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Publisher's Summary

A.D. 255. The Roman imperium is stretched to the breaking point, its authority and might challenged throughout the territories and along every border. One man is sent to marshal the defenses of a lonely city and to shore up the crumbling walls of a once indomitable symbol of Roman power, a man whose very name means war: a man called Ballista.

So unfolds an epic drama - a story of empire, heroes, treachery, courage, and most of all, of brutal, bloody warfare.

The spectacular flair for explosive action and depth of literary and geographic knowledge, as well as the psychological complexity of the characters, makes Fire in the East the most authoritative historical adventure novel this year.

©2008 Harry Sidebottom; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Sidebottom's prose blazes with searing scholarship." (The Times, London)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.9 out of 5.0
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
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  • Story

Was a Bit Sharpe-ish

I am big fan of military history based fiction, mostly in Medieval to the 1800's, therefore I was more than happy to try a new author and a new era. To start the equipment, army organization, and location settings/descriptions were well executed, but good descriptions are not enough alone. I have listened to most of Bernard Cornwell’s books, and noticed striking similarities to those stories and this one. An example is a bit on the nose, but the main character is from an area/class seen as inferior, somehow rises to command, and is resented for these things. I know this is not unique to Cornwell’s novels, however this story line is no longer original and cliché for this genre. The second, a bit less obvious is the Hibernian (Irish) sidekick devoted to the main character, much Harper like in the Sharpe’s series. Those are just a few, however having realized the similarities really took me out of the story. The story line was weak, unoriginal, and poorly executed. The main character commits a major crime in the start of the book, but the author never gives a reason why. Instead the author tries to convince us the character is honorable and not one to sway from his principles. The author also uses cheap tricks to try and awe the readers. I am no prude, but there was an overly graphic sex scene that did not move the story forward. It was if the author was trying to use the shock of the scene to convince the reader of the grittiness of the story. I have no desire to continue with the series and would not recommend it when there are other superior works that have the same storyline.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Steve
  • Milwaukee, WI, United States
  • 10-11-11

As good as historical fiction gets...

How lucky I was to stumble across this little gem of a series. Harry Sidebottom takes us to the Roman Empire, c. 260 AD, a time period (235-280 AD) where 25 emperors reigned and the Empire was wracked with rebellion and invasion. Roman commander Ballista is tasked with defending one of the Empire's easternmost outposts against the Sassanid Persians. Unfortunately, due to the state of the Empire, Ballista must also deal with rampant intrigue in the Roman upper ranks.

Mr. Sidebottom has a knack for describing in vivid detail the brutality, violence, and excess of the late Roman period - a time of "iron and rust" as he describes it in the third book of this series. Stefan Rudnicki's narration was also excellent. I greatly enjoyed it and I highly recommend this and the others in the series.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 07-08-14

Book started a bit slow

Harry Sidebottom is a fellow in ancient history at Oxford. His expertise shines though this book of historical fiction. The book is set for the most part during the Sassanid siege of Dura Europos (thinly disguised as the City of Arête. In the third century AD, the Roman Empire was in turmoil as civil war tears Italy apart and emperor follows emperor in rapid succession. The protagonist is Marcus Clodius Ballistra, a barbarian prince. In 255 AD the Persian Sassanid Empire attacks Rome’s eastern territories, Ballistra, now a Roman citizen, is appointed to post as dux Ripae. In charge of the defenses along the banks of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates all land between, he is empowered to hold the lands of the Empire.

The novel is a master class in ancient warfare. The information appears to be historically correct and the story is skillfully constructed. The characters are well defined and realistic and illuminate the different nationalities and passions prevalent in the empire at the time. The siege of Dura Europos was one of the greatest sieges in history. The book was narrated by Stefan Rudnicki.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Great storyline with fabulous but at times unnecessarily lengthy descriptions

Loved the protagonist except his unrealistic virtue! The historical info and detail was fantastic. Some transition was poor and character resolution was incomplete.

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Very Good

The story was excellent. I didn't care for the reader. Very monotone. He is no Roy Dotrece.

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  • Kathleen
  • corning, NY, United States
  • 08-09-14

narration failure

I really wanted to love this book, I read huge amounts of historical fiction, particularly roman and based on reviews was really looking foward to this book, but I just couldn't like it. The narration was the biggest problem, quite monotoned and for some reason a character had a marked scottish accent, but the story also dragged. The repetition of a command phrase over and over was also distracting. The story just never grabbed me like gordianus or macro and cato. I gave this more stars than I initially thought because finally in the last 2 hrs the story picked up.

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Save your $

[{ "answer" : "No, I found the book to be poorly written, and lacking in all the things a reader wants when reading about Rome. The forced use of curse words, modern usage, in the story seemed like an effort to get the reader excited and interested but the story as a whole falls flat. I expect action when reading about Rome. This book is page after page of dry dribble. There is very limited discussion of Roman life...it's like a story which just happens to be set in Roman times...and it doesn't work. I learned two things from this book. #1...read reviews before buying. #2 Don't buy the series until you have listen to the first book...I wasted a lot of money on this worthless series. I won't read any more books by Harry Sidebottom. I wish I could get my money back. ", "type" : "Overall", "question" : "Would you try another book from Harry Sidebottom and/or Stefan Rudnicki?", "id" : 60, "typeString" : "overall" }, { "answer" : "", "type" : "Story", "question" : "What do you think your next listen will be?", "id" : 26, "typeString" : "story" }, { "answer" : "I thought the narrator was not a good fit for this book. This book is not a good read even if they had the best narrator but I thought this guy was pretty mono tone. I just couldn't get into it.", "type" : "Performance", "question" : "What does Stefan Rudnicki bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?", "id" : 30, "typeString" : "performance" }, { "answer" : "I am kind of amazed this \"book\" even got published. The writing style is horrible. The excessive modern curse words are forced and feel like this is the first time this writer has been allowed to use them so he uses them throughout. Very little about actual Roman life...most of it is constant dribble. I wouldn't have published this book at all. I would have cut everything except the title and would start over.", "type" : "Genre", "question" : "What character would you cut from Fire in the East?", "id" : 89, "typeString" : "genre" }, { "answer" : "Save your money...buy anything else.", "type" : "Misc", "question" : "Any additional comments?", "id" : -1, "typeString" : "misc" } ]

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Autum
  • Hemet, CA, United States
  • 10-14-11

Tough Listen

The author of this book used a lot of language that was tough to follow and understand. Once I got passed the jargon of Roman soliders, the story was intriguing.

3 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Did they really say "fuck" in 256 AD?

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Leaving out all the modern contemporary english.

What do you think your next listen will be?

I plan to listen to Lionheart, it's been sitting in my Library a couple of years.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

I don't think I would say the Narrator was responsible for detracting from the book, he tried to change up each character voice - of course the one with the lisp was a little distracting.

What character would you cut from Fire in the East?

The fat "Reptile" - especially his bloated description added nothing to the story. I didn't know they called the Persians (from the east) "Reptiles" in 256 AD.

Any additional comments?

If this is "as good as historical fiction gets" we are definitely in (reading) trouble..

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Okay if you need a book to listen to

Any additional comments?

Not the best action book I've listened to. The places and people are very well described but the story dragged and the climax of the story was not very riveting. It could would have been better with more fighting and a better ending. Save your book credit for another book.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful