“Fire and Sword”

Harry Sidebottom

This is book three of the “Throne of the Caesars” trilogy.

This trilogy is about the Rome’s Year of the Six Emperors (238 AD). It starts in 235 AD with the assassination of the last Severan emperor, Severus Alexander and focuses on the reign of Maximinus Thrax, who Sidebottom portrays as a somewhat reluctant ruler who is haunted by the death of his wife.

There are a lot of characters, and some — who seem to be in the book just so Sidebottom can write about different parts of Roman society — have plot arcs don’t really go anywhere. I liked the books. It’s obvious Sidebottom knows his history (he should: he teaches ancient history at Oxford), and I enjoy reading good books about ancient Rome. As a novel, though, it has things that could have been cut out without hurting the story.

“Persephone”

Julian Stockwin

It has ships on the cover so it should be about deeds of daring do on the high seas, right? Well, this one is more about romance than broadsides and the eponym of the book is a woman, not a ship.

This entry in the Kydd series is more Austen than Hornblower and most of the story takes place on dry land as Kydd tries to win back the affections of “The Admiral’s Daughter“. As much as I enjoy the action and adventure elements of this genre, it’s this sort of story that humanizes and rounds out characters, and it’s one of the things that distinguishes the Kydd series.

(Note: Though this is being posted after the post for “The Baltic Prize” this book precedes it in the series.)

“The Iron King”

Maurice Druon

This is the first of the seven part “Accursed Kings” series about the French monarchy in the 14th century. In this volume Philip IV (“Philip the Fair”) brings a curse on his family by suppressing the Knights Templar. A series of disasters culminate in his death.

“The Iron King” is a deliberately paced book, not a page turner. But the pace feels appropriate to the era and the scope of the story and I plan to continue with the series.

George R. R. Martin has mentioned this series one of the inspirations for the “Song of Ice and Fire” series. Even though I enjoyed the “Game of Thrones” TV series I didn’t want to devote time to Martin’s books. “Accursed Kings”, on the other hand, is based on history, which makes it — to me — much more worth my time.