Book Review – Domitian by S J A Turney – highly recommended historical fiction

Here’s the blurb:

Rome, AD 52. The Julio-Claudian dynasty is in its death throes. Over the next twenty years, chaos descends as Claudius then Nero are killed. The whole empire bucks and heaves with conspiracy, rebellion and civil war.

Out of the ashes and discord, a new imperial family emerges: the Flavians. Vespasian is crowned emperor, with his sons, Titus and Domitian, next in line.

Domitian, still only a teenager, has known only fear, death and treachery for as long as he has been alive. Suspicious of the senate as a breeding ground for treachery, and fiercely protective of his surviving family members, he uses a network of spies to stay one step ahead of any would-be conspirators.

When Titus unexpectedly falls gravely ill, the throne beckons for Domitian, something he never wanted or prepared for. As in all his darkest moments, Domitian’s childhood guardian, Nerva, is the man he turns to with his fears, and his secrets…

Domitian by S J A Turney is an engrossing story of political shenanigans in first-century AD Rome.

I’m not hugely well-read on Roman history, but through reading Turney’s books, I’ve come to appreciate just what a rich tapestry there is to weave tales of corruption, war and politics. And cor, doesn’t Domitian have it all? The narrative starts during the reign of Nero, and takes us through the year of the four emperors, when Vespasian comes out on top, through the brief rule of his son, and then onto Domitian. It’s not quite as whistlestop as it sounds, but the viewpoint Turney adopts, through the eyes of Nerva, allows the reader to stand back and watch it all happen, perhaps, like me, with an increasingly open mouth of disbelief.

This isn’t a fast read, as perhaps others of Turney’s more martial Roman stories might be, but it is absorbing. There isn’t a cast of thousands, but there are still many men who rise and fall (not so many women, but they are still included in the story), and events that we all might know more about, such as the eruption of Vesuvius and the continuing invasion of Britannia under Agricola (I see what you did there Mr Turney:)).

This is a story of politics, spies and corruption; of men who don’t want to fall into the same traps as those who went before. It is a fabulous story, and I highly, highly recommend it.

Buy Now:

Connect with the author:

Book Review – The Bear of Byzantium by S J A Turney – historical fiction

Here’s the blurb:

The wolves of Odin sail to the centre of the world: Constantinople.

AD 1041. After successfully avenging the death of his father, Halfdan and the crew of the Sea Wolf seek adventure in strange new lands, far from their Scandinavian home.

They join the fleet of Harald Hardrada, the legendary Viking commander, sailing back to Constantinople from the battlefields of Georgia. There they join the Varangians, the personal bodyguard of the Byzantine Emperors populated almost exclusively by Viking warriors. But Constantinople has changed during Hardrada’s long absence.

The Emperor, Michael IV, is ailing visibly, and powerful factions in his court are setting their plans in motion ahead of his inevitable demise. While courtiers scheme, elements even within the Varangian Guard are picking sides.

Gunnhild, the seer among the Sea Wolf crew, has struck out on her own in the big city. Unable to join the all-male Guard alongside her friends, she establishes herself in a small side-street near the port as a healer and soothsayer, offering cures to the sick and glimpses of the future to the desperate, or the conspiratorial. But in all her visions she sees a wolf, a boar and a golden bear fighting together to support the Byzantine throne. The Norns aren’t finished with them yet…

The epic second instalment in the Wolves of Odin series, taking us to the heart of power in Constantinople and the desperate machinations of the Byzantine emperors. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell, Giles Kristian and Angus Donald.


The Bear of Byzantium is a fabulous book.

From the opening chapter, which focuses on Harald Hardrada, I knew this was my kind of book – if not just because of the occasional – and it is occasional for anyone who doesn’t appreciate it quite as much as me – use of a little bit of fruity language.

What follows is a journey through Constantinople at a particularly perilous time for emperors and impresses.

The two characters of Gunnhild and Halfdan, who are the main POV throughout the story, are intriguing and have very eventful stories, and the ending is exciting. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the author brought the city of Constantinople to life – something he’s extremely good at in his Roman-era books as well – as well as the customs, regulations, and also, all the paperwork (it’s much more exciting than it sounds:))

A firm favourite for me now and I look forward to continuing the story of Gunnhild and Halfdan – and I will assume Harald Hardrada at some point in the next few books in the series.

My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy. The Bear of Byzantium is available now from Amazon and all good booksellers. Just a note that while this might be book 2, I haven’t read book 1, although I have it to read. If you want to jump right in, as I did, it won’t be a struggle to engage with the characters.

I have reviewed a fare few of S J A/Simon Turney’s Roman books. Here you’ll find the reviews for Son of Rome, Masters of Rome, Emperors of Rome and Commodus.

Connect with the author

Website Twitter