Harry Sidebottom, Fire in the East (first U.S. paperback edition; originally published 2008). Warrior of Rome, Book One. New York: Overlook Press, 2009. Pp. 433. ISBN 9781590202463. $14.95 (pb).
Reviewed by Lucinda Hamilton, Bryn Mawr
This action-filled adventure story focusing on the siege of Arete, an apocryphal town on the Euphrates River at the eastern edge of the Roman Empire, is a great read. Although the book's appendix gives the accurate information on which most of the story is based, the reader needs no knowledge of the period to enjoy the fast moving, extremely dramatic plot. Sidebottom manages to apply his considerable knowledge of 3rd century warfare and Roman military terminology in a way that never intrudes but advances the plot quickly. Words like frumentarius, limes imperii, or even oneiromanteia quickly become part of one's vocabulary, and if forgotten, there is an index at the end of the book. One flaw: Bathshiba, an odd persona, perhaps introduced to the story to give "romantic interest", is never essential and seems a very clumsy introduction. (Note to author: Don't let your editor insist on romance. He would be better employed fixing at least three major grammatical mistakes which I suspect are the result of the "Cut and Paste" function of the computer.)