Fire and Sword: Throne of Caesars: Book Three, by Harry Sidebottom

Fire and Sword Throne of Caesars Book Three, by Harry Sidebottom book coverGenre: Science Alternate History
Publisher: Harper Collins
Published: 2017
Reviewer Rating: four and a half stars
Book Review by David L. Felts

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Fire & Sword, by Harry Sidebottom, is the third book in his “Throne of the Caesars” series, set in third century Rome and following the machinations of various characters as they seek power and, in some cases, survival, during a time of rebellion and war.

The father and son rebels of the Gordian family are dead, and Maximinus Thrax is coming to claim the throne. Rome’s Senate supported the Gordiani and need to take fast action in order to avoid Maximinus Thrax’s vengeance. They quickly elect two Senators to share the title of Caesar, but it’s too late to prevent violent revolution.

In the north, Menophilus, an old friend of the younger Gordian, prepares to defend the town against Maximinus. The last barrier between Maximinus, its fate will determine the fate of the Rome itself.

Following the trend that seemed to start with Martin’s Game of Thrones series, the action here is fast and varied. Sidebottom follows a whole host of characters in divers locations, each with their won objectives and challenges.

It’s worth mentioning that Sidebottom has Doctorate in Ancient History and has taught at various universities, including Oxford, where he is now Fellow and Director of Studies in Ancient History at St Benets Hall, and Lecturer in Ancient History at Lincoln College. He specializes in ancient warfare and the Hellenistic influence within the Roman Empire.

So suffice to say he knows what he’s talking about….

Rather than deliver some stuffy treatise on ancient history, Sidebottom brings it to life with vivid characters and fast-moving action. Crises is afoot, the Empire has to deal with several wars simultaneously, and internal strife threaten to tear Rome apart.

Sidebottom’s characterization and writing bring the ancient world to life. Each struggles with his or her own demons and ambitions. Like the aforementioned Game of Thrones, there are many threads to the story, and all are uniquely and admirably followed.

If you like your alternate history delivered fast and furious, with ancient personalities brought to vivid like and accurate military action, you can’t go wrong with this one. The only drawback would be for those fantasy fans who want a bit of the fantastic. While there’s medieval action aplenty, there’s nary a dragon, troll, nor magic staff in sight….

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