This book was my introduction to the "Warrior of Rome" series. Though it's the third entry, reading it first was not a problem. I was able to keep allThis book was my introduction to the "Warrior of Rome" series. Though it's the third entry, reading it first was not a problem. I was able to keep all the characters straight and found enough information to understand their place in the narrative.
I wish I had discovered Sidebottom, sooner. I consider myself a fan of Roman historical fiction and he is obviously a very good practitioner. His work is well researched and documented plus accompanied by an excellent bibliography, appendix, and glossary.
The story's protagonist is Ballista, an officer in the third century Roman army, originally sent to Rome as a hostage against his Germanic father's continued good behavior. He's now, 20 years later, defending Rome's eastern borders against the growing threat of the Sassanid (Persian) empire.
Ballista and the Emperor Valerian, betrayed by Macrianus the Lame, have been captured by the Sassanids and are forced to prostrate themselves before the so-called King of Kings. Ballista is to go to Samosata and ask Macrianus to ransom Valerian. He knows it's a fool's errand but gives his oath to return.
Ballista then breaks his oath to protect his family and goes into the service of Macrianus as a high level commander. The plot then revolves around what Ballista must do to not only survive but also protect his family from enemies both within and without the Empire.
The battle scenes of which there are many are well done. The characters are well drawn and for the most part believable for the time. Ballista's companions stay loyal to him and in many cases are able to protect him from his enemies.
I am looking forward to reading the other books in the series in order or not. I can certainly recommend this volume. ...more
I have become fascinated with the Spanish Civil War. Anyone who shares that interest should read this book. It is one of the best novels about the warI have become fascinated with the Spanish Civil War. Anyone who shares that interest should read this book. It is one of the best novels about the war, I have run across.
The Spanish Civil War was basically fought between a polyglot collection of leftists who had overthrown the monarchy and replaced it with a republic and the rebels, mostly fascists and monarchists, who launched their uprising from Morocco led by Generalissimo Franco. Both Germany and Italy supported the rebels with military weaponry and "advisors". Since none of the European democracies would help the Republicans, Russia stepped in and not too long afterwards began to run things in a Stalinist manner. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place. The Spanish people were victimized by both sides.
Eventually Franco's forces won and took over a mostly destroyed country. When WW II started, Great Britain thought it was crucial to keep Spain out of the war on the Axis side. All of which brings us to "Winter in Madrid".
The main protagonist, Harry Brett, is sent to Spain as a translator/spy after being wounded at Dunkirk. Harry's job is to find out what an old schoolmate, Sandy Forsyth, is up to in support of the Spanish government. All he knows is that it has something to do with a gold discovery which could lessen England's leverage over Spain.
Harry has another connection to Spain in that another schoolmate, Bernie Piper, died fighting the Fascists. As Harry begins his assignment, he's surprised to learn that Red Cross Nurse, Barbara Clare, is living with Forsyth even though she was at one time madly in love with Bernie.
Things get more and more complicated from there as the story unfolds and the characters and the reader are confronted with surprise after surprise.
Sansom is meticulous with his description of the time, His characters are believable and well drawn. The plot strains credulity in spots but overall kept me engaged and eager to discover what was going to happen next. I appreciated the epilog which did not tie everything up in a neat little bow but rather continued to reflect the ambiguity of both the characters and the times.
I enjoyed reading this book immensely and recommend it highly....more