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Powerful intense novel on Teutoberg Forest Massacre 9 AD as told from a legionary's viewpoint rather than the officers' They are only tangential to the story except for Arminius who drives the action and to a lesser extent Prefect Caeonius whose actions bear on the protagonist Felix several times and whose final decision concerns the whole army Although the Teutoberg incident has been recounted several times in novel form recently it's always interesting to see how each author tells the tale A wounded soldier is found in a grove his companions all having met ghastly deaths at the hands of the Germans He claims to have remembered nothing beforehand Rescued he is sent to Legion XVII as a battle casualty replacement and is given the name Felix meaning Lucky The story concerns him and his contubernium called herein a section The novel smolders until the final conflagration battle with the Germans near a defensive wall of withy branches the Germans have erected and the shattering conclusion at the marching camp Through the novel we get tantalizing bits of Felix's past and how he came to be there until the final reveal At the marching camp he has a choice to make that will affect the rest of his lifeThe action was gruesome and blood saturated all through but nothing felt gratuitous here The author went overboard on the profanity and I wish it could have been toned down somewhat eg f word as gerund over and over I did get a view of a common soldier's life back then in all aspects in garrison life and group dynamics on the march dodging Germans' hit and run tactics traps and obstacles as well as battle I also got into the soldiers' heads their thinking psychology and emotions The members of Felix's section fit the stereotypes of a group of soldiers the brute and bully but de facto leader; the raw recruits; the disillusioned dispirited old soldier; the super religious and ultra patriot; the loving family man; and others The story easily could have been moved to another era say World War II The author lays out the possibility of a seuel but I feel the story could have ended here The writing was top notch and the cover fantastic The figure of the crow on the cover and its symbolism become apparent on reading the story I felt the whole prologue was a waste and added nothing to the story which could have begun easily with Chapter One dispensing with the prologue entirelyHighly recommended Most of this novel takes place among a contubernium of eight men of the Seventeenth Legion deployed across the Rhine in not uite pacified Germania It all begins when a scrawny naked man covered in blood is discovered lurking at the site of a horrible massacre of a Roman detachment He tells the rescuers that he doesn’t remember his name or where he came from although he is clearly desperate and on his own The cavalry commander a charismatic allied German called Arminius treats him kindly and dubs him “Felix” luckyUnluckily for Felix his sandals give him away as a former legionary Arminius takes him to the Roman camp where he is assigned to a tent unit with six other soldiers dominated by the fearsome veteran Titus This tight knit group is far from pleased to have Felix thrust among them It’s increasingly evident that he harbors a secret but perhaps not one he will fully admit to himself let alone to othersThe mystery of Felix’s origins takes BLOOD FOREST to a different level than most swords and shields sagas For those who are unfamiliar with events of 9 AD I won’t spoil the story by relating of the plot Suffice it to say that everything he experiences made me believe “Yes it probably was just like that” Geraint Jones who served in Afghanistan and Ira clearly knows how soldiers think and talk Their profanity and brutality sound true to life and all eight men and their centurion Pavo come across as real sympathetic characters Considering that this is the author’s debut novel he deserves high praise for his achievementBy the end the reader will understand a complicated man who must reconcile his honor with his humanity and whom I hope we will meet again in a seuel The trickiest reviews to write are the ones about books I have read that are already on the back foot for being a setting I am not interested in It makes it hard because I have to work out why I am not really getting into the story Is it because I just don’t like the setting in this case Roman? Or is it because I just did not like the book? I thought long and hard about Blood Forest while I was reading it and after I finished it In the end this is what I came up withI am not a keen reader of Roman historical fiction or ‘swords and sandals’ if you will And yet I do read it and enjoy it if the setting is beautifully and skilfully done For example the MC Scott Roman historical fiction books There is some skill at times in the Blood Forest settings but my issue was that the main setting was the suaddie comraderies I need plot and storyline than all the walking talking gutting grunting stabbing walking talking sleeping shtting spitting talking Not that it isn’t loved by many It simply isn’t something I get in to Not my fault nor the fault of the authorSo there was that And it was an obstacle to get over for me I don’t care about the gore or the swearing I used to as so much of it in swords and sandal books is not for the betterment of the read it is only for shock value but now I expect it from these suaddiegrunt comraderies books and I have learned to live with it to a degree If it is done in mature wayMy problem with Blood Forest was that after a promising start the comraderies became all the book was about and the plots and sub plots