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Strategos: Born in the Borderlands (Strategos #1)

4.08  ·  Rating Details  ·  299 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
When the falcon has flown, the mountain lion will charge from the east, and all Byzantium will quake. Only one man can save the empire . . . the Haga!

1046 AD. The Byzantine Empire teeters on full-blown war with the Seljuk Sultanate. In the borderlands of Eastern Anatolia, a land riven with bloodshed and doubt, young Apion's life is shattered in one swift and brutal Seljuk
Kindle Edition, 420 pages
Published December 12th 2011 by (first published November 1st 2011)
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When it came down to it, I have to confess that Strategos: Born in the Borderlands was a mixed bag for me. A book that made me pause as I read it. And I mean that literally (more on that in a moment).
Whilst I enjoyed the setting and some of the characters, I had some personal taste issues with the book and they put a creative block in my way.
What I liked about the book was the research the author had done and the gamble he had taken in writing in a little known era of Byzantine history. Wit
Nick Smith
Sep 08, 2013 Nick Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yes this is a tale of revenge, yes it’s a ‘zero to hero’ story, no it’s not without grammatical errors, but yes it still deserves five stars. Here are the reasons why:

Firstly, I found Gordon’s writing style flowed beautifully making this is a very fast read.

Secondly, what made this tale interesting from the start: this is a novel of the end of the Byzantine Empire – a period of history I was very ignorant of. It was wonderful to be plunged into this unfamiliar set. This is strongly in the novel’
Dec 23, 2011 Richard rated it it was amazing
As a fan of historic and heroic fiction ever since I read David Gemmell's Legend at the age of 13 I have read a lot of these types of books from Conn Iggulden, Simon Scarrow and Bernard Cornwell. I enjoyed all these authors but no-one compared to the emotional connection I felt towards Mr Gemmell's characters (I'll be honest Scarrow has come close with Cato and Macro). Sadly in 1996 David Gemmell passed away and I've struggled to find an author I've enjoyed even half as much.

I realise this ma
Simon Turney
May 22, 2012 Simon Turney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll state for the record that Gordon emerged from the same writing-feedback site as I (and a few others), and have since come to know him through Twitter too. But this fact in no way influences the following review, as nepotism does not float my boat. Feel free to simply disregard it if you must, but you do so at your peril.

I gave Gordon's first book 5 stars. I honestly thought it was that good. Reading it just made me jealous over the relative quality of my own work. Now that I've read Strateg
This was just awesome. I think I am getting some early Christmas gifts with the recent books. :) The whole book, including the setting, characters, plot, all was just Great. Author even put quite a bit of effort in including maps, and schemata of the organization of Byzantine army (as it is unfortunately under-explored topic for HF). There is a feature of the novel which is a bit unnecessary - a fantasy aspect of shared visions and foretelling of future. So far it was not all that important for ...more
A.J. Armitt
Jan 02, 2012 A.J. Armitt rated it it was amazing
I have 'known' Gordon Doherty for a number of years now. We met on a writing site, and have kept in touch ever since. It is very difficult to review the work of someone you 'know', and for that reason I generally choose not to. When a book comes along however, that is worth mentioning, it is very difficult not to.

Here is my evaluation of Gordon's book:

1. Presentation - Gordon has a professional attitude to his work. Although this is a self-published title, you would never know. It has a professi
Sept. 15-17, 2013 I reread it and liked it just as well the second time. I'm increasing my rating to 3.75 stars, because of the reasons below; the only negative was the preponderance of modernisms, so it didn't quite make 4 stars. Otherwise, it filled all my requirements for good historical fiction. I did notice the importance of the prejudice theme this time around, and saw how Apion learns there is good and bad in all peoples. Apion has become one of my favorite fictional characters. This was ...more
Copperfield Review
I’ve been reading a lot about the Roman Empire lately since I’m writing my own historical novel about Caesar’s Rome. Both writers and readers seem to have a renewed interest in that fascinating era. I know I have. One of the things I most appreciated about Strategos is its focus on the Eastern Roman Empire when most books I’ve been reading focus on the west. Though they were both part of the Roman Empire, the two halves had very different personalities. Doherty has a knack for writing realistic, ...more
David Baird
Jun 01, 2015 David Baird rated it it was amazing
I’m a fan of Gordon already after reading the first three novels in his other series Legionary so I was very pleased when offered the chance to read the first book in the Strategos series.

