Book Corner: Legionary: The Emperor’s Shield by Gordon Doherty

Easier to split the sky, than part a soldier from his blade.

386 AD. The Eastern Roman Empire faces a trident of threats. The Gothic truce grows unstable. The standoff with Persia escalates. And the ambitions of the usurper on the Western throne grow dangerously unchecked.

Pavo, a broken veteran of the legions, cares for none of these things. His life is one of pastoral seclusion on his Thracian farm. A life of love, of peace. His wife and young son are his world. Still, every so often, things seen and done in his old life haunt him, like a cold and unwelcome breeze. But that is all they are, echoes of the past…

…until the past rises, like a shade, to rip his world and the Roman Empire apart.

The Emperor’s Shield is the 9th book in Gordon Doherty’s fabulous Legionary series.

And what an adventure!

The great Pavo has retired from the legions and settled into farming with his wife and young son, his body almost broken by dreadful wounds. However, when the Gothic tribes venture south, and threaten the peace and tranquillity that Pavo has built, he is put on his guard. And when rumours abound of trouble in the West, Pavo is called upon to join the personal guard of Eastern Emperor Theodosius and march once more with the legions, to vanquish the Western Emperor, Maximus – the man he had helped to attain the imperial purple.

And then there is the spy, the mysterious Peregrinus the Stranger. One man is set to bring the Eastern Empire down, by working from within to assure Maximus’ victory. Pavo has his suspicions, but Gordon Doherty will keep you guessing to the very end.

And the scene is set for a fabulous story.

Frugilo was up on his feet, trying his new boots out. He linked his hands behind his back, strolling over to the window to gaze outside. ‘The situation in the West is deteriorating,’ he said, again swatting Pavo’s question aside. ‘Reports indicate that the Dark Eagle is plotting.

Pavo frowned in bemusement, then laughed. ‘His name is Maximus. Magnus Maximus.’ His mind flashed with memories of those brutal days in Gaul when he had aided Maximus during the war to topple the wretched Emperor Gratian from the Western throne. ‘And plotting? About what?’

‘To make the West wholly his,’ Frugilo answered.

‘What?’ Pavo recoiled. ‘No. Valentinian governs Italy and Africa, and Maximus Gaul, Hispania and Britannia. They are co-emperors of the West. Theodosius established that power-sharing division and Maximus bent on one knee before him, pledging to respect it.’

‘You must have heard the rumours?’ said Frugilo.

Pavo folded his arms. ‘Enlighten me.’

‘Twice in the last year, Maximus has sent invitations for his young counterpart to leave the seat of Mediolanum and travel north too live instead at his court in Gaul. Requests, in effect, for Valentinian to relinquish his co-stewardship of the West and to extinguish the government in Italia. Maximus seeks to break his oath with Emperor Theodosius. Tensions run high.’

Pavo chewed over this for a time. Gratian had allegedly done the same, pressuring Valentinian to abdicate, It was probably those old tales being recycled, he concluded. ‘Gossip,’ he scoffed. ‘How many mouths and ears have those rumours passed across by now? I’d sooner trust an Abderan pirate.’

‘And,’ Frugilo continued as if Pavo had not spoken, ‘it appears Maximus has begun an initiative to swell his armies. New legions are being raised. Tribes are being invited across the River Rhenus to be trained ad armed in the Roman way. The Dark Eagle is preparing for something.’

Pavo is the perfect protagonist, a man tired of war but with a sense of duty that will not allow him to rest while his old comrades fight. Brave beyond measure and fearless for his own safety, Pavo also has a mind to tactics – unconventional ones to say the least. There is no surprise as to why the Eastern Emperor wants Pavo by his side. Pavo is aided by his friends from his old legion, and the mysterious Frugilo, a stranger who is at once familiar.

The characters Gordon Doherty brings into the story are vivid and complex. They draw the reader into the story, recreating a world long lost. The research that must have gone into this series is immense. But in The Emperor’s Shield, Doherty puts it to good use, taking the reader on a memorable journey, showing them the marching legions, the vast expanse of the Roman Empire and introducing them to the men who created and upheld it.

The Emperor’s Shield is a thoroughly engaging and entertaining story, with such an air of mystery and suspense that the reader will not want to put it down. You have to get to the end. You have to find out the truth.

Gordon Doherty is one of the best storytellers around, and with the The Emperor’s Shield he has proved this yet again.

About the author:

Gordon is a Scottish writer, addicted to reading and writing historical fiction. His novels have been Amazon smash-hits, and have gone on to be translated and published in Russia, Italy and Greece.

Gordon’s love of history was first kindled by visits to the misty Roman ruins of Britain and the sun-baked antiquities of Turkey and Greece. His expeditions since have taken him all over the world and back and forth through time (metaphorically, at least), allowing him to write tales of the later Roman Empire, Byzantium, Classical Greece and even the distant Bronze Age.

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Coming 30 May 2023!

King John’s Right-Hand Lady: The Story of Nicholaa de la Haye is now available for pre-order from Amazon UK. (I will hopefully have a US release date shortly)

In a time when men fought and women stayed home, Nicholaa de la Haye held Lincoln Castle against all-comers. Not once, but three times, earning herself the ironic praise that she acted ‘manfully’. Nicholaa gained prominence in the First Baron’s War, the civil war that followed the sealing of Magna Carta in 1215.

A truly remarkable lady, Nicholaa was the first woman to be appointed sheriff in her own right. Her strength and tenacity saved England at one of the lowest points in its history. Nicholaa de la Haye is one woman in English history whose story needs to be told…

Also by Sharon Bennett Connolly:

Defenders of the Norman Crown: The Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey tells the fascinating story of the Warenne dynasty, of the successes and failures of one of the most powerful families in England, from its origins in Normandy, through the Conquest, Magna Carta, the wars and marriages that led to its ultimate demise in the reign of Edward III. Defenders of the Norman Crown: Rise and Fall of the Warenne Earls of Surrey is now available from Pen & Sword BooksAmazon in the UK and US, and Book Depository.

Ladies of Magna Carta: Women of Influence in Thirteenth Century England looks into the relationships of the various noble families of the 13th century, and how they were affected by the Barons’ Wars, Magna Carta and its aftermath; the bonds that were formed and those that were broken. It is now available in paperback and hardback from Pen & Sword, and from Book Depository worldwide.

Heroines of the Medieval World tells the stories of some of the most remarkable women from Medieval history, from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Julian of Norwich. Available now from Amberley Publishing and Amazon, and from Book Depository worldwide.

Silk and the Sword: The Women of the Norman Conquest traces the fortunes of the women who had a significant role to play in the momentous events of 1066. Available now from Amazon,  Amberley Publishing, and Book Depository.

Alternate Endings: An anthology of historical fiction short stories including Long Live the King… which is my take what might have happened had King John not died in October 1216. Available in paperback and kindle from Amazon.


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©2023 Sharon Bennett Connolly FRHistS