Book 70: The Scourge of God

TITLE: The Scourge of God
AUTHOR: William Dietrich
STARTED: September 6, 2006
FINISHED: September 11, 2006
PAGES: 361
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Three hundred and seventy-six years after the birth of Our Savior, the world was still one.

SUMMARY: [From] After decades of assault by barbarian tribes, Rome is weakening and in danger of being overrun. By a.d. 449, Attila, ruler of the Huns, has become Europe's most powerful monarch, his ferocity earning him the title "the Scourge of God." Now he is poised to assault the West.

It begins with an illicit affair. Honoria, sister of Valentinian III, emperor of the Western Roman Empire, creates a scandal when she is discovered in bed with her steward. Imprisoned for her indiscretion, Honoria sees the instrument of her deliverance in the form of the most feared warrior in the known world -- Attila. Desperate, she dispatches a messenger to the leader of the Huns, asking for his aid. Taking the entreaty as a marriage proposal, Attila begins to mass his forces to claim the half of the Roman Empire he feels should be his dowry, thus setting in motion the engines of war.

Fearing that open war with the ferocious Huns could destroy the empire, the Romans seek a clandestine solution. Dispatching a group of ambassadors to Attila's camp under the guise of seeking a diplomatic accord, the Roman leadership intends instead to corrupt one of Attila's lieutenants into an assassin, eliminating the threat by murdering the Hun leader.

Jonas, an ambitious intellectual, joins the party as its historian. But when the plot is discovered, he becomes much more. Taken hostage by the Huns, Jonas realizes that it will require all his skills in diplomacy, and some newfound skills with the sword, to survive. But survival isn't his only concern. Within the Hun camp he encounters Ilana, a Roman beauty imprisoned by the Huns and promised to one of their warriors. To attempt an escape alone would be foolhardy. To combine it with a rescue would be suicide. But Jonas knows he cannot leave the camp without Ilana, even if his devotion costs him his life.

As Jonas plans his escape, he seizes what could be a crucial element in the coming war between Rome and the Huns. Now his life isn't the only thing at stake. To save the empire and Ilana, Jonas must bring warning and an ancient sword to prepare Rome for the biggest battle in history, in which two vast armies will clash to determine the future of Western civilization.

REASON FOR READING: I wanted something fictiony, ancienty, and historically - this fit the bill.

THOUGHTS: Trying to write this review almost a month after I finished reading the book is probably not a good idea. The plot is fuzzy. The descriptions and writing, while a bit clearer, are still pretty hazy. I couldn't even begin to tell you the nuances of the plot and characters. Basically, I remember very little of this book.

What I do remember, is that I liked it. I liked it because of how it portrayed the death of an empire. I liked it because it showed how the conqueror is conquered. The roman scribe and lead character, Jonas, gives the reader a front seat view of the death of a world, and the auspicious rise of another. This book is good because it takes a well known turning point in history, and shows the reader why we should remember the death of Rome.

Dietrich does a fantastic job of recreating a dramatic moment in history. His choice to use fictional, minor characters as the lead actors in his book gives an insight to what everyday people may have seen during this time. It puts the moment point and center, instead of the historical icons. While I may not remember the finer details of the work, I remember that - and I remember thinking it was a masterful idea.

I also remember the bloody swordfights, battle scenes, and manly strutting. Awesome.

MISCELLANEOUS: I would not have survived the ancient world. Or the middle ages.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife by Linda Berdoll
RN: The Very Virile Viking by Sandra Hill