Cover Image: Bellatrix


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Bellatrix is the second and surpisingly final instalment in Simon Turney’s Legion XXII series.
It picks up straight from where book 1 left off, and the action doesn’t let up until the final page. As with book one, having a Roman Legion novel told from the point of view of the medic brings a breath of fresh air to a genre that I love.
The suicidal mission our cast of characters are sent on through the desert is a tale of hardship and despair. Turney tells a tale of survival, religious introspection, humour and war. Through it all we follow the Capsarius’ journey as he struggles to keep his comrades alive using his medical knowledge and military skills.
I’d love to get another book in this series at a later date, hopefully throwing the XXII Legion into another dangerous corner of the Roman world. Brilliant stuff again.

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Bellatrix is the second instalment in the Legion XXII series. I’d definitely recommend reading the 1st book if you haven’t already to better understand some of the backstory of Cervianus and the other soldiers, you could probably read it without but having that knowledge really gave me some “Oooo” moments as tasty little reminders are thrown in.

The Twenty Second Legion are now in Egypt, the aim as always, to defeat their enemies, to reaffirm their control. These dark clad warriors have caused many Roman deaths… but do those in charge really know the price they will have to pay to cross the desert?

Firstly, I loved the detail of the legion formation and the different roles, this shows the authors knowledge but also his skill at weaving this information in nicely with the plot, there’s no unnecessary descriptions and detail was added naturally just when I needed it.

The journey is perilous and the Kush warriors make themselves known early.. leaving the legion will little choice…they take the supplies.. especially water… they are too far now to turn back but they don’t have the supplies to make to it their destination either… men are going to die.

The legion also need to contend with the desert itself, I don’t want to spoil it but I really enjoyed one particular section of the story that focused on the sandstorm and the aftermath, beautifully woven and engrossing.

Cervianus is going to have his work cut out for him to keep as many men alive as possible.. with very little supplies.

What I really love about this series is it’s not your typical historical fiction book full of battles and gore… oh yes it certainly has it’s moments but it gives more than that.. it’s one man’s journey to keep these men alive.. a desperate struggle to belong and find his way in life and his biggest battle to fight is his own fear… there’s so much depth and growth to the character.

Bellatrix is far from a slow burner but I loved the page count given to the desert crossing.. it’s still actioned packed but brings some authenticity to the tale..not all men die by the sword afterall.. just getting from A to B can be dangerous for many other reasons and Turney does an excellent job of exploring these, such as the effect of the sun, lack of water and shade, the sand itself.. it’s a masterclass in understanding the weaknesses of the human body to commit to such as task as crossing the desert.

Turney has put everything into this book and more if that’s possible.. it’s got action, blood and gore but it’s also got humanity mixed with real emotion to give you a well round and magnificent tale.

A resounding 5* read that packs in so much more than you could ever imagine..leaving you salivating for more!

Fans of Turney will not be disappointed!

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During the First Century AD, the Roman Empire was at the cusp of its zenith. In later years it would expand and grow. But during the reign of Augustus, the Empire suffered embarrassing defeats in Arabia and Kush. This novel is an exploration of how the Romans never subdued the Kushites but had they done so, this would have been a game-changer in terms of alternate history. The entire history behind the Kushites and their relationship with Ancient Egypt and Rome is a fascinating subject and has rarely been explored. I commend Simon Turney for highlighting a spotlight on this.

Blistering Deserts, Stinging Scorpions, and Poisonous Snakes all hamper the Roman Legions. Simon illustrates the journey that struggles with which the Persian Army of Cambyses had to go through and juxtaposes it with the Roman Legions marching blind into the Deserts of Kush. The worldbuilding is researched with the attention of a historian, where you feel as if you are in this world. Simon Turney has been writing about the Roman Period in his novels for years, and once you read his novels, you can never go back. Once you read Bellatrix, you’ll be introduced to a world of priests, temples, action, diplomacy, and tourism of the world that once existed thousands of years ago. If you haven’t studied about the Kushites, now is your chance to do so!

The characters are extremely well written, with Cervianus being the main hero of the story. You’ve got Draco the tough tribune, Narscia the legendary veteran of Rome, and then you’ve got stubborn-headed Roman Generals that refuse to listen to reason. You’ve got the Queen of Kush and her mighty armies wanting to drive Rome from their lands. This is a world that is stunningly researched, with characters that may have existed thousands of years ago now brought back to life. It is a novel that I thoroughly recommend. There is so much detail that it would be impossible to summarise all of it. Brilliant writing!

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Bellatrix is the new proposal and the second book in the Legion XXII duology, by Simon Turney. We are going to continue following Titus Cervianus, capsarius of the Legion XXII during the foolish incursion on the Kush territory, in order to take down the warrior queen Bellatrix. A mission that will put to test the strength and even the convictions of the legionaries.

Soon we get to experience how this expedition into the Kushite desert is going to be a tough test for the Legion. In addition to the inherent danger of being in enemy territory, deadly threats such as the own heat and scorpions become a problem for our group of soldiers. We get to experiment all these sensations through the fantastic prose of Simon Turney, making you feel as if you were one more of the group.

