Roman

South of Burnt Rocks – West of the Moon

South of Burnt Rocks – West of the Moon
Lavena, the last survivor of Rome's plundering destruction in ancient Spain, must survive to the next sunrise and then try to unite far-flung villages and oust the Roman menace. Based on real events and ancient She-Warriors who fought alongside their men. Mighty Rome plunders everything of value and destroys anything left standing in the beautiful and rich land south of Burnt Rocks. We know it as Spain. Lavena, the last child of the strongest tribal leader in the area, must grow up fast, must choose between marriage to her favorite young man and children, or the life of a She-Warrior fighting side-by-side with the male warriors of her tribe – or even fighting alone. The crush of an invading Roman army forces her choices. Guided by the spirits of the dead, by her father’s favorite dog, and the courage of those with nothing left to lose, she takes a last stand against the Roman menace. Roman scout, Marcus, is ordered to try to find answers to unseen but real threats pestering his Roman army – scouts who never return, dead soldiers, deadly traps in the ground, and slaughtered bullocks. More than any of his masters, Marcus begins to understand the havoc Lavena has wreaked, but deeper yearnings drive him to find her for other reasons, to be with her. Based on actual characters of that time and place, South of Burnt Rocks – West of The Moontells that mostly true story lost to the fog of history.

Reviewed for Awesome Indies by Elizabeth Jasper

The daughter of  tribe leader Sinorix, Lavena is expected to learn how to work the land, to develop strength and fortitude and, as a ferocious female warrior, to lead her people into battle against the Romans should it becomes necessary. When governor Piso is recalled to Rome and a new governor takes his place, the precarious peace between the Romans and Celts is broken and the Celts are forced to defend their village, to no avail.  Lavena escapes and seeks help from nearby villages, where she discovers the Roman army is once again on the move.

Written with an engrossing breadth of detail about the Celts and the Romans, with a sympathetic slant towards the people on both sides of the conflict, and with a depth of knowledge that he imparts effortlessly to the reader, G J Berger has written a compelling story of adventure, fortitude, revenge and love.  The main characters stand out against a supporting cast of well-drawn minor characters.  Pacing is superb, driving the reader onwards.  G J Berger’s writing style is direct and pared down, as befits a book of this nature.  Descriptive passages are moving and show very well how the landscape is used in Lavena’s fight against the invaders, and the animals – -horses and dogs, add an extra dimension to the story.

For any reader who loves to sink into the distant past, this is a story that will not disappoint.

INCEPTIO

Inceptio
York, present day, alternate timeline. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice – being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe. Founded sixteen centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety, at a price, and a ready-made family in a strange culture she often struggles with. Just as she’s finding her feet, a shocking discovery about her new lover, special forces officer Conrad Tellus, isolates her. And the enforcer, Renschman, is stalking her in her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why this Renschman is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it… “Grips like a vice – a writer to watch out for.” – Adrian Magson author of the Harry Tate spy thrillers. “Breathtaking action, suspense, political intrigue… Inceptio is a tour de force!” – Russell Whitfield, author of Gladiatrix and Roma Victrix

Reviewed 

Inceptio by Alison Morton take place on an alternate earth where the political boundaries are different, and Europe boasts an extra country created by those who escaped the persecution of pagans when the Roman Empire became Christian. It’s a matriarchal society and the people speak Latin, but other than that it could be any small European country.

The story begins in the Eastern United States when Karen Brown finds herself in the sights of a man who wants to kill her. Why? She isn’t exactly sure, but it has something to do with her receiving an inheritance on her next birthday and some political concerns about her taking over the family business. She discovers that the freedom and safety she took for granted in the EUS is a lie and ends up being rescued by her mother’s family, who whisk her away to this little European country where she starts a new life. The killer finds a way to follow her and, despite repeatedly being foiled, like all the best bad guys, he just keeps on coming back.

The story is basically one of a woman who, after a close escape from a traumatic interaction with a killer, vows never to be a victim again, and she does what is required to make that a reality. Karen’s life goes through many different phases so much so that the second half of the book bears little resemblance to the first, but a common thread runs through it all, a tenacious killer and a love interest.

Apart from the killer, the characters are reasonably well-drawn, but Karen’s transformation from a helpless victim into a highly-skilled special ops cop who succeeds at everything she does is too quick to be entirely believable for this reviewer, and the story stretches believability in other ways as well: Why didn’t grandmother contact Karen earlier? Why didn’t the EUS try a more subtle approach with Karen to start with? The questions around the killer’s motives are answered at the end of the book, and had more depth been given to his personality throughout the story, we might have felt some sympathy for him and found his scenes more solid.

It’s an interesting story and reads well, despite the plot issues. If you’re looking for a story of self-empowerment, then you’ll likely enjoy it. I’d be interested to read the sequel.

And I love the cover.

It just scrapes into the 4 star bracket.