Diving into the 4th century Roman era, author Cy Sansum delivers a fictional world in which a young shepherd boy has improbably risen to commander in the Roman army after being introduced to Emperor Constantine and the newly declared state religion of Christianity.
Readers met protagonist Beat and his canine companion Leon in Sansum’s first book, Leon the Warrior Dog. This installment, Beat and Leon the Warrior Dog, sees the young man tasked with driving the Sassanids (from modern-day Iran) out of Jerusalem.
The story picks up just after Beat and company have successfully driven the Goths from Rome. The campaign swiftly continues as the soldiers move from Antioch, enlisting other soldiers and tribes along the way as they pursue the Sassanids. Eventually Beat and his peripatetic crew even venture into India, China, and other areas in their pursuits before finally returning home.
While the premise of the story is intriguing, the narrative is hampered by several flaws. Beat is drawn in two-dimensions, delivering dialogue in a hollow manner, whether in response to romantic overtures or giving marching orders to his crew. At one point, he says matter-of-factly: “Leon, I don’t think you’d be interested, but I need someone to risk his life to save me.” Then, he looks at Leon’s new pups: “Wow, they are growing so fast!” he says.
The book’s secondary characters are equally flat. For example, Beat’s wife Sky and female companions Lia, Mae, and Deana are portrayed as beautiful and strong with no other descriptors and, thus, are indistinguishable and interchangeable.
Finally, the many writing errors are jarring. The author switches tenses frequently from first- to third-person perspective, sometimes within the space of a page. He also leans toward the overuse of commas and unnecessary capitalization, along with other mechanical errors.
The story’s potential could be realized with a thorough developmental edit and a proofreader’s eye. As it stands, however, readers may prefer to give this one a pass.