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Rising from Slavery to Save a King - an Editorial Review of "Elodia's Knife"

"Elodia's Knife" by Robert S Phillips book cover

Book Blurb:

Set in the late 4th century CE, Elodia’s Knife tells the gripping tale of a young Gothic girl who kills her abusive husband and flees his family’s retribution by rafting across the Danube River into Roman territory. Against the backdrop of a crumbling empire and the looming threat of Gothic invasion, Elodia must use her wits and her strength to rise to power in a world that seeks to crush her. With unforgettable characters, pulse-pounding action, and a vivid sense of historical detail, this is a must-read for anyone who loves adventure, romance, and history.

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Author Bio:

Robert Phillips author photo

Robert S. Phillips is an avid reader and history buff. Born in Vancouver, BC, Robert has lived in many places in Canada and the U.S., only returning to the Pacific Northwest in the last decade. Home is Bellingham, WA. His three grown children all live in Washington; two in the State and one in D.C.

Editorial Review:

"Elodia's Knife" is a stirring and captivating story, penned by Robert S. Phillips, which takes us on a journey through time and space, offering a fascinating glimpse into the life and struggles of a woman in ancient times. The book vividly captures the atmosphere of a changing world, full of conflict, but also moments of courage and humanity.

The novel begins with the mysterious arrival of Elodia, a bold young woman, at a Roman border post in the year 375 AD. Her encounter with Caius sets off a series of events that will forever change their lives. Phillips skillfully crafts a complex relationship between the two characters, fraught with tension and evolution, as they face obstacles and dangers in the brutal world of the Roman frontier.

One of the book's most powerful aspects is its realistic portrayal of daily life in ancient times. Phillips delves into details such as the lifestyle of soldiers, food, and living conditions, bringing to the forefront lesser-known aspects of life in the Roman Empire. Additionally, the characters are well-defined and complex, with believable motives and traits, adding remarkable narrative depth and authenticity.

An important theme explored in "Elodia's Knife" is the struggle for freedom and identity. Through Elodia's story, confronting the oppression and misogyny of Roman society, the author raises questions about emancipation and women's rights in those distant times. The dialogues and interactions between characters underscore this theme, highlighting the complexity and ambiguity of power dynamics in that era.

One of the book's standout moments is the confrontation between Elodia and Bitorix, a corrupt and brutal Roman aristocrat. Phillips creates a tense and chilling atmosphere during this scene, emphasizing the vulnerability and inner strength of the main character. Furthermore, the complex relationship between Elodia and Caius brings an emotional and captivating element to the story, showcasing the strong human connections that can form even in the most challenging circumstances.

In addition to these aspects, "Elodia's Knife" also provides a fascinating panorama of the ancient world, with well-documented historical and cultural details seamlessly integrated into the narrative. Readers will be captivated by the authentic atmosphere of the era and the suspenseful and emotional adventures of the characters.

In one of the scenes from the book, we witness a dinner between Volesus and Licinius, where both the opulent feast and discussions about politics and personal life are described. Licinius impresses his guests with dishes prepared from the produce of his estate, and the conversations reveal details about the private lives and political perspectives of the characters.

That’s the last of the ice. No matter. Within a month or so, when streams high in the mountains begin to freeze, I will send my slaves out to cut and refill the cold house." Licinius tries to impress with his luxury, but this detail also highlights the corruption and opulence in his world.

Another perspective offered by Phillips' book is that of peasant families and how they are affected by conflicts and political changes. Through the story of Arbrun's family, we see the devastating impact of barbarian invasions and the desperation to find refuge in the face of danger. „Where were the gods tonight? Maybe the Jesus God had vanquished the old gods from the empire. Perhaps he was the only god listening tonight.”

The novel also highlights the role of religion in people's lives during that period, including the changes and conflicts generated by early Christianity. The dialogue between Elodia and Caius reflects the uncertainties regarding religious faith in a world marked by wars and social transformations: "Soldiers understand the gods. The gods do not give a damn about mortals.”

An essential theme in the book is the close bond between Fritigern and Elodia, which evolves throughout their perilous journey. In a particularly memorable scene, Fritigern surprises everyone, including Elodia, when he offers them his place to rest, demonstrating an unexpected gesture of respect and consideration.

You sleep there. He indicated a pile of rugs and furs on one side, opposite his cot.”

This scene illustrates the shifting power dynamics between characters and the development of their relationship as they travel together and face various obstacles.

Additionally, the novel explores power struggles between different groups, such as Romans and Goths, highlighting the conflicts and alliances that form during wars and sieges. A tense scene illustrates the chaos and violence during a battle: “Shut the gate! Cut them down! Kill them!”

These moments of intense conflict underline the tension and constant danger that the characters face in their struggle to survive and protect their interests.

The pressure on Fritigern to attack was enormous. He resisted the young warriors who were swearing revenge and hatred of all things Roman. They called him a coward. For all their passion, they were also the least trained. Few had any combat experience.”

In addition to military and political aspects, the novel also highlights aspects of everyday life, including interactions between characters in war camps and their personal stories. Scenes where Elodia tends to the wounded and shares moments of intimacy with those around her bring a touch of humanity and empathy amidst the conflict and violence.

Throughout their journey, Elodia and her company encounter numerous obstacles and dangers, from deteriorating roads to surprise attacks by the Romans. The detailed description of the landscape and battles conveys a strong sense of suspense and imminent danger: Elodia and Nedarcus pushed their cart through the mud when necessary while Silvan coaxed the obstinate mule to pull. It was reminiscent of their Shipka Pass experience, but the hills were less steep, and there was plenty of help from other travelers to bull through the challenging spots.”

During their journey, Elodia and those around her face numerous threats and obstacles, yet they manage to maintain their determination and continue their path to safety. Despite fear and uncertainty, Elodia remains a pillar of strength for those around her, demonstrating courage and resilience in the face of adversity.

One of the fascinating aspects of the book is how the author captures the interpersonal relationships and the complex dynamics between characters. From conflicts between tribal leaders to the close bonds within a community, readers are led through a panorama of emotions and experiences that add depth and authenticity to the story.

One of the significant passages is the moment when Elodia confronts a stranger who possesses the knife she has been searching for. The tense dialogue between the two illustrates the tension and resentment accumulated over the years, but also the strength and determination of the main character to confront the past and move forward: “This is a day of celebration, so I will not kill you. Or have you killed. The law of hospitality forbids it. But I will take my knife, and as promised, you will receive this one, though not in the way I intended.”

"Elodia's Knife" is a captivating book that explores profound themes such as loyalty, courage, and sacrifice in a world burdened by conflicts and dangers. The vivid and complex characters bring depth and authenticity to the story, captivating the reader from beginning to end.

The novel offers a fascinating perspective on a tumultuous period in history, illustrating power struggles, interpersonal relationships, and the determination to survive amidst constant change. Through its complex narrative and exploration of universal themes such as loyalty and sacrifice, "Elodia's Knife" impresses and prompts reflection.

With memorable characters and spirited storytelling, Robert S. Phillips evokes emotion and piques the interest of readers, providing an engaging and enlightening read. This deep and intricate story highlights interpersonal relationships and power struggles in a turbulent period, offering a profound insight into the human condition in the face of adversity.


“Elodia's Knife” by Robert S. Phillips receives four stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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