Rivers Ran Red Review

Rivers Ran Red Review | J.A Grierson

I’ve been trying to write up my Rivers Ran Red thoughts for a few weeks. I thought it sounded like the type of book I’d enjoy, and for the most part, it was. It was missing something though; a spark, a connection, something to keep me gripped. Keep scrolling to check out my full review.

Publisher: BooksGoSocial | Date: 2019 | Genre: Historical Fiction

Plot: In a whirlwind of fire and carnage, Attila the Hun wheels half a million horsemen towards Roman territory. In his path, corruption and greed have undermined the ancient empire and the vacillating emperor, Valentinian III, has cut her legions to a sliver. But out of this smoke a wily, battle-scarred general, Avitus, rises in her defence. Making allies of his enemies, Avitus rallies barbarian warlords to fight for the Eagle and crosses the Alps to face Rome’s nemesis. But when Attila offers to split the Empire’s corpse with the Goths his march becomes a suicide mission.

One war will decide the fate of civilization.

The Battle of the Catalaunian Plains rages through the night. Individual acts of bravery and cowardice tip the final balance. Rivers run red and burst their banks with blood. Dawn draws a portrait of unimaginable carnage.

In a tale of epic deeds, heroes confront insurmountable odds, with honour and courage. Avitus faces a myriad of enemies, both Roman and barbarian but can one man save civilisation?

I received Rivers Ran Red from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Rivers Ran Red Review

Rivers Ran Red Review

Set in Roman times and promising large-scale battles, Rivers Ran Red sounded a perfect read. I enjoyed it: a good premise with some interesting characters, and a solid chunk of action. But it was hard to connect with the characters, the pacing was off and the ending left me disappointed.


A lot of characters are introduced in quick succession, narrating different chapters. Normally, this works for me. But some of the storylines didn’t follow through. We get the backstory and character strengths and flaws, then that person is either killed off or never heard of again. You aren’t sure who you’re supposed to invest in.

I’m trying my best to avoid spoilers but… there’s no happy endings in this book. Or very few. So when you do invest in characters, when you get the chance to see their growth and development, you didn’t get the pay off. Once kept things interesting, but multiple times felt cheated.

The characters are well-crafted, though. You know who you’re supposed to root for. Brave generals fighting to defend the innocent against a maniac mad-man. Young poets looking for love and trying to protect their country from power-hungry politicians. You’re not left guessing who’s side you should be on.


Perhaps it was due to the changing narrators, but the pacing also felt off. At times, events happened very quickly: the betrayal of a favourite character and the consequences of that were over within a chapter, which felt an unjust end for someone you’d supported.

But other times, it felt slow. A large-scale battle takes up the middle section of the book. That’s normally my favourite part of this genre. While I did enjoy the tactics of seeing the troops move into position, there was a lot of posturing going on. It dragged for too long of getting people into place, switching to the opponent, switching back and making you feel the wait the soldiers had to endure.

The changing pace undermined the tension for me. It became a relief when the epic battle started – it had taken too long to get there.

However, the writing itself was good. The book was researched well and immersed you in that period of history. Characters were easy to like and uncertainty over their fate kept you engaged in what happens next.

Final Thoughts

How did I feel about this one? It’s good: it is a solid read for those with an interest in the time period. There were elements that didn’t work for me – personally – which makes it hard to rave about. But if you’re a roman-fiction fan and looking for something to pass the time, it’s a decent book.

Does this sound like your kind of read? Have you read this book?

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18 thoughts on “Rivers Ran Red Review | J.A Grierson

  1. Sorry to hear that this book fell short! I’m glad that it’s still considered a good read for those who like the time period. Pacing is important to me as well, and when it feels off it’s hard to stay focused or engaged in the story. Thank you so much for sharing your honest review!


  2. Great post! I’m glad in the end you enjoyed this book in the main, but you always need to feel connected or invested in the characters and what happens to them- and I’m sorry this one didn’t have that particular “spark” for you x


  3. Great review! This sounds like a mixed bag; I don’t usually read Roman fiction so I’ll probably give this a miss if the characters and writing missed the mark, too. Thanks for sharing x


  4. It’s interesting that it took you time to write your review as there was something missing from the book for you. While I’m not sure this would be the book for me, I really liked reading your review of it 🙂


  5. I haven’t heard of this book before. Sorry you didn’t have a great time with this book. Not every book can be for everyone. Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts.

    Lauren – bournemouthgirl


    • Well, none of them really survived until the last page which is what the problem was. And not really – one character arc had hints towards romance and that was it.


  6. It’s a shame that a number of the characters introduced didn’t go any further as I am sure that would have been interesting. It seems like it was stuffed with them to then not develop any aspect of the story. Thanks for sharing your review!


    • I think that’s why it didn’t quite work for me because you never really got to connect with anyone for any length of time, which was a shame as there was real potential there.


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