Updated: Jan 20
Douglas Jackson never seems to disappoint, and this new one from him is an instant hit.
Set on Hadrian's Wall in the dying days of the western empire, we meet Marcus Flavius Victor, Lord of the Wall, and the man responsible for keeping Britain safe from the Picts. The book opens with a brutal example of Roman justice, as Victor attacks and defeats a band of Pictish raiders, cutting the hands from those that surrender to his will. It sets the tone for the book, and instantly draws you into the story.
Victor is a good character, an old and scarred warrior, haunted by a past in which he has buried two men he called father. He leads a band of horsemen, touring the Wall from coast to coast, gathering men as he goes. He does not tell a soul why he is gathering such a force; crumbs are dropped throughout the story, but it is not until two thirds in that we can see what he sees.
The Picts are coming south, driven on by an ambitious queen. A vast host, such as Rome has not faced in twenty years, and Victor must battle the bureaucracy of a decaying and outdated empire, as well his enemies in the north, in order to see his mission through.
There are other nuggets nestled in to the plot, such as the identity of Victor's father and the fate of his own estranged son, but I'll give no further details away for fear of spoiling the book for others. What I will say is that this book is the latest in a long line of examples of why Douglas Jackson is one of the best in the business. He breathes life into a dying world with seemingly such ease, painting a picture of what it was to be a citizen of an empire losing its grip on power. A must read for all historical fiction fans.