Review: ALTAR OF BLOOD by Anthony Riches

DSC_0064I have written before about books arriving when I really don’t need them. So often they are books that are entirely inappropriate. Say a book that is historical, and since I am known as a historical writer, they will send it to me. The trouble is, it’s historical romance, or it’s historical-ish, and has a blend of Dungeons and Dragons about it (or should I say Game of Thrones?). I am not a steam punk, sci-fi, or chick-lit expert, so why people will keep sending me that kind of book, I don’t know. Perhaps purely because the publisher has my name somewhere in the publicity department, and so they keep on sending out books to me, whether they’re relevant or not.

Rant over.

However, every so often I will get a book from an author I admire, whose work is always a joy. Anthony Riches is one of them.

I first met Tony when we were both on the committee of the Historical Writers’ Association. His dry sense of humour and insane sense of fun was infectious, but I was also hugely impressed by his dedication to supporting British troops and the army. He has walked with Ben Kane and Russ Witfield over Hadrian’s Wall, and along ancient Roman roads in Italy to raise funds for injured soldiers, and for that I admire him (and the others) hugely.

This book, Altar of Blood, is his ninth in the Empire series. It is a superb series (can you sense the jealous author, thinking “It should have been me”?), in which the first books traced the career of a Roman who came from a family that had been destroyed. I remember well talking with Karen Maitland about her approach to writing, which is to figure out what the characters really need, and then take it away from them. Anthony Riches has taken this concept further than any writer I know. In effect, the whole series up until this novel has been about the story of revenge of Marcus against the men who destroyed his family. But now more has been taken from him, and we enter the story as Marcus is attacked by footpads in Rome while women discuss the horror of what has happened to him. He is a man who’s life has lost all joy, and now seeks explosive, almost suicidal action. There’s nothing left for him.

Fortunately for his own good, he and some of his Tungrian soldiers are sent from Rome to Germany to capture a tribal priestess. However, on the banks of the Rhine, they meet with more danger. In Rome’s empire, politics are never far away. The Tungrians and Marcus are soon aware that there is no safe haven, even amongst their own countrymen. Whether they will be safe on returning from their dangerous mission is a moot point. But first there is the operation itself. They cross the Rhine, but only to find themselves hurled into more danger as they are chased across the wild badlands of Germany, with treachery and deceit on all sides.

This is a superbly crafted story, as always. It is muscular, it is fast, it is shocking and thrilling, it is a brilliant, exciting read, it is the latest book by the best chronicler of ancient Rome and the empire writing today. If you can put it down once you’ve read the first chapters, you’re a better person than me.

Thanks, Tony. Another excellent book that diverted me from my own work!

2 Responses to “Review: ALTAR OF BLOOD by Anthony Riches”
  1. wildwriter says:

    Sounds alright…might give ’em a go.


  2. Sandra says:

    I am working my way thru this series. I am really enjoying it and strongly recommend it!


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