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Eskkar is a drunk and a soldier. For the past ten years he has roamed the plains working for rich landowners as a guard. His destiny changes in an instant when he is left as the most senior soldier in the village of Orak. All the other officers have run off as there is rumour that a large and ruthless barbarian horde is on its way to destroy the village. Fate would further intervene when Eskkar is given a female slave called Trella to help him plan the defence of Orak. Trella is no ordinary slave, but the daughter of a noble who was murdered. By combining Eskkar's fighting skills and Trella's diplomatic know how can they save Orak whilst establishing themselves as the next rulers?
There are a lot of issues with this book that make it a far less desirable read than other historic fiction. Firstly it is far too long. As a genre the historic fiction book is known for it epic page numbers, but usually the pages fly by in a series of action set pieces and interesting historical discovery. 'Empire' has none of this; rather than concentrate on the battle scenes large parts of the book go into detail about farming or wall making techniques, very boring. Also the elements of the book that tackle internal politics could actually be quite good; instead they feel tedious and mundane.
The flaws in this book are fully down to the author Sam Barone. As well as creating a pretty boring book he populates it will drab and generic characters. We are meant to support Eskkar and see him as the hero of the book; however, I found him a bit droll and felt that I had read books with similar characters. The second major role of Trella is slightly better written, but even she soon succumbs to the clichés of poor historic fiction. The worst character mistake that Barone commits for me is the introduction of too many side characters that we are meant to care about. There are a couple that we get to know and like, but the rest are poorly developed. This lack of development undermines the last third of the book as we do not care about the fate of a group of nobodies.
The biggest error that Barone commits in this book is trying to pull the wool over the reader's eyes. Even though this is a work of fiction the fact that it is put in a historic perspective means that it must respect the history. I believe that Barone did little research for this book and created what he thought was a generic olde world. There is something that feels odd in the book as the character and setting are far too modern for 3000 BC. One critic points out that horses had not been bred to carry the weight of a man for another 1000 years and that the idea of the coin was not put into use until Roman times. Although I did not pick up on these exact details myself I did get the uneasy feeling throughout that it was just a hodge podge of ideas. As a work of fiction it does not have to be exact, but this was just poor.
The final area that got my goat involved the incessant sex scenes in the book. As a bloke it takes a lot for me to grow bored of these, but I have never read so many tepid sex scenes before. It was as if Barone was unable to think of a way of finishing a chapter so he always ended up with Eskkar and Trella falling into bed. It was some of the worst writing I have had the misfortune to encounter.
There was one of aspect that made the book bearable in parts. I enjoyed the fight scenes when they did occur; it was just unfortunate that they appeared after 100 pages of rambling or so. I felt that Barone was able to create the right feel for a battle and that he added the right level of tension and action. This stops the book from being an absolute stinker, but there are plenty of books by authors such as Conn Iggulden, Bernard Cornwell and Simon Scarrow that do the same things but far far better. 'The Dawn of Empire' almost feels like a cynical money making scheme rather than a proper piece of historic fiction.
Author: Sam Barone
Price: amazon uk - £8.57
play.com - £9.99
This book is just The Magnificent Seven meets The Clan of the Cave Bear. There have been many huge epics of the Roman Age, of the Pharaohs, of Prehistory even but never the brutal, mysterious Bronze Age. Three thousand years before the birth of Christ and the world is dominated by savage tribes of barbarians who despise the first farmers and townsfolk trying to settle the land and bring civilization to a dark world. In the Tigris valley, the first primitive farmers attempt to bring civilization to a dark world. But every few years Barbarians sweep in raping, killing and burning. This time the people of Orak are going to fight, but their military commanders fell as the enemy army approaches, leaving only Eskkar a lowly lieutenant in charge. But Eskkar has one advantage: he understands the barbarians better than anyone: he was once one himself but fled a vendetta. Eskkar is given Trella, a slave girl as a reward for his loyalty. They form a partnership forged on mutual desire and courage; he with his ability to command men and his military expertise, she with her insight into the minds of the townsfolk. Together they rally the people. What follows is an orgy of battle, bloodshed and sex that is simply unputdownable. The epic series will continue with Esskar and Trella, now King and Queen, and will lead far into the future to the Foundation of Babylon.