"Mons Graupius AD 83" is written by Duncan B Campbell and illustrated by Sean O'Brogain. The book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the Roman era, and in particular for anyone wanting to know more about the Roman campaign in Scotland between AD77 and AD83. The approach is inclusive, and the wider background across the Roman Empire at the time is covered, both in setting the scene for the campaign and in explaining why the Romans effectively turned their back on the conquest of these islands which was within their grasp after their overwhelming victory at the Battle of Mons Graupius.
The text is well researched and written in an accessible and engaging style. This is ably complemented by the numerous images of relevant scenes, of artefacts, of re-enactors: alongside plentiful clear maps and fine pictures of the development of the battle itself. Elements such as a clearly laid out chronology add greatly to the reader's understanding of a military campaign which took rather longer than is usually understood, and descriptions of the opposing forces and the societies which produced them help set the events which took place in a wider context. The book then goes on to look at the Roman campaign on a year by year basis, while the latter half looks at the Battle of Mons Graupius in some detail, and its aftermath.
What is particularly good is the way the author is up front about the limitations of the historical records about the battle. These largely depend on the account written fifteen years later by Tacitus, who happened to be the son in law of the man who led the campaign, the Roman Governor of Britain, Julius Agricola. As a result there are historians who believe that Mons Graupius was actually fought somewhere other than on the slopes of Bennachie in Aberdeenshire, which plays a starring role in the book: and as the author states, there are even some who question whether the battle took place at all.
Against this background, any attempt to present a detailed account of the battle might seem ambitious, but Duncan B Campbell does it very well indeed, and very convincingly. Perhaps at some time in the future someone might unearth a letter, perhaps at the Roman fort at Vindolanda on Hadrian's Wall, complaining that parts of Tacitus's biography of his father in law were a work of fiction: but unless they do, as far as we are concerned the location of Mon Graupius at Bennachie is compelling: and on that basis, this book is as near a definitive account of what took place as is ever likely to be written.