Friday, May 17, 2019

Forgotten Books: The Land of Mist (The Gladiator #2) - Andrew Quiller (Kenneth Bulmer)

The Gladiator series continues with Kenneth Bulmer penning this entry. Laurence James wrote the first one, which I read and posted about a while back. As THE LAND OF MIST opens, our protagonist, half-Roman, half-Briton Marcus Julius Britannicus, has become a charioteer as well as a gladiator, and after an opening chapter in which he participates in an action-packed chariot race at the Circus Maximus, the story flashes back to Marcus’s days as a soldier in the Roman legions.

He’s sent to Britain, his mother’s homeland, to help subdue a rebellion there, and at the same time, he’s on a quest of his own to locate and kill several Roman officers responsible for an atrocity that touched Marcus personally. This storyline plays out on a rather episodic basis, although not as much as the first book did. There are bloody battles galore, a little romance, and a touch of angst here and there, as Bulmer spins his usual fast-paced yarn packed with historical detail.

In fact, I’ve read enough of Bulmer’s novels by now to realize that can be a bit of a shortcoming in his work. He uses a lot of jargon and obscure details without ever explaining them, so that the reader runs the risk of becoming mired down in all that. Also, there are a ton of characters in a Bulmer novel, and they tend to run together, especially when they have long Roman names such as in this book.

Despite all that, however, the pace and action and well-done protagonists always make me get caught up in a Bulmer novel, and THE LAND OF MIST is no exception. The second half is especially good and really had me turning the pages toward the end to find out what was going to happen. I don’t think this one is quite as good as Laurence James’s opening volume in the series, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. Some things in the on-going plotline are left unresolved, and I wonder if they’ll be picked up in the next book, which was written by Angus Wells under the Andrew Quiller house-name. I suspect I’ll find out soon.

One side note: This series was published originally in England under the overall title The Eagles, which is really much more fitting than The Gladiator, since (so far, at least) the stories have been much more concerned with Marcus’s experiences as a soldier, rather than a gladiator. But I guess when the books were reprinted in the U.S. by Pinnacle, someone there decided that American readers wouldn’t know what The Eagles referred to and changed the title to something more recognizable. Under either title, so far it’s a pretty entertaining series.


anaya said...

love this post

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

I'm gonna be looking for these books