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Marius' Mules: The Invasion of Gaul by…

Marius' Mules: The Invasion of Gaul (2009)

by S.J.A. Turney

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451395,632 (3.82)6
"It is 58 BC and the mighty Tenth Legion, camped in Northern Italy, prepare for the arrival of the most notorious general in Roman history: Julius Caesar. Marcus Falerius Fronto, commander of the Tenth is a career soldier and long-time companion of Caesar's. Despite his desire for the simplicity of the military life, he cannot help but be drawn into intrigue and politics as Caesar engineers a motive to invade the lands of Gaul. Fronto is about to discover that politics can be as dangerous as battle, that old enemies can be trusted more than new friends, and that standing close to such a shining figure as Caesar, even the most ethical of men risk being burned."--… (more)



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I had put off reading this one because of Caesar as a character; I can't stand the man: unashamed self-promotion in his writings [I had to suffer through his [book:Caesaris Commentarii de Bello Gallico|20053972] in high school Latin]; his undenied ambition; deviousness; and cruelty. I'm glad a large part of the novel is the main characters' questioning among themselves some of his actions or non-actions, motives, and arrogance. They never forget Caesar is still their general; these men are professionals and no one is insubordinate. They come together in friendship--no cabal there. None of these soldiers is a Cassius or a Brutus. I'm glad I read the novel.

It's basically the author's concept of the Battles of Bebracte and Vesontio: Romans defeating the Helvetii, then Germans. I felt the story followed a certain pattern: first, briefing or tactics staff meeting; then skirmish, battle, or diplomatic mission; followed by down-time for Fronto and his friends, other high-ranking Roman officers. A lot of wine is quaffed during down-time and staff meetings, well-watered, I'd hope. Then the cycle would begin again.

Fronto, the atypical legate, and his friends were all engaging. I liked the humor in the novel; these men were human, not all super-serious. I skimmed the first part of the novel again, but I saw no physical description of Fronto, which I would have liked, to visualize him better. No age was given, but I'd imagine late 20s-early to mid-30s. Also, any personal details consisted of scattered sentences here and there in the novel. I was very pleased the author did not think of shoehorning love interest for Fronto here; it would have been out of place. Battles and skirmishes were vividly described. They did become a bit redundant for me, however. I do not mind gruesomeness, but one conflict practically on the heels of the other...? I liked that the swearing was mild or confined to brief general descriptive phrases. I liked also women and brothels were barely mentioned. The phrase "wine, women, and song" did give me a bit of a start. There were other anachronistic terms; among them one 'OK' I can remember. "Belay" I believe is a nautical term. I definitely will read the others in the series, but I'd like some time to get 'de-battled'. ( )
  janerawoof | Jan 22, 2014 |
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Dedicated to my beautiful wife, Tracey, who has done nothing but encourage me, so it's mostly her fault!
Also to my grandfather, Douglas, who is responsible for my irrepressible love of history.
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Marcus Falerius Fronto trudged through the mud between the headquarters pavilion and his tent, kicking in irritation at errant stones, which disappeared into the dark with a skittering sound.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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