Review: Ranks of Bronze (Earth Legions Book 1 of 3)

Ranks of Bronze - David Drake

Ranks of Bronze is a military science fiction story with much emphasis on the “military” aspect.  It features soldiers from ancient Rome who have been recruited by an odd commander to fight various odd enemies, which they’re transported to via odd methods while enjoying odd forms of recuperation and entertainment between battles.  The characters don’t really understand what’s going on, but it’s easy enough for the reader to extrapolate given the knowledge that this is a science fiction book.

The story started out very sloooow for me.  We enter the story at the beginning of long battle scene, featuring characters that didn’t seem very interesting to me, and without anything else besides the battle to really draw me into the story.  Things became a little more interesting as the story progressed, but it definitely wasn’t a page-turner for me.  I struggled through the first half and considered giving up a few times, but I did become quite a bit more engaged in the second half.  

I’ve enjoyed military science fiction before, including the Belisarius series which was set in a similar time period and was co-written by the author of this book.  I loved that series, actually, even though it was arguably heavier on the military aspect than this book was.  I think the difference was that the Belisarius series had characters who I found more likable, plus a lot more humor.  The military portions of the Belisarius series focused on more interesting strategies and had great interaction between the characters.  The characters in this book were ok, but I never got that attached.

We’re given a more-or-less complete story, but the way things were left at the end seemed to set up a far more interesting story that tempted me to continue on with the series.  However, I wasn’t sure I really wanted to read more books written in the same style as this one.  In trying to make up my mind, I read the synopses for the other two books in the series and it doesn’t seem like they continue the story in the way I expected.  That helped me make up my mind to stop with this book, although I was leaning toward that decision anyway.