Even after taking control of Napata, things don't become easier for the Twenty-Second Legion. Without spoiling anything, they get to experiment in their flesh with how the Kushites behave with their enemies, and the situation gets even more difficult due to Vitalis' hubris, something that starts provoking conflict among the legionaries.

Cervianus is such an interesting character, a complex one, and who is developed even more through the story; how he has evolved after the campaign, and how some friendships have appeared, the most prominent the one he has with Ulyxes, his tentmate. We get to see him in several situations, taking care of his mates, and doing his labour as capsacius; despite being a foreigner in Aegyptus' lands, is a person who has developed a certain respect for their religious customs, especially if we take in account the dreams that haunt him during all the journey.

Turner does an excellent job showing a relatively unknown period of Rome's history, as the campaigns in the Aegiptus' lands, portraying different aspects of soldiers' life. Personally, I enjoyed so much the passages describing the medical procedures Cervinius is forced to practice (might be a little bit biased due to my IRL formation). Without entering into spoilers, the author shows his narrative strength, as it covers a certainly wide range of scenes with great precision.

I enjoyed so much reading Bellatrix. Historical fiction fans can be assured that this novel is excellent, and that the historical accuracy is something that has been carefully treated; and for fans of Rome's history, this book is a must. Simon Turner has written a great novel, making the reader a participant in the Twenty-Second Legion adventure.

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Egypt, 25 AD. With Buhen secured from the Kushite invaders after a bloody battle, Cervianus and his fellow comrades of the XXII Legion are faced with the prospect of a foolhardy incursion into Kush to take on its infamous warrior queen Bellatrix, under the command of the increasingly unpopular Vitalis.

It is Cervianus' fate to be capsarius to the force of the First and Second cohorts who must march into the inhospitable desert towards the Kush stronghold of Napata, and attempt to survive its dangers - and be ready for battle when they get there.

Can they hope for victory in an environment that wants to see them dead, against a bloodthirsty foe, and under the command of a man who prizes fame above the welfare of his men?

Bellatrix is the second gripping adventure of Titus Cervianus, capsarius (combat medic) to the XXII Legion, following closely on from the exciting events of The Capsarius.

Cervianus begins this story between a rock and a hard place, most likely destined to become collateral damage to Vitalis' vanity mission to subdue the kingdom of Kush and its warrior queen. The prospects of the XXII are certainly not looking bright given the task ahead, especially for the First and Second cohorts who must cross the desert wasteland to arrive at their battleground.

But in many ways, this Cervianus is very different to the naive, friendless, and extremely annoying young many who set foot in Alexandria not so long ago. He has made some firm friends, seen the reality of combat, and been forced to confront some of the intellectual principles he holds with high regard, while learning about the religious devotions of the people whose land he finds himself in - and all these factors will come into play in this second book.

Obviously, I am not going to give away spoilers about what happens, but I can tell you that Simon Turney uses his considerable talents to weave fact and fiction together to create another rip-roaring historical adventure that immerses you completely in the Roman world - this time, beyond the fringes of the Empire in an environment that has been little explored, deep into the territory of the ancient land of Kush.

Turney holds nothing back about the dangers of nature and human kind that Cervianus and his comrades in arms face on their journey, and the impact of the inevitable losses that result. You feel yourself trudging along beside these men in the heat and the dust, with despair dogging their heels. There are many difficult, and emotional moments to take in, but along the way you also get to know Cervianus and his friends all the better for them, learning so much more about their talents and the way they complement each other under exceptionally difficult circumstances. I grew to love them, to understand the importance of the dark humour that sustained them and forged the bonds of friendship, and felt every casualty with force - tears were shed.

In keeping with what I have come to expect from Turney, as one of my very favourite historical fiction writers, there is so much fantastic detail here about how Romans lived and died in pursuit of the glory of the Empire, even though many of them were born and bred far from Rome. There is also such lovely interplay between the intellectual ideas of science, and the mystique of religion, in the way Cervianus comes to terms with how intellect and belief can come together for good - which makes for a cracking climax to this story. I am always fascinated by the breadth of knowledge he has, and his dedication to learning, and it was very satisfying to see him finally receiving recognition for the personality traits that have previously made him unpopular amongst his colleagues - while still being kept grounded by his close friends.

I am rather sad to be leaving the XXII behind with this book, as the two volumes of Legion XXII have been a joy to consume. I am pretty sure that there are further adventures of the XXII to tell, which I certainly want to read, so my fingers are crossed that there may be more in the future.

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The Capsarius introduced the reader to Titus Cervianus, a combat medic in the Imperial Roman Army, although of course the army was made up of many different nationalities from provinces conquered by the Roman Empire. Cervianus himself is from Galatia, part of modern day Turkey.

Bellatrix sees the return of a number of characters from the first book, including the seemingly indestructible centurion, Draco, and Cervianus’s friend, the irrepressible Ulyxes. Ulyxes is a great character. ‘The man moved through the world like a trireme, making large waves and leaving a wake that rocked and undulated and turned lives upside down.’ Ulyxes’ remarkable memory makes him unbeatable when it comes to games of chance and proves important at critical moments in the story.

