Review: Iron & Rust – Harry Sidebottom


3 of 5 stars

Series: The Throne of the Caesars 1

My version: Hardback
Historical Fiction Rome, the Romans
Harper Collins
Bought, signed first edition


In a single year, six Emperors will lay claim to the Throne of the Caesars.

Spring AD235.

Dawn on the Rhine. A surprise attack and the brutal murder of the Emperor Alexander and his mother ends the Severan dynasty and shatters four decades of Roman certainty.

Military hero Maximus Thrax is the first Caesar risen from the barracks. A simple man of steel and violence, he will fight for Rome.

The Senators praise the new Emperor with elaborate oratory, but will any of them accept a Caesar who was once a shepherd boy? And in the streets of the eternal city, others merely pray to escape imperial notice.

In the north, as the merciless war against the barbarians consumes men and treasure, rebellion and personal tragedy drive Maximus to desperate extremes, bloody revenge and the borders of sanity.

Iron & Rust, the first book in a major new series, creates a world both sophisticated and brutal, yet firmly rooted in history; a world of intrigue, murder, passion and war, a world where men will kill to sit on the Throne of the Caesars.

There was a distinct running out of steam feeling going on in the last couple of Fire in the East books, so Harry has shifted direction, more Europe-based, Northern Europe mainly (OK, that’s where Ballista was from and ended up, but only on his return home at the end).

Rome is in turmoil Part XXVIII, etc… But six Emperors?! That’s a lot of Emperors and a lot of explaining to be done, to us part-time Romanologists. Some, I’ve picked up through reading other books set in Roman Times, a lot of what is here is new to me. And practically meaningless. My other problem was that I started ‘reading’ this on audiobook. The reader wasn’t, in my opinion, very good for this type of book. Not quite as OTT terrible as the person doing the Giles Kristian Wings of The Storm, or whatever it was, but not right. I couldn’t grasp much pf what it was on about and so, to try and play fairt with Harry, I switched to reading words on paper. Much better. Well, kind of.

Too much background information, not enough foreground events.

Much that could have been left to be explained in the following books. Some writers can do it, others struggle.

Couldn’t really find a sense of purpose. A why is he writing this story, in this genre? I can’t really imagine this one, this series flying off the shelves.


The latter end of the Roman period.

Was a bit worried in the early stages, as I tried to make sense of where and what the story was. I couldn’t find purchase. Couldn’t see that anything much was going on beyond all the Roman names and customs and history and detail that is clearly setting the scene not just for this, but presumably also the next two. Finally, it all seemed to begin to form, be much more interesting and raise itself up to become a fascinating look at…

From drowning, to swimming.

Seductively seducing.



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