Apion, Maria, Nasir,
Strategos, Born in the Borderlands follows the story of Apion, a young crippled Byzantine boy who has a dark past and an even darker future. At an early age Apion’s mother and father are murdered by masked killers and he becomes enslaved in the aftermath. Whilst working in a dingy drinking-hole for a cruel master, Apion stumbles into an elderly Seljuk man called Mansur, who buys Apion’s freedom and takes him back to his farm to live as a foster son. There Apion grows happy and forgets about his dark past and the murder of his parents, learning sword-play and strategy from Mansur whilst creating a great bond with Mansur’s daughter Maria.
However, a few years into his stay at Mansur’s farm, Apion discovers that the man behind the murder of his parents is none other than Bracchus, a corrupt soldier who forces Mansur to pay money for protection. But Apion cannot get at Bracchus for two reasons. The first is that Bracchus has been made into a Tourmarches, a powerful figure within the Byzantine army. The second reason is because Bracchus is a secret imperial agent with the Emperor’s protection and blessing, and therefore untouchable to Apion.
But Apion has a plan! With the threat of invasion from the Seljuk hordes in the East, Apion decides to join the army and becomes stationed under Bracchus. However when he arrives at Argyroupolis (where Bracchus is stationed) it is not what he is expecting, and soon finds Bracchus has the town run as a mini kingdom with him at the top! With joining the army, Apion also has another problem. With his deformed leg he cannot keep up on marches! Apion decides to bide his time, not only to make his leg stronger but to give him enough time to come up with a plan to take down Bracchus. Though, time may be running out for Apion as the Seljuk advance is much quicker than expected!
Apion and his comrades must face the odds and destroy the Seljuk army (which have 4 times as many troops!) Will Apion survive the battle? Will he gain his revenge for the murder of his family? Will the Byzantines push back the wave of all conquering Seljuks? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
I was looking forward to reading this book the moment I heard about it! I am a huge fan of Byzantine history (especially Justinian!) but I have never really read into this period of the long and eventful Byzantine era. And Strategos didn’t disappoint! I thought Doherty did a brilliant job of painting the picture of the era, especially when describing the troops of the Byzantine and Seljuk armies! I also loved the character of Apion! He is the hero that I always love to read about because he shouldn’t really be a hero! He is a cripple, an orphan and hated by some other Byzantines because he was brought up in a Seljuk family. But he perceivers! He overcomes his weakness and uses his great mind and understanding of strategy to become a Tourmarches, the leader of hundreds of men. There is also a revelation in the book that I was not expecting! I thought I knew where the book was heading but towards the end a spanner is thrown into the works which I thought was excellent! And which really rattles Apion!
This was a great book! I would suggest it to anyone who is a fan of C. C. Humphrey's book Constantinople, A Place Called Armageddon or is a fan other Romanesque/Greek epics authors such as Simon Scarrow, Ben Kane, Conn Iggulden and Anthony Riches! I’d just like to say a massive thank you to Gordon for getting in touch and introducing me to his work, this was a great book!
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