The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
The loss of three legions in the Teutoburg Forest to a German ambush led by the treacherous Arminius was an event that had a huge impact on the Roman world. It is surprising, therefore, that there have been so few attempts to fictionalise it. In tackling such an important event for his debut Geraint Jones shows considerable boldness.
Unfortunately, he does not display an equal amount of historical awareness. The author is apparently a veteran of the Iraq war and it shows. This novel could easily be set in a modern day battlefield. The focus is all on graphic violence – of which there is a never-ending parade – and camaraderie. The sense of the period is entirely missing.
Indeed, authenticity is undermined by anachronism. There is nothing romantic about the sight of a legion, Jones observes. Well there wouldn't be, would there, this being the classical period? Yes, we know what he means but choice of words is important. Stories are built out of words.
Equally when describing a female innkeeper, he quips that hers was the face that launched a thousand ship, except that they were sailing in the opposite direction. Of course, you could justify the anachronism by arguing that the phrase pre-dated Marlowe. Nevertheless, it jars.
This is not a novel set in the Ancient World. It is a contemporary war-story about ultra violence and male bonding in which the protagonists just happen to be armed with swords.