The Soldier of Raetia by Heather Domin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
During the reign of Caesar Augustus, Manlius Dardanus joins the legion at age 20. He is a shy, hesitant young man, unsure of his abilities and uncertain if he will fit in.
Domin skillfully makes the reader experience the training, and the emotions, of Dardanus and his new friends as they learn what it means to be a legionary. They bond as brothers in military service and in combat.
Dardanus is the youth in all of us, wherever we begin in life, hoping we can make someone proud, hoping we can find acceptance, hoping we can find our place. We are with him, as he is torn with inner conflict, as after his first battle he finds he does not relish the bloodletting performed by his brothers-in-arms.
Yet, Domin does not take her protagonist in what might be an easier route–Dardanus does not flee from duty or service in the legion. He remains true to his oath, and saves the life of his immediate superior, and that of his general. Eventually, he finds he truly has a place, one he earned through loyalty, intelligence, honesty and commitment.
What makes this book stand out is that it is not simply a “legion story” as many are. The scenes of fighting are well-written, not simply in the tactics or swordplay, but in the sights, sounds, and smells of battle. But more than all that, The Soldier of Raetia is a story of how the characters deal with each other, in trust, in honor, in ambition and in survival.
Well written and highly recommended.
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