In the final volume of his alternate-history trilogy supposing that the Roman Empire never collapsed, Smale (Eagle in Exile, 2016, etc.) chronicles a 13th-century world war as Roman and Mongol empires clash in Nova Hesperia—North America.
Roma and Cahokia, "center of the mound-builder culture," maintain an uneasy alliance at the great city north of the confluence of the Mizipi and Wemissori rivers. Then word comes that Chinggis Khan and his Mongol Hordes are pillaging west of the great mountains. Disgraced Gaius Publius Marcellinus, a Crowe-in-Gladiator protagonist, had his command wiped out during Roma’s initial foray into Hesperia. Now Imperator Hadrianus gives him the unenviable task of contacting the People of the Hand far to the southwest to negotiate an alliance to resist Mongol incursions. Gaius meets tragedy, his party decimated after stumbling upon a Mongol army. Gaius survives only to wreak a near-pyrrhic victory from a Mizipi naval battle. Hadrianus decides to set out to meet the Mongols on Hesperia’s vast grasslands. Thus, Gaius is once more into the breech. The characters may be static, but they’re well-defined, whether it’s the young Cahokian chief, Tahtay, ambivalent about the alliance; Hadrianus, sly, manipulative, and audacious; or Gaius, Wanageeska to his Sintikala Cahokian wife, whom he loves passionately. There’s minimal back story; elements like the Cahokian developing hang gliders as weapons of war employing Greek fire or Khan crossing the ocean and allying with warlike Tlingits aren’t fully elucidated. The pace, however, is breathless and the action relentless, and Smale’s description of battles, tactics, and weapons—who knew a Mongol war horse was trained to bite and kick a foe?—are informed down to the construction of Mongol bows or the purposes of a centurion’s pila and gladius.
A satisfying culmination to the adventures of a Roman warrior in the New World.