By William Dietrich
Whatever your level of interest in ancient history, ?The Scourge of God? is a first-rate page turner. Dietrich fashions key characters to stand alongside actual historical figures, and the mix is seamless.
A young Roman translator, Jonas, joins an embassy en route to a meeting with Attila. The mission is ostensibly part of ongoing negotiations, but Roman minister Chrysaphius has another plan.
In time, Jonas will compete with a hot-blooded Hun warrior named Skilla for the affections of a Roman maiden captured in the brutal sack of Axiopolis, and a satisfying love triangle takes shape for the reader.
But delicious as they are, the personal intrigues are but a prelude to a larger reckoning, one Dietrich referenced in his previous novel, the 2004 ?Hadrian?s Wall.?
?The storm clouds of war that were forming in ?Hadrian?s Wall? finally break in ?The Scourge of God,? ? the author says. ?By this time, late in the empire, the world was beginning to change.?
Dietrich, who calls himself ?an enthusiastic amateur? when it comes to history, says the fate of the Romans had begun to turn when their armies were routed by barbarians at Hadrianopolis in 378 A.D.
Subsequently, word of the Huns, an even more bloodthirsty enemy, began to reach the empire. Stories of stout, swarthy men who tenderized meat under their saddles and didn?t bathe for fear of water spirits entered the European imagination.