Sunday 17 April 2016

Divided Empire - Brian Kitchen

Britain, 391 AD. 

The geographical, political and social outlines of the annexed nation are being constantly redefined, as the battling powers in Rome attempt to seize control of the Empire. 

Flavius Vitulasius and his trusted associate, Siward, are journeying to receive a highly confidential mission, across the narrow sea, from the Master of Offices in Gaul. 

On their path, they stumble upon a seeming damsel in distress, her carriage under attack from bandits. Using all their prowess and experience, Flavius and Siward rescue the damsel from certain death. Nevertheless, the beautiful young lady, Corellia Velva, is not as she seems. 

When Corellia slips away the following night, Flavius thinks nothing of it. He has orders passed down from the Emperor himself to attend to. A document, the ‘Pagan Concord’, threatens to pull apart Britain at the seams, creating the lurking fear of civil war between the Christians and Pagans. 

If Flavius and Siward can recover the ‘Pagan Concord’, they will be able to unmask the conspirators behind the unrest. With the help of an ardent Christian, Lucius Aurelius, the trio commence their enquiries in a clearly divided Britain. 

However, their expedition takes an unexpected turn when they visit the town of their first suspect. Once again, they come across Corellia. She fervently denies any knowledge of Flavius and Siward, suggesting that it is a case of mistaken identity, prompting suspicion from Flavius. 

The disquiet among Pagans soon becomes clear, as ritualistic sacrifices and mysterious disappearances soon become the norm, while Flavius attempts to track down the ‘Pagan Concord’ and save the country of his origin. It is not long before he has some unwelcome attention, as murderous villains stalk his every move. 

Can Flavius locate the document in time? 

Is there more to Corellia than meets the eye? 

Can he escape the clutches of his murderous pursuers, and uncover a conspiracy that goes right to the top?

What did I think?

Already having a keen interest in Roman history, I delved into this book with great gusto and Divided Empire certainly succeeded in bringing this period of history to life.  With the sights and sounds of busy towns described so impeccably, I escaped to Roman Britain and walked in the footsteps of my ancestors thanks to Brian Kitchen.

Through the twists and turns of Flavius' mission we encounter a Roman Britain as vivid as if the author had experienced it himself. Divided Empire was wonderfully researched and could quite easily have referred to modern town names for the readers' ease but, in keeping with the period, all towns were referred to by their Roman name.  I could remember some Roman names for our towns and cities from my Latin lessons, but I had great fun looking up those that I couldn't remember.  As his passion for Roman history shines out of every page, I could quite easily imagine Brian Kitchen thinking in Latin first; perhaps taking a trip to Eboracum rather than York.

I certainly found it very easy to get into the story as the mystery of Corellia is a brilliant hook.  Who is she and why is she leaving a trail of bodies in her wake?  Then there is the tension between the Christians and the Pagans and secret messages being passed back and forth, giving Flavius lots to contend with as he tries to uncover the truth about Corellia.  It was, however, complicated at times when a lot of characters were introduced, so I sometimes found myself flicking back over the pages to remind myself who was who.  

With such colourful characters, anybody who reads Divided Empire will never again say that history is boring!  Full of backstabbing and debauchery, Divided Empire is such a fast-paced and highly entertaining read.

I received this e-book from the publisher, Endeavour Press, in exchange for an honest review as part of the Virtual Historical Festival.

My rating:

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