Book Review

Emperor’s Sword

Emperor’s Sword

  • Author: Alex Gough
  • Genre: Historical Fiction
  • Publication Date: June 25, 2021
  • Publisher: Saga Edgmont
  • Series: Imperial Assassin #1

Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ALC. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: gore, mention of rape, harm to an animal, profanity, violence, death of a child, mention of slavery, murder, torture

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A desolate wasteland. A mission gone wrong. An impossible goal. A gripping new series of Ancient Rome

Roman scout Silus is deep behind enemy lines in Caledonia. As he spies on a raiding party, he is abruptly discovered by an enemy chief and his son.

Mounting a one man ambush, everything quickly goes wrong. Silus must run for his life, the head of the enemy leader in his hands. Little does he know the price he will pay…

As Silus is inducted into the Arcani, an elite faction of assassins and spies, he must return to Caledonia, back into the wilderness, and risk everything in the service of his Caesar. The odds don’t look good.

Failure is not an option.

I actually got into this series thanks to a NetGalley approval for the fourth book in the series (which I didn’t realize was the fourth book in the series at the time). Once I was hooked on the series, I immediately wanted more and struggled to find it through my local library. So obviously, when the audiobook for the first book became available, I nearly danced for joy when it was approved. 

David Thorpe is the narrator, and I absolutely loved his accent. I could listen to this man speak all day long (and actually ended up doing exactly that). But reader/listener beware: this is a book about war, so there’s a lot of violence, and some brief mention of rape. There’s also quite a bit of profanity, so don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

The characters are amazing. Silus is a scout, and after making a split-second decision, everything seems to go wrong, although it does change the course of his military career. His character is so well-developed, and then other characters are slowly integrated in the beginning of the story, allowing us to get to know them. Major players include Atius, who basically becomes Silus’s partner, as well as Maglorix, a tribal chieftain providing insight into the other side of the story, and Caracalla, the son of the current emperor of Rome. 

It was an intriguing look into history, where rather than focusing on the politics and upper echelon of society, it stayed in the mud with the soldiers of the army. Staying fixed on Silus’s journey from scout to Arcani was fascinating, and it was clear that the author had done immense amounts of research for this book. I found myself immersed in the story playing out, and I could empathize with both sides of the conflict — the Caledonians wanted to stay free, and the Romans were always looking to take over more lands to expand their empire.

While there weren’t a lot of major plot twists, there was a level of tension that was maintained throughout the story that kept me on the edge of my seat, waiting to find out what would happen next. I was fully invested in the story from start to finish. The pacing was a little slow at some points, and the denouement felt a tiny bit anticlimactic after the characters spent nearly the entire book seeking revenge, but overall, I’m not sorry that I invested the time reading this. It was a well-written and interesting story, and I’m absolutely going to continue. It doesn’t hurt that I already know that the fourth book is exceptional, and I can only expect the two books in between to improve from this one. 

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