Monday, August 25, 2014

Legionnaire by James Gawley #review

Title: Exiles of Arcadia: Legionnaire
Author: James Gawley, 2013

One might be forgiven for initially suspecting this novel to be historical fiction set during the Roman era, but it’s definitely a work of fantasy. We find ourselves in the empire of Arcadia, where a renegade general has established his forces in a far-flung outpost.

Legionnaire is chiefly a coming-of-age story for the young Primus Seneca, whose father is a general of the exiled forces. Military life is all Primus knows – he grew up essentially abandoned by both parents – and we later discover General Marcus Seneca pushed his son away primarily because he reminded him too much of his estranged wife.

This abandonment does not prevent Primus from trying for personal excellence, though he is inexperienced and his idealism is great. He battles through difficult choices – guilt over a fellow soldier’s death, his friend’s desertion, and an obvious cover-up and framing – which have their repercussions later. Primus works out in his mind what it is to be honourable, and to do what is right, even when faced by overwhelming odds and the very real threat of death.

This is a short novel, which appears to be part of a series. If military fiction with great attention to detail is your thing, then this may well appeal to you. I liked the fact that this was a fantasy setting without overt magic. That being said, if the author had wanted to opt for straight historical fiction, he’d probably prove to be a dab hand at it as well. The setting has a nice ring of authenticity to it.

Some may find Gawley’s style a little spare – I didn’t feel any great emotional range in the writing, but I still enjoyed the unfolding story very much. The world-building is vivid, and tactile, which offered me a precise glimpse into the physicality of the milieu. This one may well be worth pursuing.

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