This book is split into two parts first being Apion’s early life, we slowly find out how he became a slave and earned his scar which haunts him day after day. We see him rescued from this life by Mansur. We see him learn from Mansur and this gives the characters a lot of depth and you feel like a father yoursel
Keith Nixon
Feb 14, 2015 Keith Nixon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
1046 AD. The Byzantine Empire teeters on full-blown war with the Seljuk Sultanate. In the borderlands of Eastern Anatolia, a land riven with bloodshed and doubt, young Apion's life is shattered in one swift and brutal Seljuk night raid. Only the benevolence of Mansur, a Seljuk farmer, offers him a second chance of happiness.

Yet a hunger for revenge burns in Apion's soul, and he is drawn down a dark path that leads him right into the heart of a conflict that will echo through the ages.

This is a
Before I get started I guess I should say that my standards for a five are pretty darn high - and this book came close. I really wish I could give half a star on here sometimes and this is one of them because this is surely a four and a half.

I won't ruin the revelation at the ending but I will say that it caught me entirely by surprise and it was truly a crowning jewel moment for an already good book. I look forward to book two because if anything it has the potential to pull off the five star
J.A. Beard
Mar 30, 2012 J.A. Beard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review from

Author: Gordon Doherty
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars

Strategos is an engaging trip to the 11th-century Byzantine borderlands.


In the mid-11th century, the Byzantine Empire finds its border threatened by the hungry Seljuk Sultanate. Caught up in the clash between the two warring empires is Apion, a young boy whose life is destroyed by the murder of his family during a Seljuk raid. His hatred and quest for vengeance is complicated by
Strategos, Born in the Borderlands follows the story of Apion, a young crippled Byzantine boy who has a dark past and an even darker future. At an early age Apion’s mother and father are murdered by masked killers and he becomes enslaved in the aftermath. Whilst working in a dingy drinking-hole for a cruel master, Apion stumbles into an elderly Seljuk man called Mansur, who buys Apion’s freedom and takes him back to his farm to live as a foster son. There Apion grows happy and forgets about his ...more
Sep 10, 2013 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is hard to review because the author did not meet his writing potential. He is talented, and I predict he will give readers the full measure of his talent in future novels. In the present book, the author showed the purpose of his work and developed his characters in the final chapters. There were some grammatical errors, but none interrupted the flow of the read. Still, the difference between being good and being great may hinge on such matters.
Why four stars? The author wrote about a
Ireney Berezniak
Clichéd plot of revenge and zero-to-hero bravado, and predictable outcome slightly mar this otherwise well written and engaging historical action adventure. Thankfully, unlike the plot itself, the setting of the novel in mid-1000s borderland Byzantium, a time and place where the empire faces a significant threat from the rising Seljuks, is both refreshing and quite original ... combined with fine story-telling, it manages to be entertaining rather well.

While my knowledge of this particular time
Sam Obigbesan
Jun 25, 2016 Sam Obigbesan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished this novel and I knew that I had to write a review.
What can I say about it? Historical fiction with a tinge, just a tinge of the supernatural. An empire in danger and one person destined to save it. Does the scenario sound familiar?
What drew me to snap up this book was the setting. I had previously read many a historical fiction. Set during medieval times.
Or set within the Roman Empire at the height of its power; ancient Greece, Or even set during the so called, “Viking age”.
Jul 07, 2015 Kingsley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Gordon Doherty seems to have done his homework. He has set the story in a location and period of history I don't know that much about, having not seen any other books that focus on this conflict.

The story is set around 1046 AD, when first contact occurs between the Byzantine Empire and the Seljuks (an empire that had only just come into being a decade before and only lasted ~150 years, thus doesn't seem to get mentioned much in history books). The hero of the story is a young man, Apion, whom i
Jul 23, 2012 Becca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book but wish the second in the series was already out!
Mar 24, 2012 Alun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-favourites
Utterly brilliant
As historical war books go, this one was fabulous. Mr. Doherty does an amazing job making you feel like you were right there in the battle with the blood, sweat, chaos, and violence. The book follows a young boy named Apion who ends up on the road to becoming a Strategos in the Roman army in the East. When he is a young boy, his family is killed by assassins. He is taken in by a former Turkish soldier and trained to protect himself. After his protector is killed by the same assassins, he joins u ...more
Paul Bennett
Jul 22, 2013 Paul Bennett rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Apion is a lost soul, doomed to a life of servitude and mockery. Losing his family to a band of mysterious raiders and horribly wounded himself he is rescued from his slavery by an unlikely source, a Seljuk farmer. Unlikely because he is a Christian and tensions are high between the proponents of Islam and the proponents of Christ in the borderlands of the Byzantine Empire. This is a story of how Apion overcomes his physical limitations and rises up through the ranks of the borderland garrison i ...more
Sep 29, 2012 Rory rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Byzantine Empire has long been a source of great interest to me, and unfortunately a source of much mystery.

