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The Soldier of Raetia

(Valerian's Legion #1)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  249 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Rome, 10BC. Manilus Dardanus, a new soldier from the provinces, applies for a military sponsorship with Cassius Valerian, the general of a small legion patrolling the northern frontier. Idealistic and naive, Dardanus has a lot to learn about the life he has chosen, and at first the brusque and reticent general seems the least willing candidate to teach him; but gradually a ...more
Paperback, Second Edition, 348 pages
Published April 10th 2013 by Lulu (first published July 23rd 2009)
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Hot studs in loincloths and red cloaks. That's what m/m set in Ancient Rome is about, right?


When I look for m/m stories in this time period, I am usually ready to let lots of historical inconsistencies pass, because I expect them to be pretty sexually explicit by nature. And if you're lucky, there's a well developed plot somewhere in there too.

I am saying this lovingly, as I've enjoyed many novels set in Ancient Rome.

*The Soldier of Raetia*, however, is very unique in the m/m niche of Roman
"I think there's beauty in not knowing how things will end. If we knew our fate, we might try to change it".

Thank you, Martin, for bringing this jewel of a book to my notice.
Can't wait to read the sequel!
Anna Graham
Jan 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book in two days. Am I overly fond of historical fiction; no. Do I pine for Roman tales; not really. Am I keen on war stories; not exactly. Do I appreciate well written, unconventional love stories? You bet. But that doesn’t begin to say why I couldn’t tear myself away from The Soldier of Raetia.

Heather Domin sets a reader right in a Roman landscape, the smells, sounds and sights fleshed out as if I was reading in the houses, at the campsites, on the battlefields. What Domin doe
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was always a big fan of Roman history, especially the Roman army and how they managed to build such an empire and especially how to maintain it.
So I read quite a few books about Rome and I didn't need a lot of convincing when this book popped up on Martin's reading list, to follow suit...
And I can definitely say I did not regret it.
The writing and the story reminded me of those beautiful Paul Waters books, who describes Roman everyday life (including gay love interests) like nobody else (well
Meg - A Bookish Affair
You all know that I love historical fiction and I read a ton of it. I was very excited about this book as I've read very little historical fiction about Rome even with all of the HF that I read. I was most definitely not disappointed. This is a well researched story about the everyday lives of Roman soldiers. I'd like to point out that I really, really enjoyed the historical note at the end of the book that discussed what the author made up and what research went into the book. I think that in h ...more
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
4.5 -> Nearly everything about this book is nearly perfect: unobtrusive exposition, evocative descriptions of people and places, careful and sparing touches of research, vivid characters, high stakes and the maddeningly slow burn of the relationship between the protags. And now I feel like I've sucked the life out of it with this review, but it is very much alive, very vibrant and moving. This first book promises an awesome series. And it's $3, guys. ...more
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you've ever looked for reading material and thought, "I want something like the Eagle of the Ninth, but actually gay", I have a recommendation for you.
This was basically a Bildungsroman. The strong points were sympathetic characters and excellent character development. A young man, Dardanus, enlists in the Roman Army, 10BC, and is posted to Raetia [parts of modern-day Germany; Liechtenstein; Switzerland; Austria]. We are given a detailed depiction of his "basic training", of members of his contubernium [i.e., tentmates/messmates] and General [The equivalent term probably would have been Legate] Valerian of the Legion, his sponsor and mentor. D ...more
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-researched, but there's a bit too much of telling instead of showing, and it takes a while to get going. The relationship between Dardanus and Valerian (his sponsor/legatus) is very slow-burn, which I enjoyed. Overall, while The Soldier of Raetia isn't as great as I expected, it's an enjoyable coming-of-age story.
Have you ever read a book which you kept coming back to no matter how many books you have read after, and wanted to read and reread and savor every word and reread again? Have you ever read a book where you wonder how the writer could transport you to another time so flawlessly and make you want to get to know the characters in person because they felt so amazingly real? I am sure we all have such books which we can gush about endlessly, and this is one of those books for me.

This is a historical
Marie Parsons
During the reign of Caesar Augustus, Manlius Dardanus joins the legion at age 20. He is a shy, hesitant young man, unsure of his abilities and uncertain if he will fit in.

Domin skillfully makes the reader experience the training, and the emotions, of Dardanus and his new friends as they learn what it means to be a legionary. They bond as brothers in military service and in combat.

Dardanus is the youth in all of us, wherever we begin in life, hoping we can make someone proud, hoping we can find
Aug 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. Since I bought it nearly 2 years ago, I think I've read it at least 4-5's one of my 'go to' books when I don't have a library book at hand. The descriptions are so rich and the amount of research Domin put into this book is astounding. Dardanus and Valerian are two of my favorite fictional characters.
Aug 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a treat...I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Heather is a terrific writer, and her highly descriptive battle scenes made me feel as if I were in the phalanx. I was a bit surprised at the detailed sex scenes, but they weren't jarring--they were in line with the overall keen eye and detailed writing throughout the book.

