War at the Edge of the World is the first book in a series by Ian James Ross. Aurelius Castus is a newly arrived centurion to a Roman Legion stationed in 4th century AD northern Britain. Britain is a pretty quiet billet for Castus, who had come from service in the middle east and Germany. That’s about to change though. Castus and his century are selected to accompany a Roman emissary to a meeting with the Picts beyond Hadrian’s Wall. Once there, things go south really fast, leaving Castus fighting for his life.
This book is great for people who like to immerse themselves in a world. A lot of times you don’t even have a sense that the action is necessarily related to the plot, but it doesn’t matter because the descriptions are so good. The reader gets the day to day life of a soldier on the edge of the empire, Castus’ training his Century, after hours life for a centurion, and Romans meeting people with strange religious beliefs. A lot of the time Castus comes across as a bit of a dope, but his devotion to his job and his almost curmudgeonly attitude towards barbarians and civilians is rather endearing.
Ross also does a good job of getting complicated Roman politics into the story. This is a complicated time period. The empire is vast stretching from modern day Iran to the border of what is today Scotland. It is ruled by multiple Emperors with differing ranks and ruling different parts of the empire.
This would be an excellent book for lovers of ancient historical fiction, especially Simon Scarrow’s novels.