There's not a whole lot of writing devoted to what really is one of the longest lasting empires in history, especially when it comes to fiction. I can only hope that this book encourages more people to delve into the subject.

The story of Apion, son of a Byzantine kataphractoi, taken in by a Seljuk farmer named Mansur, who is more than he seems. It's a fairly standard heroic origin, exe
Sep 02, 2013 Troy rated it it was amazing
This is the first book written by Gordon Doherty that I have read. As such, starting the book was always going to be a somewhat anxious moment as I try to decide if I like the author and their writing or not.

I soon decided that I do quite enjoy the style of writing employed by this author, but I really loved the story. This is a rolickingly good yarn!

The situation, 11th century Chaldia in the Eastern part of the Byzantine Empire, is different to the usual offerings from historical fiction i
Mar 19, 2016 Aritra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book set in Byzantine times but strangely relevant to our current world. The bridges built between cultures and ethnicities in this book are heart warming to read about, and illustrate a humanity which is all too necessary in today's world to combat the selfish aggression of various nation states. I felt the writing style was fine, and the plot was reasonably fast paced. The characters were developed appropriately as well.

I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series.
Shavez Lee
Jan 31, 2016 Shavez Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. I really did enjoy the story, though I know it did come off as a little bit cliche. I have to admit that the setting and time period make up for everything that the book does wrong. A whole time period that few authors have ever touched on.
Nov 26, 2015 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting book of revenge set in the borderlands of eastern Byzantine Empire during the rise of the Seljuks. This could be the first in a series of books involving Apion, the chess-player, strategic thinker Byzantine kid who grew up with a Seljuk family and is called the mythical Haga. The action was a bit hard to start in the first hundred pages, but once it started it moved really fast. It is a good book. I recommend it. I would like to see more of a historical touch, too, in the ...more
Oct 02, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've got to say, I'm happy this was a group read and that I finally sat down to read this. I purchsed this book months ago, but never got around to reading it. The first half of the book started off somewhat slow, but it sets the background for the main character which is important when the book starts to pick up about midway through. Towards the end, I couldn't put the book down. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the likes of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden etc.
Jeremy Poole
Sep 26, 2012 Jeremy Poole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story brings the Byzantium Empire to life; Apion a crippled farm boy is destined to become the Haga, a mighty two headed Eagle.
A great tale that has to be read if you are a lover of historical novels, this is one of the best. It has endless enemies and unlikely friendships that make every page a surprise.
This is the second book I’ve read by Gordon Doherty and the second I’ve rated five stars. This guy can write!
Jeremy Poole
Jun 12, 2012 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've given it three stars but 2.5 is more accurate. I had high expectations but the plot had too many coincidences and and lacked naturalness. The chess imagery and revenge theme grew tired from repetition and the characters were two dimensional or unbelievable. A shame because it is a fascinating period but I don't think I'll be going back for the obvious sequel.
Sep 06, 2012 Ray rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this, but the writing was pretty weak. The early parts of the book were particularly a strain. The twists and deaths felt forced as did the main character's climb though the ranks and rise to power. I think 3 out of 5 is a solid bet given that parts of it were interesting but it was generally not that great.
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I'm a Scottish writer, addicted to reading and writing historical fiction.

My love of history was first kindled by the ruins of Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall, and travelling around the ancient world has kept the fire burning brightly ever since. The later Roman Empire and Byzantium hold a particular fascination for me. There is something quite special about the metamorphosis from late antiqu
More about Gordon Doherty...

Other Books in the Series

Strategos (3 books)
  • Strategos: Rise of the Golden Heart (Strategos, #2)
  • Strategos: Island in the Storm (Strategos, #3)

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