"Give Me Back My Legions"
By Harry Turtledove
Read by Scott Vance
Produced by Tantor Media
Do you like books with gladiators in them? How about Legionnaires? This may be the audio book for you. Harry Turtledove explores in this novel one of Ancient Rome's greatest military disasters, what has become known as the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest. This is the battle in Which Arminius defeated Augustus Ceasar's appointed governor of Germany, Publius Quinctilius Varus, and kept Rome out of Germany.
Arminius is a German by birth but serves in the Roman army and gains Roman citizenship and an officer's rank. However Arminius does not wish to see his fatherland, Germany to come under Roman rule or its people to become slaves. While serving as an officer in the Roman / Pannonian front Arminius gets word the woman betrothed to him has been taken away by her father and betrothed to an older German. Arminius is granted leave to defend his honor. Going through Germany to his home Arminius decides that Germany must remain free. Arminius seeks assistance from the newly appointed governer to Germany, Varus. Varus takes an immediate likening to Arminius and treats him as his own son.
During Arminius' absence, Varus is told by the father of the betrothed girl that Arminius is spreading word and gathering forces to defeat the Romans. Varus sees this as merely an old man that is getting back at the loss of his daughter to Arminius. When Varus receives the same reports from some of his own officers he defends Arminius by mentioning that Arminius is a high ranking officer and a Roman citizen.
Arminius does continue to gather forces and finds the place where the Romans can be defeated. Using the Romans own military maneuvers against them, Arminius must get the Legions to march into the mountains on small trails between swamps.
Arminius continues to win the trust of Varus and spends the summers in Varus camp as the XVII, XVIII and XIX Legions cross Germany to conquer the Germans and collect taxes. The tax collecting is to get the Germans used to Roman rule. At the end of each summer the Legions must return south to survive the rough German winters. During these excursions the Roman Legions are bogged down by the swamp lands and the constant rains. Arminius hints to Varus that he knows of a route that could take them back south without the bad weather and improved marching conditions. Varus thinks about the idea but decides not to take Arminius up on the offer, until that fateful third summer, when everyone except Varus sees the treachery being built up by Arminius.
In creating this novel Harry Turtledove took some poetic license in creating some events and characters to help explore the hows and whys of the German's victory over the Romans. This military tale has many lessons for modern military and war-making in that the Romans were so confident of their victory they forgot to watch the people of the land. The summer Varus decides to take Arminius' route he is composing a "Mission Accomplished" type letter that is sent to Augustus Ceasar.
This audio book features the wonderful voice actor Simon Vance. However, I'm not so sure if the casting of Vance in this book was the best decision. While Vance does read each character's speaking part with distinct different voices, his British accent does not quite fit in with the Roman and German characters. Some of the minor characters seem to have a Cockney accent or other British Isles accents, while Augustus Ceasar has a vocal quality that sounds like a impersonation of Sean Connery.
Another aspect of this audio book production that made it a little bit hard to absorb, at first, was the lack of pauses between segments. During each chapter there may be two or three separate scenes, such as one with Arminius, one with a Legion officer collecting taxes and one of Varus being approached by someone. There were no pauses between these scenes and they blended in as though they were one continuous scene. Throw in the similar sounding Roman and German names and the story becomes hard to follow. On a good note after about five chapters this became easier to follow and was more tolerable.
All in all with a great historical story this audio book is worth the time spent. Harry Turtledove even adds a final chapter in which is discussed the differences between fact and fiction and what sources he used and why for the historical accuracy.