were absent or presented in such a fleeting way that if you blinked you’d miss them I even forgot sometimes that Felix had some back story to come out and that he had supposedly lost his memory I have noted other reviewers commenting on absence of plot too and I think to many who are looking for then it is uite distractingWar for many soldiers can be boring A lot of sitting around waiting for orders to come down waiting for transport waiting to move out Waiting waiting waiting Digging latrines Talking about women's body parts Sleeping Cleaning weapons And for some very little or no combat or action Sometimes not getting a shot off or getting shot at So if it is boring for real soldiers imagine how documenting this life can be boring for readers who don’t need that detailed insight Who already know about it perhaps or wish to read adventure in their stories not only actionI think that covers it My issue was both The roman suaddiegrunt setting dominating plot devices and suspense And my general disinterest in Romans and dislike for them as a peopleSimple Not simple Yes?In saying all that Make up your own mind on this book I read it for a book club read so I was already swimming out into unfavourable seas My opinion is compromised Until I saw it in action I didn’t realize just how rare and special the first person tense has been in military fiction The only examples I can recall are Bernard Cornwell novels and even he uses third person for most of them And the reasons for that are obvious in a complicated world of warfare a single narrator can never truly understand all of what’s occurring Third person lets you flit between many different viewpoints and understand the whole battle What you get with first person is a greater intimacy but at the cost of a much narrower range of vision It means you can never see than a narrow slice of the whole battleBut this book runs with that and runs hard It seriously plays up the suad or in the Roman case contubernium or tent mates and we spend very little time outside their company As such we get an intimate view of army life that feels authentic even if I often found myself wondering what was meant by certain terms What Latin term does “uartermaster” mean for example? Pay food and euipment should all be handled differently and often be decentralized to lixae sutlerscamp followers or the suad’s slaves And I don’t think they’d have had extra sets of armor just lying around on campaign But people aren’t likely to notice that and in general his understanding of the army’s structure is good The tentmates are all uniue characters with different ways of handling the stresses and tedium of army life There’s a certain degree of cliche involved but on the whole they feel like uniue characters and not just archetypesProbably the best element of the book and one that distinguishes it from the competition is the sense of mystery about the lead It’s very hard to write a first person story where your viewpoint character is keeping secrets from you It’s not that he’s an unreliable narrator exactly; he’s recording his current experiences accurately and with great clarity But he only vaguely alludes to his past and he’s also suffering from a sort of PTSD amnesia that means he only remembers part of it which he’s not sharing with you And the main thing that’s clear is that he’s a traitor He just wants out and he fully plans to abandon his newfound suad ASAP and flee to independent Britain So if army life is sucking him in it’s against his will It’s a uniue choice and one that draws you in better than if you were following generic grunt #1562This book was written by a vet You can never doubt that for a moment and the sense of a military memoir reverberates throughout The upside of having a personal connection to the story being told is the same as the benefit of telling a story in the first person it makes it intimate and personal You can tell that this guy understands the real bond between suadmates and the relationship between the individual and the army The banter seemed real except when it seemed too real“No plan survives contact with an officer” “goatfrs” “Ever thought of running for the Senate?” Err what century is this again? It’s actually almost distressing how easy it is to refocus modern soldier talk around rapine and plunder without losing the essence of itThe downside of having a deeply personal connection to the story is that you become less detached and able to consider facts that fall outside your particular experience Which brings us to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest the main focus of the book and it botches it The actual massacre has numerous issues but the most obvious one is that it’s very much a modern infantry army that gets annihilated in a very modern way Instead of the whole army falling under attack individual suads are sent out and annihilated piecemeal until there’s nothing left That’s not how heavy infantry works You form the entire unit up in a solid line and bash your way through whatever comes And the reason the Romans lost this one is because the terrain prevented them from doing that Think about it splitting into small independent units reduces the power concentrated on the front line and makes them vulnerable The only reason we stopped using massed formations is that modern weapons like machine guns and high explosives make them easy targets But here they actually reach open ground on which to deploy only to lose anyway because they’re outnumbered Or something I’m actually not sure why they lose And because there’s no clear reason to feel they’re threatened the situation doesn’t seem particularly bad It actually took me some time to realize