One of the standout sections of the book for me was the description of the Twenty Second Legion’s punishing and dangerous trek through the desert, blisteringly hot during the day and bitterly cold at night. ‘The mounds of grey and brown began to blend into one another as the hours wore on, dust causing the men to gag, weariness and uneven ground leading to stumbles and falls, each one rewarded with a jab from an officer’s vine staff and a lash from his tongue.’ I was amazed by the distances Roman legions were expected to march – over twenty miles in a day – carrying their kit and supplies with them.

It soon becomes apparent that Rome has seriously underestimated the Kushites both in terms of their military capability and their sense of purpose. The legion’s overstretched supply lines and reliance on native scouts whose loyalties are suspect make them vulnerable, with disastrous results. We all know war is a nasty business but, as we learn in the book, both the Romans and the Kushites had particularly gruesome ways of dealing with those they defeated or conquered. Indeed, those who are squeamish may want to skip over a few of the scenes.

Cervianus and his fellow legionaries find themselves in one precarious situation after another. At one point, low on food, weapons and manpower, and facing the prospect of an attack by a vast horde of bloodthirsty Kushites, one of his comrades succinctly sums up their position. ‘We couldn’t fight off a drunk Syrian catamite with the shits.’ A useful phrase next time you find yourself up against the odds.

I love the way the character of Cervianus has developed through the two books. From being a self-confessed loner when we first meet him, shunned by the rest of his contubernium, he has developed some firm friendships – notably with Ulyxes – and earned the respect of both his peers and senior officers not just for his medical skills but for his intuition and his courage in battle. His fixedly rational perspective on life, so prominent in the first book, has become more nuanced. Absorbing the culture and religious beliefs of the areas he has travelled through has made Cervianus begin to believe there is a guiding hand determining his future path in life, that there is something he is meant to do or to prevent from happening. After all, why else allow him to survive so many precarious situations? It’s also given him a valuable insight into what motivates the deadly opponents the Twenty Second face.

History records the outcome of the conflict between Rome and Kush, and the author himself describes The Capsarius and Bellatrix as a duology. So does Cervianus’ story end here? The author teases the reader with a tantalising possibility.

Bellatrix is another completely immersive journey back in time for fans of action-packed, richly detailed and fast-paced historical fiction.

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Bellatrix is the sequel to The Capsarius, a book that I thought was fantastic. I’ve been desperately waiting for Bellatrix, and it doesn’t disappoint.

From the first page, we’re plunged once more into the heat and cold of Egypt’s desert, an intense journey that makes for difficult reading at times. Our Capsarius is sorely tested. He’s not happy to be there, but he has orders to follow, and follow them he must. Luckily, his tent-mate, Ulxsses, is at his side, and just about manages to refrain from causing trouble for quite some time. Not that he manages to continue to do so for long.

This truly is a story about surviving against the odds. If you think the desert trek is bad, then things are only going to get much, much worse for our soldiers.

What I enjoy most about these stories of The Capsarius is the complete change of scene. I don’t read huge amounts of Roman-era fiction, although it’s a period that’s certainly growing on me, but even I know many of these stories take place in Europe or the UK. Egypt is completely new, and the clash of cultures between Rome and the Kush, is one of the highlights of the books.

Bellatrix is a worthy sequel to The Capsarius. You can taste the sand in your mouth and the pounding heat on your head as the story surges towards its stunning conclusion. Highly recommended.

My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for my review copy.

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A fantastic second installment for the capsarius 10/10.

This really brought to life the harsh desert of Egypt and the struggle to follow a general hell bent on a suicidal mission outside of his remit .
Once again the capsarius and his bunch of misfit mates will have you turning pages and burning through the midnight oil .

SJA Turney has brought ancient Rome to life once again and I would love to see some more of the capsarius and the XXII Deiotariana legion in the future .

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I fell in love with this series and Titus Cervanius when I read the Capsarius. This is an intriguing series as it bring us to the Egypt just annexed by Rome and features fleshed out and realistic characters who are more than muscled heroes all action and no brain.
I couldn't wait less by Simon Turney as I already read other books he wrote and appreciated the attention to the historical details and the character development.
I couldn't wait to read about the Kush Queen and this fascinating civilisation. I wasn't disappointed by the plot and some unexpected twists.
Another riveting and well written novel that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Many thanks to Aria & Aries, for this arc, all opinions are mine

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Once again we join the Capsarius and his comrades but this time, venturing south, in to the heart of Kush. Having read the first book, I was always going to enjoy the next instalment. If you haven’t read the first yet however, you could easily pick the storyline up and really enjoy this book none the less.

The story is one of friendship, respect, humour, war, but above all else, the influence of the gods. The way the author links the divine intervention to the outcomes of events is very clever and eye opening. Coming from the point of view of a character so invested in science and medicine, believing in the gods is a hard sell. It all becomes too much in the end for the Capsarius however, who eventually accepts that there are simply some things that science cannot explain.

A great read from start to finish filled with a rollercoaster of emotions. 5/5.

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