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The Videssos Cycle, Volume I
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, 655 pages

Harry Turtledove
Harry Turtledove was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1949. In 1977, he received a Ph.D. in Byzantine history from UCLA. In 1979, he published his first two novels, Wereblood and Werenight, under the pseudonym Eric G. Iverson which he continued to use until 1985. In 1991, he left the Los Angeles County Office of Education, where he worked as a technical writer, to become a full-time author. He won the Hugo Award for Novella in 1994 for "Down in the Bottomlands" and "Must and Shall" was nominated for both the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Novelette and the 1996 Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

Harry Turtledove Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Atlantis and Other Places
SF Site Review: Hitler's War
SF Site Review: Give Me Back My Legions!
SF Site Review: Return Engagement
SF Site Review: Through the Darkness
SF Site Review: The Center Cannot Hold
SF Site Review: Ruled Britannia
SF Site Review: Colonization: Aftershocks
SF Site Review: Walk in Hell
SF Site Review: Darkness Descending
SF Site Review: American Front
SF Site Review: Household Gods with Judith Tarr
SF Site Review: Colonization: Second Contact
SF Site Review: Into the Darkness
SF Site Review: How Few Remain
SF Site Review: How Few Remain
SF Site Review: Between the Rivers

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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The Videssos Cycle, Volume I The first two novels of the Videssos Cycle (The Misplaced Legion and An Emperor for the Legion) have been collected in an omnibus volume, offering a new generation of fans an introduction to the history-based fantasy with which Harry Turtledove initially built his name. The basic premise of the series has a Republican Roman legion shunted from Gaul to a land in which magic works and the political culture is reminiscent of the Byzantine Empire into which Rome would eventually evolve.

Marcus Aemelianus Scaurus viewed himself as a stoic, serving in the Roman army under Julius Caesar temporarily in order to build his own political career once he returned to Rome. When his three cohorts of legionnaires are ambushed by Celts, Scaurus crosses swords with their leader, Viridovix, and the two men, along with nearly 1500 legionnaires, find themselves transported to rural Videssos.

Selling his men's swords to the service of the Emperor Mavrikios Gavras, the Romans, and most particularly Scaurus, find themselves in war against nomadic barbarians, in the middle of a Civil War, facing strange religious beliefs, and dividing their loyalties based on personal relationships. Scaurus must try to maintain Roman discipline even as his ranks are thinned by losses through battle and other causes. Not only discipline, but his men try to retain their basic identities as Romans in a world that has no idea of what a Roman actually is.

On top of the Byzantine politics Turtledove throws at his lost legion, he also throws magic into the mix, especially in battle, which are explained and demonstrated to Scaurus by the Videssian mage Nepos at the same time the Yezdi barbarian general and ambassador Avshar proves himself such a powerful sorcerer that he is capable of feats of magic Nepos otherwise believes are impossible. To make matters worse, Avshar holds a grudge against Scaurus which leads to war between Yezd and Videssos, as well as the eventual Civil War in the Empire.

Turtledove's focus in the first two novels shifts repeatedly, although always maintaining Scaurus as the viewpoint character. When Scaurus is fighting on the frontier, the War against the Yezd is the primary conflict. As he moves against the usurper Ortaias Sphrantzes, Civil War comes to the forefront and the Yezd and Avshar disappear. A change leads him to examine tax records and war, even training his own troops, vanishes, allowing for more exploration of Scaurus's relationship with the Emperor, Scaurus's wife, and an imperial princess. Secluded in Videssos, the ongoing Civil War and Yezd incursions only filter through to him as reports.

By the end of the volume, which is comprised of the first half of the Videssos Cycle, a lull has been achieved in the action and Scaurus appears to have failed in his attempts to keep his legion together. However, it is just a calm before the storm as Turtledove has left several loose strings to tie up in the subsequent novels, now also collected in an omnibus edition.

Copyright © 2013 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a seven-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.


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