Review by The Naval Review

My novel has recently been reviewed by The Naval Review:
GEORGE AND THE BRITON
By MICHAEL CODNER
(Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd - £8.99)
ISBN 978 1 3984657 7 0
168 pages
The author will be well known to members of the Naval Review, not only as a onetime naval officer but also with a subsequent career as a very distinguished academic.
Now he has turned his hand to historical fiction, recounting the story of a Roman
Tribune, George, heading a vexillation (a sub-unit detached from a full legion) under
the Emperor Diocletian and his successor the Emperor Galerius. Writing a novel, an
author is freed from the constraints of historical accuracy, but Michael Codner neatly
places his story in an era that brings together the military reforms of the Emperor
Diocletian, the splitting of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western parts, a
recently ended rebellion in Britain, and major religious change, including the last
persecution of Christians and he deftly weaves each of these facets into his tale; this is
a very well structured book. The story is recorded by a British sailor, Mark, who is
part of a delegation sent to the emperor to report and describe the end of the rebellion
in Britain. Being red headed and of small stature, he is the butt of his companions
teasing and is quite happy when, because he can read and write Latin, he is recruited
to be the clerk for George’s vexellation. The book is presented as his diary of events
over a number of years. It’s hardly a spoiler to reveal that the Tribune George, when
in Egypt rescues a girl who had been offered as a religious sacrifice to a crocodile,
which, as the story spread, became a dragon.
Not only does the story fit into the history, it neatly incorporates many historical
personages, and avoids making much of doing so; a central character, Constantine, is
never described as a future Emperor, but spells out the social and politico-military
structures of the time. Overall the story and its understated ending are well
constructed. However it is obvious that the author, while a good story teller and a
consummate historian is not a natural novelist. Unfortunately to this reader the
characters, apart from Mark himself, seem two-dimensional, they never really come to
life and it is difficult to identify with them. The reported conversations at times seem
stilted, and despite dealing with complex subjects seem almost to have been written
for children. It’s a pity because it is a well-crafted book around an intriguing theme.
ROBERT MUDDYSLEY

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