REVIEW: ‘Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator’ is a scintillating saga of the Galactic Roman Empire

wolf's empire gladiator
(Tor Books)

Only great fiction can happen when science fiction and the classics interact and that’s the idea behind Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator (Tor Books) by Claudia Christian and Morgan Grant Buchanan. Imagine if the Roman Empire had never fallen but continued to reign and then continued the tradition of the Imperium Romana to the stars. That’s the idea behind this novel and the fact that it’s an excellent example of when science fiction fuses with history to create a totally entertaining saga.

It’s the history that lends credence to the fiction, you see. It’s easier to accept fiction when there’s a level of fact underneath, supporting it regardless of the far-fetched notion it presents. After all, we want the story to capture our imagination and nothing does that better than playing “what if”?

However, it’s the storytelling, rich in pathos and the grandeur of Rome that easily draws the reader to accept the fiction of the various Roman houses that govern the galaxy. It draws upon those historical facts about the style of Roman governorship, historical persons and even mythology. Because these things are familiar, we are more readily able to accept what the writer – in this case, writers – have in store for us.

wolf's empire gladiator
Authors Morgan Grant Buchanan and Claudia Christian (photo: John K. Kirk)

Of course, with Claudia Christian’s experience on one of the best sci-fi television series, Babylon 5, she has a great deal of experience in rich drama. But what also is apparent is the presence of a strong, female main protagonist in Accala Viridius, the daughter of an imperiled House of the Galactic Imperium. While Accala tries to find her way as a trained warrior, she also has to contend with the expectations and duties as a daughter and a citizen of Rome. As Commander Susan Ivanova of Babylon 5, Christian clearly lends her perspective as a female warrior character to this story who has to contend with the powerful conflicting forces of duty and honour.

What really strikes the reader is the tremendous losses Accala faces. Coupled with the near-overwhelming adversity, Buchanan and Christian create an incredibly tense and gripping atmosphere that drives the reader to turn the next page. It’s impossible to put this book down at the conclusion of a chapter. This is lush storytelling that satisfies the reader to the fullest extent.

Ancient Roman battles and tactics are also put to good use. The re-imagining of gladiator combat with sci-fi weaponry is a brilliant feature that not only adds to the historical veracity of the tale but easily allows the reader to envision these story details. Students of ancient Rome will also appreciate the use of the comparison to classical battle strategies. This emphasizes the action of the story by referencing those classic battles and allows for easy comprehension. It is functional and vibrant storytelling with a high degree of authenticity.

Any lover of Ancient Rome will be assuredly be entertained by the imaginative details in which the Empire is represented in this book. The names of the starships, the way the technology is described through old Roman terms – even the use of Latin and classical literature all go far to accurately imagine Rome in space. There is expert classicism at work in this story and the level of minute detail is clearly indicative of a labour of love.

With a publishing date of June 28, Wolf’s Empire: Gladiator is a heroic tale of galactic adventure, family honour and overwhelming adversity built on historical tradition and written in a classic sci-fi style.

About Captain John K. Kirk

Captain John K. Kirk
John Kirk is an English and History teacher and librarian in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the traditional curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name "J. Kirk," it's hard for him to not inject "Star Trek" into his lessons. Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources.

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