Empire Resurgent

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
500 Pages
Reviewed on 10/28/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Empire Resurgent by Robert Bruton, book one of the historical fiction Double-Edged Sword series, begins in the year 530 A.D. when General Flavius Belisarius makes a name for himself in combat by defeating the Persian army during Emperor Justinian's rule in the Eastern Roman Empire. Upon returning to Constantinople, he marries the notoriously profligate Antonia, a dear friend of Theodora, Justinian's wife. Their relationship faces early challenges that snowball as Belisarius succeeds in his military career despite personal hardships, moving on behalf of the Emperor from one triumph to the next. His faithfulness to the salvation of the Empire is not met by his wife at home, and the humiliation of Antonia's adultery puts Belisarius and his distinction in an untenable position.

There is an irony in Empire Resurgent by Robert Bruton when Belisarius orders a hanging, stating, “We don’t need to be popular, Sunicas. We need to be obeyed.” Unfortunately, at a time when wives were meant to defer solely to the rules of their husbands, what Belisarius commands on the battlefields is not the same respect he garners at home. Even now, the cuckolding of the very real Belisarius lives on. Thankfully, Bruton certainly makes this a central subplot in the story; it does not consume it, and the success of Belisarius is given life. In the background, Bruton highlights the politicking of Theodora and Antonia, with the Empress sending Antonia to Belisarius' military campaign so she might spy on those who wish to see Justinian fall. Antonia might easily betray her loyalty to her husband in bed, but she would not dream of betraying her sovereign. The book ends with a blow, but thankfully its sequel is already out, so there's no waiting to move forward in the series.

K.C. Finn

Empire Resurgent is a novel penned by author Robert Bruton in the historical fiction, interpersonal drama, and intrigue subgenres. This work is the prequel to Empire in Apocalypse. The book is best suited to adult readers but contains nothing too graphic. The novel takes readers on a thrilling journey into the Eastern Roman Empire during 530 A.D., under the rule of Emperor Justinian. The plot revolves around General Flavius Belisarius, a man of honor and duty, and his remarkable military successes against the formidable Persian army. As Belisarius's military career advances, so does the intrigue and complexity of his personal life, especially his tumultuous marriage to Antonina. The story delves into the grand military conquests of the time but also explores the intricate dynamics of love, loyalty, and betrayal in a society quite unlike our own.

Author Robert Bruton portrays the historical setting with great enthusiasm, detailed research, and vivid description, providing readers with a visceral and immersive sense of what it was like to live in Roman times whilst also conveying the era's politics, culture, and societal norms. One of the features that I found especially engaging was the character development, particularly Belisarius, who is both a brilliant military strategist and a man torn between his loyalty to the Emperor and his desire for a simple life with his unfaithful wife. The novel keeps readers on edge, wondering whether Belisarius can secure peace through military might and if the expansive Roman Empire can endure, but also watching his personal life implode with some truly compelling dialogue and emotive scenes. Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend Empire Resurgent to historical fiction fans seeking a well-balanced blend of personal drama and big-picture action.

Philip Zozzaro

In 530 AD, Emperor Justinian is at a crucial moment in leading the Byzantine Empire. Various tribes are attempting to run roughshod over his domain as they had done in Rome. Justinian is not without options as he is ably assisted by the sage counsel of his wife Theodora. Justinian’s military might may not match the Vandals or Goths in number but the leadership of men such as Flavius Belisarius is unparalleled. Flavius is tasked with facing down the troublesome Persians at Dara and bringing back a victory for the empire. Previous setbacks gnaw at Flavius’ mind, but he possesses a military mindset and delegates to his men when needed. The momentum shifts and victories accumulate and while Flavius’ leadership receives accolades, it comes at the expense of his new marriage to Antonina.

Empire Resurgent is an animated first offering in a series of historical fiction books tackling the efforts of Justinian and his people in preserving a bloodied empire. Despite Justinian serving as the head of the empire, the focus is often on his loyal commander Flavius Belisarius. The strength of will is a constant theme in the book as even when the men succumb to doubt, they are reinforced by solid women in their lives. Author Robert Bruton takes the reader on a whirlwind tour spanning the unrelenting battlefields of war to the Emperor’s palace, where plans are hatched and intrigue often follows, before deftly transitioning to the private moments between the leaders and their wives. Bruton lays the foundation for further drama with the conflict between Flavius and Constantinus along with a growing rift in his marriage.

Essien Asian

As news of his exploits in the campaign against the Persians reaches curious ears in Constantinople, General Flavius Belisarius is recalled so he may justify his actions to the emperor. Contrary to his expectations, he returns to find Constantinople in a state of flux as different factions try to wrest control of the city from a hesitant Justinian. The emperor has bold ambitions he believes will turn the tide and selects Flavius as his advocate. The young general does not realize that his new assignment is as political as it is military. Flavius is about to discover that the determinants to his success on this campaign may be closer to home than he believes in Robert Bruton’s Empire Resurgent.

A young war hero is forced to navigate the minefields of Roman politics as he strives to build a family despite interference from ambitious rivals in Robert Bruton’s Empire Resurgent. Bruton’s historical fiction novel does its utmost to stay true to the facts while steeping this adventure in vivid realism where it concerns the notable events. His efforts result in highly detailed battles which are told with the ultimate intention of subconsciously immersing the reader into the story completely. The longer I followed Flavius, who is portrayed as the morally upright hero, the more I wondered exactly how Theodora's ambitious scheming would get past him. Despite Bruton's portrayal of Empire Resurgent as a romantic tale, it comes off equally as a political drama that would appeal to history buffs with an eye for detail. I enjoyed reading this novel.

Grant Leishman

Empire Resurgent by Robert Bruton is the prequel to Empire in Apocalypse. The Western Roman Empire may well have been in its final death throes in 530 AD but in the East, Emperor Justinian rules the Eastern Roman Empire from Constantinople where it still flourishes. General Flavius Belisarius is young and untried as a leader in battle but Justinian chooses him to lead the Roman army against the feared and undefeated Persian army. With clever strategies and untiring efforts, the Roman army proves successful and Belisarius returns to Constantinople a hero, where Empress Theodora introduces him to her beautiful friend, Antonina. Deeply in love with the beautiful woman, the pair are soon married but Belisarius’ constant absences from home soon cause Antonina to look elsewhere for comfort and support. As Belisarius’ military career flourishes with victory after victory, including a seemingly impossible quelling of an uprising in Constantinople aimed at dethroning Justinian, Belisarius would much rather settle for a quiet life at home and a faithful wife, both of which seem to be an impossibility.

Robert Bruton has a wonderful ability to seamlessly combine the horrors and cruelty of war with the tenderness and joy of romance, love, and comradeship. I appreciated the opportunity to further know and understand the characters I had read about in his previous book. Belisarius is an incredibly likable and relatable character. For a general whose occupation was killing people, he had a wonderful moral compass and would rather see the enemy surrender than have to slaughter them on the battlefield. I particularly appreciated the several occasions when we were privy to Belisarius’ softer, gentle side, especially his relationships with those soldiers who were closest to him, something you don’t usually see in a man whose occupation is war. The palace intrigue and the scheming of Theodora and others are always a wonderful sideline to these tales of Roman society and I did enjoy the relationship between Theodora and Antonina, both of whom had come from questionable backgrounds and were often looked down upon by those who considered themselves more “noble” Romans. Their unwillingness to be left out of discussions and decisions by their respective husbands was unheard of amongst women of their time and allowed both of them to show their strengths and weaknesses. Empire Resurgent is another wonderful read from this author and one that I can highly recommend.