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Damion Hunter

Emperor's Games, The
Ballantine, 1984


Although The Emperor's Games is the shortest of the three novels in Hunter's Centurion trilogy, the story is every bit as compelling as the tales in the first two novels. The reign of Titus gives way to that of Domitian. Flavius now serves on the emperor's staff, and Correus finds himself doing everything from organizing bloody games in the Flavian Amphitheater to negotiating treaties with Germanic armies. The last thing Correus needed was to stumble on a plot to assassinate the emperor--and to find out that one of his beloved family members was at the heart of the web. This action-packed conclusion to Hunter's brilliant trilogy traces Correus's attempts to stop the plot and prevent the emperor's wrath from falling on his family while trying to stop a war that threatens to destroy the empire itself. Something untoward must have happened during the printing of this novel, but I am unaware of what the problem was. The cover art is by a different artist and is not consistent with the style of the first two volumes. Although the book took two years to appear (during which I remember making weekly trips to my local bookstore and driving the staff nuts by asking if the novel had arrived yet), the apparatus in this book is even less extensive than in Barbarian Princess. The formatter includes a map of Germany and the ubiquitous list of characters. The glossary (pp. 364-369) once again helps the reader understand the possibly unfamiliar terms that are sprinkled throughout the text. I found myself desperately missing the internal diagrams and illustrations that had proven so useful in the first two volumes. Still, what the novel lacked in drawings, Hunter made up for in his vivid prose. Yet the "rushed" look of the final book pertains only to the externals. The writing itself is just as superb as the stories in the previous two novels. Hunter continues to provide excellent details on life in the legions in ancient Rome and expands his scope to the City of Rome itself. The Emperor's Games is a fitting conclusion to this splendid trilogy and an absolute must-read. The entire trilogy is vividly described, action-packed and thoroughly authentic. It would make an excellent miniseries. At the very least, the novels should be reprinted. Until then, good luck hunting in the used bookstores for this out of print work. - Linda A. Malcor 10/99

- Linda A. Malcor, 10/1/1999

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