Reading roundup 22/03/23

Welcome to this week’s Reading Roundup post! Today, I am going to write about a trilogy that I enjoyed during that horrible bout of shingles. I was really struggling to read anything. Pain made my concentration levels sink to the floor, so I needed something that could hold my attention and imagination.

These were the books:

Friends are probably well aware that I consider myself to be a staunch feminist. Many feminists who I know will not read books written by men and also become annoyed when there are few female characters in a work: books, plays, TV series etc. 

This particular series, Strategos by Gordon Doherty, has a bare handful of women: a murdered mother, a friend, an empress, a rather scary ancient crone/goddess, and a group of stereotypical jolly prostitutes. Most of the exciting action belongs to the male characters who spend a lot of the book either fighting each other to the death or joking and drinking in groups or with the aforementioned jolly prostitutes!

What fun and games!

Of course, there is much more to these books and I enjoyed the historical background, pure escapism and the fact that they helped me forget my situation for a while.

Anyway, here is the blurb for the first book, Born in the Borderlands:

“When the falcon has flown, the mountain lion will charge from the east, and all Byzantium will quake. Only one man can save the empire . . . the Haga!

1046 AD. The Byzantine Empire teeters on full-blown war with the Seljuk Sultanate. In the borderlands of Eastern Anatolia, a land riven with bloodshed and doubt, young Apion’s life is shattered in one swift and brutal Seljuk night raid. Only the benevolence of Mansur, a Seljuk farmer, offers him a second chance of happiness.

Yet a hunger for revenge burns in Apion’s soul, and he is drawn down a dark path that leads him right into the heart of a conflict that will echo through the ages.”

And this is my short response on Goodreads:

Strategos: Born in the BorderlandsStrategos: Born in the Borderlands by Gordon Doherty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Generally, an absorbing and exciting read. Obviously well-researched by the author, with lots of historical context. I enjoyed the book and it enabled me to escape my current issues. There were also plenty of flaws and clunky writing in places. Despite this, I have ordered the rest of the trilogy and I am looking forward to reading these books.

View all my reviews

Now I will move straight onto the second book: Rise of the Golden Heart. This is the blurb:

“Stay strong, Haga, for the Golden Heart will rise in the west. At dawn, he will wear the guise of a lion hunter. At noon, he will march to the east as if to conquer the sun itself. At dusk, you will stand with him in the final battle, like an island in the storm . . .

1068 AD: the armies of the Seljuk Sultanate tear at Byzantium’s borders, poised to strike the death blow that will bring all Anatolia under their yoke. Alp Arslan’s armies grow stronger with every passing season, while the beleaguered Byzantine soldiers defend for their lives, the hope in their hearts guttering its last.

This war has been Apion’s mistress for many years, casting a dark shadow across his soul. When the mysterious crone comes to him, she can offer him only a glimmer of light. But at the darkest of moments, the smallest chink of light can be blinding. It will sweep Apion into the heart of the empire, Constantinople, and then onto the arid plains of Syria. It will taunt him with trust, betrayal, intrigue, love and brutal conflict. But, above all, it will offer him hope.”

Here is my quick review:

Strategos: Rise of the Golden Heart (Strategos, #2)Strategos: Rise of the Golden Heart by Gordon Doherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must admit that, in my current state, I enjoyed most of this book. The sheer escapism was just what I needed! The characters and historical setting were well drawn and the plot held my attention throughout.

Now, on to the third book!

View all my reviews

Finally, we have the third book, Island in the Storm, and this is the blurb:

“The storm is upon us, Haga. The answers you seek dance within its wrath . . .

1071 AD. Emperor Romanus Diogenes has rekindled the guttering flame of Byzantium. Yet in the eastern borderlands, two vital strongholds hang in the balance. Manzikert and Chliat must be won to secure the empire’s fragile frontiers and vanquish the would-be usurpers who covet the imperial throne. But Sultan Alp Arslan and his vast Seljuk armies look to those twin fortress-towns also, resolute on seizing them first.

Apion rides by the emperor’s side as they march east, marshalling Byzantium’s armies for the conflict that is to come. He knows only too well that the threat posed by the Sultan’s hordes is well-matched by malevolent forces within the Byzantine ranks. Thus, the road to war is a savage one, but one he cannot refuse. For at its end, Fate beckons, taunting him with a choice of two futures.

On the plains of Manzikert, one great power will rise and another will fall. On the plains of Manzikert, Apion will face the storm.”

This was what I wrote on Goodreads:

Strategos: Island in the Storm (Strategos, #3)Strategos: Island in the Storm by Gordon Doherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I must admit that I kind of spoiled this book for myself before I even read it. I was so intrigued by the first two books’ plots that I looked up and read the historical background. This was a mistake because I then began the tale with full knowledge of how it all turned out!

Just as well that our hero was fictional. At least I could have some surprises at the end. The whole series was very well researched, although not so well written or edited. The books improved as the author honed his skills and I am sure that he will be more widely read in the future.

View all my reviews

OK, so that is all I have to report this week! I have now gone back to my usual kind of reading: random choices from the Library Service or Amazon, or following well-loved authors or series, and going off at tangents when I feel like it!

See you here next week! Happy reading to you all.

Love and best wishes,



About The Librain

Retired School Librarian
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