I'm eager to read the sequel!
V.E. Ulett
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A bildungsroman set in Roman times, The Soldier of Raetia has adventure, military action, intrigue and romance amid rich historical detail. What more can you want? I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. Highly recommended.
The Idle Woman
3.5 stars but leaning towards 4. For my review please see my blog:
Lisa Yarde
Jan 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Roman historicals, military historicals
In the Augustan period, a young man comes of age and learns the ways of Roman military life, in Heather Domin’s The Soldier of Raetia. At twenty years old, Manilus Dardanus has come to Rome, guided by his father’s intentions. He seeks the patronage of the illustrious general Marcus Cassius Valerian, who commands Augustus Caesar twenty-fourth legion. General Valerian, hardened by battle and tragedies of the past, at first assumes that Dardanus is like the sons of so many sycophants who have sough ...more
Much better than I was expecting, although not quite as good as it could have been. Same-sex romance in the Ancient Roman military is more or less guaranteed to interest me, and I was honestly surprised by how well-researched the thing was -- I have only a few accuracy-related quibbles, and for me this is rare. (Mostly I would have liked to have seen more explicit stigmatization of relationships within the chain of command, cf. M. Laetorius Mergus as well as Trebonius aka Plotinus aka the "Maria ...more
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Except for the fact that Augustus Caesar preferred Raetian wine to any other, I knew close to nothing about the region and the system for dislocation of auxiliary troops in Raetia. ..

Heather Domin has done an impressive work with this book - the factual information about that place at the time is so well incorporated in the fiction , that at some point I found myself looking at maps, reading about legion formations and articles describing hierarchy of the Roman Empire.

Despite how little is know
Dec 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
The good: excellent prose, buckets of research, never a sense that the author doesn't know what she's talking about. A lot of work went into this novel and it shows. I have to give props for a fairly good twist, as well, though I was a little disappointed in the reveal because it concerned my favorite character.

The bad: a lot of telling, not enough showing that the good characters were actually good. And when you consider that the good guys are the ones with the might of Rome behind them trying
Jun 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice story of a young man seeking his place in the Roman society and military.

To the contrary of some reviews, the book is quite concise and well written, though it starts slow. So don’t get fooled by the first chapters, they are just drawing up the setting for the rest of the book. The third part of the book is fast paced and entertaining, and it is quite sparse with sex scenes. The dialogue is slight a mixture of modern and ancient, but I believe it is understandable and even desired to ensu
Lisa The Novel Approach
Heather Domin’s The Soldier of Raetia is, by the author’s admission, not entirely accurate in its historical details, but the liberties she takes weren’t obvious to a plebe such as myself, and there were no misplaced anachronisms that would have led me to believe the story was fiction rather than fact. I believe a reader would have to be a scholar of, or at least have a more than passing interest in, this time period in order to pick out the historical accuracy from the author’s imagination, and ...more
Gerry Burnie
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gerry B's Book Reviews -

Although my specialty is Canadian history, I have a great appreciation for all history, and I certainly bow to Heather Domin’s knowledge of Augustinian Rome, as demonstrated in “The Soldier of Raetia: Valarian’s Legion.

I also like her writing style. She provides just the right amount of description to make both characters and settings vivid without slowing the pace. The characters are also well developed and distinctive although I did fi
Glbt Bookshelf
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Marsilus Dardanus is a youngest son who, in 10 BC Rome really has no other career options than to join the Roman army. His father sets him up with General Cassius Valerian who takes to the boy at once but cannot admit it Even to himself. Dardanus proves himself capable as a soldier but also as a strategist, and more and more he catches Valerian's eye. Why is the general resisting the mutual attraction? He is holding onto the memory of his wife, long dead in childbirth. Whe
Mar 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience."

William Blake's seminal titles popped into my head as I watched Valerian easily pick his way through political minefields, as I soaked up the beauty of Raetian woods as seen through Dardanus's eyes. Domin does an outstanding job of presenting the environments and activities of a Roman legion as experienced by the major characters: a world-weary general and his fresh-faced recruit. It took me a hundred pages to even recognize the changing points of view,
Julie Rose
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: most-loved
I loved this book. Domin has a real talent for not only setting a scene, but transporting you there - that immersion is one of the great joys of reading historical fiction. Her characters are rounded and believable, the battle scenes detailed and shocking, and the storyline involving and moving. I had never really been terribly interested in the history of Rome before this, and now I'm hooked: I think that says it all.
Nazanin ex-Profile
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
My favorite genre will always be a slow-burn romance and this book delivered that so well! I loved the historical references, especially their accuracies. I felt so bad for Elerius, I felt like he just couldn't help himself and act like that. It broke my heart when Dardanus said "I loved you Elerius" and walked away while Elerius screamed his name. *sigh
Mar 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved it, five stars! I'm a huge fan of m/m stories in this period but I'm finding very hard to find many good books, I was actually losing hope until I read this one and it had everything I wanted and more!

Good research about the period, excellent side characters and a wonderful romance between the two main characters who are extremely likeable, especially Dardanus, I just wanted good things to happen to him and I was very happy when they did!

I honestly didn't want it to end, I could read mo
Aug 06, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this online as it was posted chapter by chapter, then started again and read to the end while home recovering from surgery. What a great read! The characters and situations are well-written, the dialogue is fresh and fun, and the plot just races along.

The book is set in a Roman legion in 10BC; I know next to nothing about the period, and I was educated and entertained at the same time. This book is historical adventure, military fiction, and m/m romance all rolled up in one, and I can't w
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, history
A near-perfect blend of historically accuracy, action and romance.

The only thing that I wasn't particularly sure about was the pacing of Dardanus and Valerian's relationship: the change in seeing each other as mentor and student to seeing each other as romantic interests seemed a bit sudden to me, I feel like the author should have developed their pre-existing relationship a bit more, fit in a few more interactions where they aren't eating together or fighting.

Other than that, I really enjoyed
Si Meadows
Hm, yes, well, that happened.

See, I like historical books, and I love queer stories. But there's one thing that really, really, really puts me off. Sex between men is not as easy as just 'slipping it in'. It's a shame because up until that point I was quite enjoying the story and that just ruined it for me.

So please, ladies, if you want to write a queer story... please do some research first. Ta.
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I write historical fiction combining queer romance with a little action/adventure, a little suspense, and a lot of semicolons.

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