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Marius' Mules V: Hades' Gate by S.J.A.…
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Marius' Mules V: Hades' Gate (2013)

by S.J.A. Turney

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181853,650 (4.21)1
54bc. As tensions build in Gaul and the druids manoeuvre the tribes towards general rebellion, Priscus and the diminishing senior staff of Caesar's army prepare to return to Britannia, this time with a vast army and a will to crush the tribes of that mysterious island.Meanwhile in Rome and with his ties to the general severed, Fronto contemplates a non-military future as he settles into the life of a married nobleman, socialising with Rome's elite and coming to terms with the decline in his fitness in recent months.In this year of rising troubles, Priscus will miss his former commander's presence more than ever, while Fronto will learn more than he wishes to of the great Pompey. With rebellious Gauls, defiant Britons, vengeful giants, veteran gladiators and dangerous criminals, Fronto is pushed to the limits, driving him to a decision he dreads and a battle for his very life at the steaming, hellish land of Hades' Gate.… (more)

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I like the way Mr. Turney has incorporated the geologic peculiarities of Puteoli into the novel. Mr. Turney is steadily improving his saga with each book in the series. I heartily recommend all of them. I like how the novel is laid out: month by month, subdivided into chapters, with three plots: Fronto, his family, associates and enemies in Rome and Puteoli; Caesar and his legions in Gaul, then his abortive expedition to Britannia, then back to Gaul, first from Roman POV, then from native POV. This divided the book better for me; I read slower and would stop at the end of a few sections. I certainly admire the author's originality in devising battle plans and the actual fighting, each time. Battles in small chunks agree with me more. I liked the wedding and reception, the idea of the "Potemkin" fort near the conclusion in Gaul, and the action involving the Nervi courier. I only caught a few anachronistic expressions or words, e.g., sauna. I had wondered how Fronto would return to military life after his irreparable break with Caesar; That aspect was handled very well. The character-building goes on apace; we find out a bit more about each main character. I liked the new minor characters introduced into this novel, except that the villains were really Beyond the Pale. I'm glad the women were given a bigger role [and Lucilia had the last word]. About Fronto's physical training: of course that's setting up for the next installment, but it was a graphic illustration to me of the lesson that no one does something if people keep nagging; personal desire to master something has to come from one's own motivation. ( )
  janerawoof | May 4, 2014 |
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For Garry & Agnieszka.
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Cold toes in sodden boots heaved wearily through the deep snow, long soaked trousers clinging to the young man's shins as he stumbled and staggered, one hand on the hilt of the eating knife that was his only armament, the other gripping the pouch on the thong around his neck.
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