows Constantine’s invasion of Italy, culminating with the battle of the Milvian Bridge in October 312 AD.

Centurion Aurelius Castus who previously saved the life of Constantine, has been promoted to tribune and is trying to settle into a new life with his wife and young son. But Rome is held by the usurper Maxentius, and Constantine is putting together a surprise attack from the west to take back the city. Constantine calls on Castus to play a key role in the campaign and he is once again caught up in events beyond his control, where nothing is what it seems.

He also has some personal problems, in that he suspects his wife may be working against him. Nothing is given, not even the power of the gods, as a new religion has begun moving through the empire. A proven as a warrior and leader, Castus still has to deal with the hostility of Rome’s aristocrats while he attempts to forge alliances between factions.

The resulting story delivers satisfying characters who meld of intrigue and battlefield action. The battle scenes are well done and convincing, vivid without indulging in an excess of violence and gore. If you ever wanted to know what it felt like to fight in a shield wall during a pitched battle, Ross lets you know.

While some of the characters are more convincing than others, most are well done, with some being superb. Aurelius Castus stands out, a battle hardened veteran, prone to violence, and dedicated to his sense of honor, almost to the point of sometimes being a danger to himself with his honesty.

Constantine is equally well drawn, with a studied aloofness that he uses to hide his fears.

When it comes to Rome, Ian Ross knows his stuff, having lived in Italy and researched Roman history, especially military history, for over a decade.

While reading the first two novels isn’t necessary to enjoy Battle for Rome, I recommend you do.

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