the battle had started I thought we were still seeing skirmishes Even when I realized the battle was underway I couldn’t see why the Romans were so screwed They seemed to just be acting stupidlyThe other big and obvious anachronism is that the Roman suads are constantly running into boobytraps I can’t think of a single example of a boobytrap used in Roman warfare beyond caltrops and defensive ditchesfortifications Maybe siege warfare had some but the main focus was always countering their men with your own And the reason they didn’t use such tactics aside from the lack of explosives from which most boobytraps are constructed was because again the army fought as a whole Not as individual suads It is possible to write a Roman army story where the soldiers are forced into acting as small units The first part of the book does pretty well at it Romans ambushed while on repair duty would have responded similarly to modern soldiers ambushed on patrol So would soldiers on guard duty Or serving as scouts though why would you use legionaries for that? But that ability to function as an independent suad ends once you enter massed combat and the book’s poorer for not recognizing that I feel like this is a case where we get some excellent storytelling put into a situation where it can’t be deployed The Teutoburg Forest was just no place for small unit warfare A small band breaking out and fleeing the battle on the other handAnd on a closely related note the downside of telling a story in the first person is that there are certain things you can only keep from the reader by keeping them from the character as well Facts that he could not possibly have not known important relationships he couldn’t have forgotten and a whole bunch of thoughts that are in retrospect pretty silly Which is another way of saying that the selective amnesia he suffers from is just too convenient to believe When we got to the big reveal and it becomes apparent that he should have anticipated everything that happened but forgot to well frankly I rolled my eyes and kept on rolling them through the final pages The answers to his mystery are frankly unbelievable as well Just try transplanting that story onto the modern day and see if you can get it to make even emotional senseI don’t know how other readers will feel but to me this wasn’t just inauthentic it felt inauthentic As if it was written as an Afghan War memoir and then had only the character names and locations changed And that really ruined it for me He’s right to say that all professional soldiers act in similar ways but that doesn’t mean they fight the same Imagine if he’d stretched out a bit and showed a massed unit attacked repeatedly by skirmishers? Pinpricks here and there hit and run attacks and the army lacks the cavalry to drive them off He could still have kept his low level suad focus The enemy retreats small suads break discipline to pursue them and get annihilated The enemy gets in between the cracks and it’s down to the suad level as the army disintegrates Or just show us the Romans attacked in column unable to form up in files and have everything reduced to the suad level That’s pretty close to the way it was and its too bad it ended this way because the first half was one of the most exciting and original accounts I’ve ever read It felt utterly authentic in a way the second half just didn’t And it felt personal and fascinating as well I am despite it all looking forwards to his seuel As I intimated it makes perfect sense for a suad fleeing pellmell to act like modern soldiers But the massacre itself was a poor choice of focusI’m still hoping to find a good Teutoburg Forest book Maybe Kane’s bookwill do the trick? He really gets Roman warfarePlot 6 Great initially but loses believability over timeCharacters 8 Distinct and interestingAccuracy 6 Details are often right but tactics are all modern 'A bloody page turner' Mail on Sunday They call him Felix A lost soldier without a memory and now a brutal battle to win For fans of Bernard Cornwell Simon Scarrow Ben Kane and Conn Iggulden a spectacular debut where honour and duty legions and tribes clash in bloody heart breaking glory AD 9 Fifteen thousand battle hardened Roman legionaries strike deep into dense forest Awaiting them are deadly hostile Germanic tribes In a clearing they find twelve massacred and strung up legionariesIs this a threat or a warningThere is just one bloodied broken survivor He has no idea who he is Only that he is a soldierAnd now he must fight As the legions are mercilessly cut down the nameless soldier joins a small band of survivors trapped in the forest If they fight together they have a slim chance of staying aliveBut whose side is the soldier on And is it the right one'Gives Rome's legionaries a contemporary voice brutal audacious and fast paced' Anthony Riches author of Empire series'Historical fiction written by a real war veteran who knows all there is to know about blood and bonding in battle An earthy and powerful read' Sport'Blood and guts but also a clever exploration of the moral ambiguity of war and loyalty to a flag' Mail on Sunday I so enjoyed Blood Forest? I'm not sure if that's the right word I admired the writing found the story brutal gritty moving and surprising despite the commonly known history I literally felt by the end as if I were one with the Roman section and 17th legion fighting bloody step by bloody step through the German forest facing hostile rebelling tribes and unremitting wind and rain Most books I read within days this book took me longer I had to absorb it slowly or become somewhat overwhelmedThe book delivers on its bloody title the battle scenes through the German forest are