THE LEGION OF VIDESSOS
by Harry Turtledove
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
At the end of An Emperor for the Legion, the second novel in Harry Turtledove's Videssos Cycle, Marcus Scaurus has been forced to say goodbye to some of his friends. The Legion of Videssos, depicts the aftermath of that leave-taking, dividing its time between Marcus's adventures against the rebels who have plagued the Emperor of Videssos since the disastrous Battle of Maragha and the adventures of the Greek Gorgidas and the Celt Viridovix among the nomads on the Pardrayan Plains. Splitting his characters allows Turtledove to explore more of his historically based fantasy world.
Marcus Scaurus and his legion have been sent back to the west to fight the now rebellious Namdaleni Drax, who had decided, as so many others since Maragha, that Videssos' time was past and he could either seize the throne or carve out his own kingdom. The battle sequences and Marcus's interactions seem familiar from the battles and relationships depicted in Marcus's earlier forays into the Videssian westlands. To set these apart from the earlier novels, Marcus finds himself having a conflict within his own family since his wifeís brother, Soteric, is among the rebels.
Meanwhile, left reeling after the loss of his lover, Quintus Glabrio, and his own feelings of inadequacy as he saw how far beyond him Videssian healers who could use magic were, Gorgidas elected to join a Videssian envoy to make an alliance with the Arshaum, a nomadic race. At the last minute, Viridovix decided to join Gorgidas as the journey would take him far away from Videssos, the city, and Komitta Rhangavve, the Emperor's mistress with whom Viridovix had been sporting. The civilization on the steppes is very different from that previously seen in Videssos, either the city or the countryside. The conflicts between the Arshaum and the Khamorth, and their way of waging war offer a new insight into the variety of cultures that Turtledove has adapted for his characeters.
The overall theme of The Legion of Videssos is one of loneliness. Surrounded by the bustle of Videssos the City, Marcus finds himself sequestered among the scrolls representing the payments and collections made by the Empire, not even aware of what day it is. Not only is Marcus separated from his legions, his friends, his family, his native country, and the Emperor, but so too are Gorgidas and Viridovix separated from everything familiar to them as they ride with the Arshaum across the Pardrayan Steppes.
In some ways, The Legion of Videssos is a linking novel, moving Marcus and his Romans from their successes in the previous novels to a fall from grace and disruption necessary to set up a triumph in the final volume. And Turtledove has prepared the legion to enter their final volume, Swords of the Legion, with many goals, from regaining the Emperorís trust to seeing old friends, defeating Avshar, whose presence in this volume is mostly off-stage, pulling the strings behind the conflict on the Pardrayan Steppes, and potentially even returning to Rome. Nevertheless, Turtledoveís decision to follow Gorgidas and Viridovix, adds a new dimension to the story and added depth to his world of Videssos.
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