Title: The Heirs of Fortune
Series: Valerian’s Legion: Book Two
Author: Heather Domin
Length: 228 Pages
Category: Historical, Ancient Rome
At a Glance: I am so in love with this series. Love the characters, love the history, love the affirmation of the love Valerian and Dardanus feel for each other, and love Heather Domin’s writing.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Six months after the events of Soldier of Raetia, the 24th is invited on campaign with Rome’s most famous general — Drusus Germanicus, the stepson of Augustus who will stop at nothing to subjugate the north. Dardanus and Valerian, after spending the winter isolated from the outside world, now find themselves facing the realities of their relationship: while Valerian tries to reconcile public duty and personal feelings, Dardanus struggles with his multiple roles and his admiration for two very different leaders. Drusus’ ambition will call everything Dardanus and Valerian have chosen into question, until both begin to wonder if love is worth the risk, and what price they will have to pay.
Review: For anyone who saw my review of Heather Domin’s The Soldier of Raetia, you may recall one of the many things I loved about it was the writing itself. Domin’s voice is mesmerizing, the sort of wordsmithing that allows her readers to disappear into her characters’ lives, their trials and tribulations and to feel their grief when they lose a brother in arms in battle or in betrayal. This is not a soft-sell, romanticized portrait of what it meant to be a Roman soldier in 10BC. Rather, it offers a believable impression of what it was like to be a soldier encamped for weeks in less than ideal conditions—the cold, the mud, the waiting, and the fierce brutality of armed combat, not with guns and missiles across a vast expanse of landscape but hand-to-hand with swords, daggers, spears and axes, and the personal nature of seeing a man’s face as he dies a bloody death.
The Valerian’s Legion series is what is coined realistic fiction, that contradictory term used to encompass a novel that offers the author’s imagination the realism that allows readers to believe the story could have happened in the precise way it plays out in the recounting of what it meant to defend Rome and to conquer her enemies. Among it, it is the story of General Cassius Valerian and his tribune and heir, Manilus Dardanus, and how the topography of their relationship is influenced by everything around them—the rules of a society which demands they maintain the appropriate facade in public so no one suspects what they do in private, for Dardanus to marry and further his lineage, and the very real possibility of death in battle. Readers also play witness to Valerian’s own internal battle, which dictates his every action towards Dardanus in this novel. Doing what he believes is right, to the point it nearly destroys everything they are to each other.
Consul Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus features prominently in The Heirs of Fortune, and in the Afterward Domin expresses how little, comparatively, is known of Augustus’ stepson, which is advantageous for the author as it allowed her to flex her creative muscles a bit, which she does so impressively (if you’re at all interested, though, Google him: his descendants are well known). Domin captures the personality of the twenty-nine-year-old warrior—charming, bold to the point of brash at times, fearless to the point of being reckless as well as the absolute loyalty given him by his soldiers. In fact, it’s Dardanus’ admiration of Drusus that heralds in what became an escalating friction between Dar and Valerian. Seeing them at odds for the greater part of this book wasn’t easy, but it deepened my investment in their relationship all the more for it.
The might of the world’s greatest military didn’t often invite challenge, but there were tribes who took umbrage to Rome’s penchant for razing villages and making slaves of the people, and those men would attack, a key element in Drusus’ role in the book, leading to an ultimate and untimely demise. One thing Domin makes clear is that Roman politics hasn’t lost its influence over the millennia. Diplomacy as an art form that, when paired with savvy, prevented war.
I am so in love with this series. Love the characters, love the history, love the affirmation of the love Valerian and Dardanus feel for each other, and love Heather Domin’s writing. The only thing I don’t love is that it’s been three years since this book was published, with no idea when to expect book three, Valerian’s Legion: The War of Illyria. This sequel is a direct continuation of book one and as such cannot be read as a standalone. To understand the bond between Dardanus and Valerian, readers must know how and where they began, which made seeing where it went here so heart wrenching. The twenty year age difference between them is, in some ways, significant as it’s difficult to tell how much of Valerian’s actions and responses are attributed to his accumulated life experience, how much is his personality, and how much is the fear of how deeply he loves and needs Dardanus.
Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction.
You can buy The Heirs of Fortune here:
[zilla_button url=”http://books2read.com/u/3L0jj5″ style=”blue” size=”large” type=”round” target=”_blank”] Amazon & Other Online Retailers [/zilla_button]