Warrior of Rome Harry Sidebottom (Michael Joseph, £12.99)

The Roman Empire in the third century was beginning its long slide into oblivion. With its frontiers threatened, a legion commander issent to Persia to shore up the defences of an exposed city. Sidebottom already has a reputation as a scholar but now turns his classical training to the task of fiction, this being the first volume (sub-titled Fire in the East) of a trilogy that puts blood and thunder into every chapter in the time-honoured tradition of Roman epics.

Sashenka Simon Montefiore (Bantam, £12.99)

Dr Zhivago will inevitably spring to mind when reading this wonderful novel of the Russian revolution and the unbridled power of Stalin. Montefiore has been there before as a much-acclaimed historian. So why not put his own glittering past to use with a novel - and a heroine - against the extraordinary background of the birth of modern Russia? The story of three generations of a family with forbidden love at its heart is a triumph of creative writing.

Agincourt Bernard Cornwell (HarperCollins, £18.99)

It is a book that Cornwell has longed to write, according to the author himself. Agincourt is the great setpiece of English history, when the longbow defeated mounted knights on St Crispin's Day. This is a story of one of Henry V's archers amid scenes of violent warfare and atrocity. Cornwell plunges back to the medieval era with all the gusto that is his trademark.

The Right Hand of the Sun Anita Mason (John Murray, £18.99)

When the conquistador Hernan Cortes crosses the page one is sure to enter the new world of adventure. His object is the invasion of Mexico and its Aztec empire of gold. Mason's novel, centred on a Spaniard who becomes a slave only to be rescued by Cortes, is an elegy of beauty and betrayal based on priceless research.