convincing and from what others have said on AM I know very little about Ancient Rome accurate to the story from 9 AD Below the blood however Geraint Jones's soldiers struggled with their loyalties to each other to their section chief the nobles commanding the legions and attendant reciprocal loyalty or lack thereof The relationships between the soldiers their Centurion section chief the mysterious central soldier Felix and the only truly recognizable historic character given full character Arminius form the heart the story Further Jones reveals crucial information about the central character's pasts their motivations loyalty and morality only slowly as the story evolves through each desperate situation Throughout the book Jones maintains the tension between daily horrific battle scenes and the building of closer bonds of brotherhood This loyalty forged at war brings the men courage comfort and family yet leashes them tighter to the Legions Ultimately Jones shows that while Soldiers and Rebelling German tribesmen could throw off loyalty to Rome itself the ties forged in battle between brothers in arms were not so easily broken Paradoxically the relationships with each other kept the men sane and sometimes saved their lives but also could spell their doom Blood Forest is almost painfully brutal to read on some levels but I thought it was excellent Highly recommended This novel by this new author Geraint Jones is for me an absolute stunning debut bookAs a debut this novel has been a revelation for me in a very positive way and I hope that this author can remain this high level of writing for the immediate future and beyondThe book contains a well drawn map of the Roman Empire in c AD 9 and a superb documented structure of the Imperial Roman LegionStorytelling is of a very superb uality and the characters within this gripping tale come all vividly to life to make this book such an exciting and captivating readAs an ex military man this author shows greatly the human feelings and anxieties while being in a different country and in strange surroundings and finally these same feelings and anxieties come even to the forefront when having to fight a ferocious enemy while being frightened and being on your toes all the timeThe story itself is set in the year AD 9 like Ben Kane's Eagles at War and this story is developing mainly within the Teutoburg Forest and where our main characters will meet and fight the German host led by the traitor ArminiusThe book is divided into three parts and part one is mainly situated in and around the German town of Minden and its from there that the adventures begin for Felix our narrator and main character of the book along with Centurion Pavo his section leader Titus and fellow soldiers as there are Chickenhead Rufus Stumps Moonface Cnaeus and Micon when they are finally preparing for their journey back to the Roman side of the Frontier with Germania but instead of following the River Lippe and its Roman outposts they follow a track instructed by Governor General Varus after some persuasion from ArminiusPart two is mainly about the ambush and the fighting and destruction of three Roman Legions the 17th 18th and 19th Legion against the traitor Arminius and his German tribes and within these horrible circumstances its there where we find Felix The Lucky One finally has to share his secret that his name is really Corvus and he himself a traitorIn the 3rd and final part it tells us in a compelling and fascinating fashion the destruction and final stand of what is left of the Three Legions while also picturing during and after the fight the atrocities and slaughtering that took place and for Felix Corvus himself a very unpleasant surprise is waiting in the endVery much recommended for this book is a must read and that's why I call it A Stunning Impressive Debut Novel A debut novel set in the Roman Empire and fictionalises the battle between the Romans and the Germans It sounds epic It sounds amazing and it sounds bloody It was definitely bloody  It is AD 9 In Northern Europe an army is dying and an empire is being brought to its kneesThe Roman Empire is at the height of its power Rome's soldiers brutally enforce imperial rule and its legions are the most efficient and aggressive fighting force in the world Governor Varus leads 15000 seasoned legionnaires north to subdue the Germanic tribes To Rome these people are savages ripe for conuest But the Romans know little of this densely forested territory governed by fiercely independent chieftains Rome's supposed ally Arminius has unified the disgruntled tribes leading the would be conuerors towards a deadly trap As the army marches deeper into enemy territory one small band of soldiers must face the deadliest of foes aloneThe first half of this book did nothing to capture my attention at all I didn't find myself gripped by the story or the characters which was a massive shame because the first half of the book had so much potential I think the characters didn't grip me because there were just so many of them to keep track of in the beginning and so I kept getting their nicknames all mixed up Plus because our protagonist tells the army that he can't remember anything about his past I couldn't really connect with him about anything He was just thereIt was a sort of mystery book though because event though Felix tells his comrades that he can't remember anything we as the reader knows that he does because he keeps letting out little hints to us about how he remembers certain things We don't actually find out about his past until the very end and even then it just seemed really far fetched and confusing To be honest the ending itself gave me whiplash