Swords Around the Throne, by Ian Ross
I took a break between the first and second instalments in the series, and I’m not sure I was quite ready when I re-joined the world of the Twilight of Empire series. As with the The War at the Edge of the World, the volume was incredibly fast-paced, which I enjoyed massively. The plot progression kept me reading through it quickly, but in some places I thought the time-jump was a little too jarring. I quickly got over them however, with the varied and fast-paced plot giving very little time for respite. Another downside to this however was the sheer volume of characters introduced in a fairly short space of time, who at times were difficult to keep track of.
Having said this, the volume of characters contributed greatly to the variation of the plot, along with a very enjoyable style of writing which eased me through a fairly substantial book. In one sense, Ross’ style and plot reminds a little of the Raven series by Giles Kristian. The author/story is driven by a need to explore the world and different aspects of it. With Giles Kristian and Raven, it is done geographically, moving around the Europe of the Dark Ages, but with Ian Ross it appears to have a more societal focus. The latter is possibly more difficult to do well, but I feel Ross has managed it.
‘Swords Around the Throne,’ by Ian Ross is the second in the Twilight of Empire series.
With War at the Edge of the World, I decided to take a break from my usual, continuous fantasy binge to read a bit of historical fiction. I tend to really enjoy Roman-based books, and found this to be a refreshing change, set as it was in the later stages of the empire rather than during the height of Republican power.
With an endorsement from Conn Iggulden on the cover, I had high expectations, and I was not disappointed. The plot progressed at a good speed and even if some of the twists were expected, it was good to see them borne out. I found myself liking the main character, Castus, without apparent effort, and enjoyed the complex of subplots swirling just below all the visceral action.
The combat was well done, with good armour consistencies (a rarity in fantasy as well as historical fiction), and I found it highly educational with regards to later Roman equipment – for example, I did not realise the legionaries used darts as well as javelins.
Overall, I’d recommend this book as a good, solid read – I’ve already bought the next in the series, but I’m reading a few more fantasy books before I get round to it.
‘War at the Edge of the World,’ by Ian Ross is the first in the Twilight of Empire series.
My initial reaction to Wolf’s Head was that the date range immediately annoyed me. I realise that, especially with a legend, placing the real ‘Robin Hood’ in time is difficult. However, I had always thought it tradition to place Robin Hood around the time of the Third Crusade with King Richard the Lionheart. Possible inaccuracies aside, I thought the plot was good, and moved along at a suitable pace, although certain of the developments seemed a little unrealistic. First and foremost was the idea of Robin learning the sword in just a few weeks, something which is a source of constant annoyance to me throughout historical fiction and fantasy both. The way in which youths seem to turn into battle-hardened killing machines in the space of weeks rather than years is far too unrealistic. As well as this, the prevalence of swords seems unlikely, given the fact that they would have been very expensive, with axes and clubs far more likely among outlaws in particular.
I thought the writing itself was strong to begin with, but gradually deteriorated as the book continued. It was never awful, but I had expected it to remain at the same standard throughout. Overall, an enjoyable and easy read, but I might read some other things before I continue the series.
‘Wolf’s Head,’ by Steven A. McKay is the first in The Forest Lord Series.