Videssos Cycle: Volume One: Misplaced Legion and Emperor for the Legion
by Harry Turtledove
Cover Artist: Stephen Youll
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Del Rey Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780345542588
Date: 02 April 2013 List Price $18.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
"No roads lead to Rome" was the header on the back of The Misplaced Legion when it was first published. It was a catchy and true statement. A scouting column sent out by Caesar runs into a tribe of Celts. During the ensuing battle, through the magic of Druids, the Romans are transported to a new universe. In this new lands they are taken in and hired to help protect the lands from an enemy. The events of Book I follow the lead up and aftermath of the showdown between Videssos and the Yezd.
For the most part all of the action in Book I is viewed through the eyes of Marcus Scarus the Tribune of the Roman forces. He is aided by the veteran centurion Gaius Phillippus and Celt Viridovix and numerous other Romans. They take service with Mavrikos the Emperor of Videssos. Videssos is a very old empire in comparison to Rome. Adding to the mix is the effectiveness of magic in Videssos and the people's strong belief in their god, Phos.
Early on Marcus offends the ambassador of Yezd, Avshar. Avshar is a longtime foe of Videssos, longer than anyone knows. He is a strong wizard, skilled fighter, and unrestrained by any morals. He is the perfect representative of his god, Skotos.
If war isn't enough of a problem, the faction infighting and religious strife further weaken Videssos. What was once a very large empire has slowly been whittled down by invasions. Everyone sees an opportunity to bring VIdessos down. But the Romans have a new home, one that they will fight to protect.
Videssos is modeled on what Rome became in the Eastern Empire. Sure there is more magic, but the basic dynamic between Byzantium and Persia and the Arabs. There is even a real Vaspurkan, or land of the Princes.
This is one of Harry Turtledove's first series and it is still one of his best and one of my favorites. This volume contains The Misplaced Legion and An Emperor for the Legion. The story flows so smoothly that I have read it numerous times over the years. In truth, the bindings of my old paperbacks are worn out. This new collection can now replace those tattered editions so I'll be able to read the series for years to come.
Life sometimes brings strange confluences of events. I was getting ready to start a reread of this series not long before the offer for the books came. The best thing is that it came along with the second volume that contains the rest of the series, so I was able to reread the series in a few days.
For people new to the series and the world of Videssos, there are two other series, one standalone novel and a few short stories available. The two series are prequels. One details the adventures of Krispos as he rises from captured peasant to the throne. The other series tells of some early wars with Makuran. The standalone novel is an Origins story of Avshar and how he fell from Phos to Skotos. I highly recommend the whole series and all of the related novels and stories.