The Gothica
by Patrick C. DiCarlo

"So it was done. The great king was buried at the bottom of the river. Only a few were allowed to witness the burial. When the dam was released and the prisoners slain, Alaric had been laid to rest, and Athaulf led the march north."

In this epic novel of historical proportions, readers enter the often brutal world of the Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Romans. Among these groups are a band of refugees. With their homes decimated, these refugees search across Europe for a new home, and some are even forced to fight in the ranks of the Roman army. Among the refugees is Alaric, a bold and defiant boy who will eventually rise to one of the greatest roles in history—the first king of the Visigoths. Readers also follow the tumultuous histories that ultimately shaped the modern world and are quickly lured into one of the most fascinating periods of history. As the rise of violence and the desire for peace and unification rise, they learn not only the intriguing tale of Alaric's rise to power but also the rarely heard stories from the everyday people who lived behind the scenes of those who ruled.

This book is a fast-paced, adventurous read that makes well-known figures from ancient history real and accessible. After exploring the rise and demise of Alaric, readers enter the kingdom of Theodoric, known throughout history as Theodoric the Great or Theodoric the Amal, king of the Ostrogoths. Interestingly enough, the novel is sympathetic in its treatment of the Goths, whose very name often struck fear into the hearts of their adversaries. Instead, the Romans and the Huns receive the historical treatment usually reserved for the Goths, which makes this novel an even more important read: "The refugees who appeared on the banks of the Danube in 376 survived starvation, defeated both halves of the Roman Empire, crossed an entire continent, and finally overcame the fearsome Huns."

Another key feature that makes this novel timely and relevant is its portrayal of the role of women. Initial female characters like the bold and independent Alenia establish a strong precedent for those who follow in the novel. Later, readers meet Alonia, who thoroughly completes and encourages Theodoric to pursue the Huns: "You need only allow yourself to truly be Theodoric, and you will defeat Atilla." Readers also find a heroine in Placidia, queen consort to Altaulf, who stands bravely against Sergeric's humiliation of her after her husband's murder: "Yet each time Placidia was brought to the ground, she rose calmly, her head held high with a dignified expression." Thus, the incorporation and portrayal of these heroines defy traditional literature surrounding this time period since male narratives and characters tend to dominate the genre.

Though the novel focuses on a period of history few continue to study, the book's conclusion parallels contemporary narratives regarding the heroism of refugees who face adversity in order to transform and transcend negative stereotypes: "Ragged refugees who refused to accept defeat and subjugation transformed themselves into a mighty nation that changed the course of history." In short, the novel becomes a relevant read, implicitly advocating that to understand modern history and movements, one must understand the past. Thoroughly researched and exciting, this book ranks with mainstream favorites such as Simon Scarrow's Under the Eagle.

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