HarperCollins, March, 2004.
Hardcover, 368 pages.
Near the end of the fourth century, the Roman Empire was losing its grip in its conquered territories, including Britannia. Never able to completely subdue the barbarians from the north, the Romans built Hadrian's Wall in the second century, to separate the Roman part of Britain from the Celts, who threatened from the north. Spanning over seventy miles, the wall was a marvel of engineering and military prowess. William Dietrich uses this backdrop for his gripping new historical novel. Draco, an inspector for Rome, has been sent to Hadrian's Wall in northern Britannia to investigate a major uprising and invasion. The story of what really happened unfolds as Draco's investigation proceeds.
Hardened soldier and brilliant tactician Galba Bassidias is furious that he has been passed over for promotion to be the commander of the Petriana Cavalry. But for political reasons, Rome gave the job to the bookish and inexperienced Lucius Marcus Flavius, a coldly ambitious aristocrat who is engaged to marry a beautiful Senator's daughter, Valeria. Galba immediately begins to manipulate the situation to his own advantage and Flavius only sees Valeria as a means to furthering his career. When Valeria is kidnapped by the barbarian chieftain of the Celts, Arden Caratacus, who wants freedom from the Romans for his people, events are brought to the boiling point and the area of Hadrian's Wall governed by Flavius explodes into violence and chaos. But Valeria is much smarter and more resourceful than any of the three men in her life -- Galba, Flavius or Caratacus -- imagine, as they will soon find out.
Novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist William Dietrich combines intrigue, adventure, politics and romance to create a fascinating portrait of life in the fourth century. Using the character of Draco, the investigator looking into the violent events that occurred at the Wall, Dietrich skillfully spins a story that is so absorbing that you won't be able to put the book down. The richly layered characters - the complex Valeria, the fury-filled, revenge-seeking Galba, the ambitious Flavius and the introspective narrator, Draco - are all brought vividly to life by Dietrich's tightly-written, crisp prose. The battle scenes are gruesomely authentic and not in the least bit romanticized; the reader is thrust right into the middle of the battlefield, with screaming, naked barbarians hacking at opponents with battleaxes and Roman legionnaires swinging deadly swords. This is a sweeping and powerful historical novel, filled with political intrigue, action and romance.
--Claire E. White
Hadrian's Wall is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the March-April, 2004 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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