Friday, 13 October 2017

Empire, The Wolf's Gold - Anthony Riches


This last week I have been getting some final 2017 sunshine and outdoor living in southern Spain which has given me loads of time to start work on some projects that have had to take a back seat whilst others were being concluded.

In addition to spending some time writing I have been reading and getting some research and inspiration for the Romano-Dacian project which has included Anthony Riches novel covering the exploits of Marcus Valerius Aquila otherwise known as Centurion Corvus, and specifically the fifth book in a series of nine so far, "The Wolfs Gold".

I am pretty sure I read the first book in the series "Wounds of Honour" but all I can remember is that I couldn't put it down but can't remember how it turned out other than some brutal battles up on Hadrian's Wall, I think. So I aim to re-read that one and start again when I get home.

So from that last comment you might have guessed I rather enjoyed this read and I found Mr Riches prose most entertaining and thoughtful as I am a bit of an old hand with much of this kind of fiction having worked my way through the likes of Kent and Cornwell. After a while you start to work out where the plot is going and who to keep an eye on and somehow it starts to feel a bit predictable.

I certainly didn't get that with The Wolf's Gold and was mightily entertained with a few twists and turns that I  hadn't anticipated.

Some great battle descriptions of Romans taking on the Sarmatian cavalry in The Wolf's Gold by Anthony Riches
This volume covers the adventures of Marcus and his colleagues in the Tungrian Auxiliary cohort of which he is a centurion having been sent to the Danube frontier to help the local commander with a little problem of Sarmatian raiders threatening to relieve the empire of a stack of Dacian gold from a mine deep within the mountains of Alburnus Major. Whilst there he and his comrades face off not only Sarmatian cavalry but errant auxiliary allies and duplicitous Roman senior officers out to further their careers at anyone's expense, all good stuff.

The plot is well crafted and mixed with well researched historical background to satisfy history nerds like me that want to immerse in the period which in this case is set during the turbulent year of 183 AD during the reign of the power crazed Emperor Commodus.

I chose this particular book because it created its story around the area of the Empire I find myself particularly interested in, all be it from an earlier period under Trajan, namely Dacia, Moesia and the Danubian frontier with descriptions of Sarmatian cataphracts and Thracian archers that had me wishing I was at home in front of the painting desk. That I think was part of the magic for me reading this book in that I found it really stimulating the imagination and creative juices in the way that I hoped it would and would recommend it to any like mind looking for a similar experience.

One thing I am getting my head around as I branch out into the ancient era is that unlike later more contemporary periods such as the 19th and 20th centuries conflicts where there is a lot more factual data to get to grips with and many more first person primary accounts to digest and help inform the wargaming, you just don't get that for Rome and her wars and thus the historical novel has a very important role to play in providing that missing input alongside the worthy historical tomes that underpin the hobby.

So if you are up for a good sandal and spear yarn with plenty of historical reference and some great scenario ideas then I can recommend The Wolf's Gold.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodus
http://anthonyriches.com/empire-series/
http://anthonyriches.com/the-ravenstone-valley-in-pictures/

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