Sunday, 7 July 2013

Rank and File Romans: WOUNDS of HONOUR by Anthony Riches

Wounds of Honour by Anthony Riches
Please excuse my foul mouth as I make my point.
If I was to define Wounds of Honour? Like Andy McNab meets the Second Century AD only with twice the cumstains and a cock jockey or two.
Yes. You read right. It is what I said. Cumstains and cock jockeys. Two words that appeared in the book and that I feel should not have appeared in the book. And  yet they help me make my point, because it is from within those cumstains and cock jockeys that springs my compatibility issue with this book. The modernity of the dialogue. The slang, the swearing, the modern colloquialisms and the pressure of a modern military setting compressed into an historical one.

I appreciate that there are readers who enjoy this series and this book in particular. That is fine. We all have different likes and dislikes. Some of my dislikes in historical fiction happen to be the prevalence of our modern slang words, swearwords and mannerisms.
I can deal with one every now and then, but when it is too often and too much it sounds modern and I don't read historical fiction to feel like I am down the Angler's Arms Pub pulling kegs on a Darts Premier League finals night.

The other dislike I have with historical fiction is when the author forces our modern military culture into the book. Where you feel at any stage you will turn the page and a Roman soldier will be humping to an overwatch position, or asking for a Sit Rep or pulling out a bag of nuts and calling it an MRE.
If I wanted that feel in my books I would read an Andy McNab type modern military or thriller novel, although I have only read one McNab novel  and it didn't have as much British squaddie in it as Wounds of Honour does.

For all my dislikes, I concede that people read books for different reasons. I am not a fan of this style of historical fiction, but so many others are and apart from criticisms about modernity and giving an ancient culture the loud scarlet wash of our modern culture, there is still plenty the book has to offer readers.
The writing is not awful, except for the dense use of modern words and mannerisms, I thought it was pretty good. The plot is not too deep and presents as fun to most no doubt, even I was enjoying the story for the first 80 pages or so and was able to overcome my aversions.

The book is far from being pulp fiction rubbish. There is plenty of skill and research within it. The author has put a lot of effort into this book and for that reason I would never condemn it to anyone. If anyone were to ask me, I would explain that it is a just a case of being incompatible.
Then I would recommend the book to them because in my experience the majority are going to like it. I have seen this first hand as I read the book with others and I know others who rave about the series all the time.

I will always be honest if I think a book is awful and have given it two stars because of it. However, in the case of Wounds of Honour I am not giving it two stars for that reason. I am giving it two stars because it is not my kind of book. Simple as that.

- MM

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