One minute he decides something then goes back on it the changes his mind again and again Like seriously? No At the end though I was content with his decision but he still really annoyed me I had grown to like his character but he kind of let me down towards the end At times I was at peace with my place in the world feeling not a care for my past or my future At other moments I felt as if a boulder was on my chest crushing me with the weight of my depression If not already broken I would say that my mind was breaking Geraint Jones Blood Forest The second half of the book is where things really get going I think I was at about 46%? when I started really binge reading because I was so into the story It's also around this point where Felix starts to bond with the other troops and starts to care for them and because of this I felt myself also bonding with the characters but still not really liking Felix I mean come on how could you not like Chickenhead and his kitten?The second half was fast paced action packed and full of feels We saw bodies get chopped up rage fill every single troop in the army and we also witness a stealth mission through a dangerous forest I loved it If it wasn't for the second half I would have given up completelyThis book is definitely not for the faint hearted It is full of vicious killings that are described in graphic detail and there is pretty much every swear word ever known to man in the book so yeah if you're not a big fan of those things you definitely shouldn't read this book Otherwise go for it and jump straight in Just be weary of the first half because it dragsOverall I do recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a gory Roman read It's an ok book for a debut and I look forward to reading what Jones comes up with nextSide note I know I've rated this book 2 stars but my real rating it 25Warning this book contains triggers for death suicide and war Disclaimer this book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest reviewReleased 27th June Original Review HereAnything set in the Roman era instantly grabs my interest I was looking forward to reading Blood Forest by Geraint JonesThe first thing to say about this book is it is not for the sueamish or if you dislike swearing Films have ratings on them and this book made me think that the same should be true for novels There were some graphic gory scenes scattered throughout that would not be appropriate for younger readersThe story is told from the first person narrative by a soldier the reader only knows as Felix After being found at a scene of carnage Felix is taken in by the army But he doesn’t remember who he is or how he came to be at that site in the first placeAt least that is what the characters are led to believe From the reader’s perspective we know he remembers than he is letting on But just like his friends we’re left in the dark about what haunts himWhile this is an effective techniue – you want to keep reading just to discover what Felix is hiding never mind everything else – it also means that I struggled to connect with the characters When you know the main character is hiding something big that terrifies him every night it’s hard to relate and connect to himPartly due to Felix’s reluctance to get to know his new comrades and partly because of their nicknames it also took me a while to figure out who was who out of everyone else For at least half the book I felt detached from the story because I didn’t feel anything for any of the charactersThe second half of the book is stronger Despite his intentions Felix does start to bond with the men Not only does this make him a relatable character it also clarifies the personalities of the othersThe majority of the book is either the camp marching from one location to the next or a battle Or rather the army being harassed and loosing When I think about it there isn’t a lot to the plot than that despite Felix’s mysterious past Once you get to know the characters however the battle has weight because you’re willing these men to survive The second half certainly gripped me than the firstIt isn’t the level of violence that I found uncomfortable in this book it’s the intimacy of it The men who are supposed to be the good guys are prepared to commit acts as atrocious as the bad guys Again this makes it hard to relate to the characters and empathise with their plightThe ending left me bemused Without spoiling anything you do find out Felix’s past But I personally found it so far fetched with everything else that was happening I was bemused rather than shocked by the revelationAn enjoyable read that was too heavy at times to be considered entertainment Initially I thought this was a superb read; gritty and realistic At the centre is a mystery who is our hero what is his secret He has been discovered in a forest clearing in Germany amongst the corpses of brutally slaughtered Roman soldiers He is taken to be a survivor of this slaughter and inducted back into the legions about to make their historical march into the Teutoberger Forest We all know what's going to happen don't we?What follows has that verisimilitude that accompanies anything written by one who knows Geraint Jones is a former soldier and he knows how soldiers live and act It's earthy it's gritty it's nasty and brutal It's gripping I enjoyed it as I devoured itSo why only four stars the ending That last chapter was so disappointing almost saccharin The grit and the earth and the blood and the guts all washed away leaving an empty taste of disappointmentDon't get me wrong it's a good read Well worth it just don't bother with the final chapter Blood Forest

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