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I'm plotting out a story in my head that involves one country gradually (as in over the course of several generations) taking control of its neighbors.

The king (at least he's a king for now) doesn't do the whole burn-then-pillage pillage-then-burn thing... he wants to build an empire, so he sets up a puppet government, collects his taxes, and is generally a happy camper.

But now he's getting to the point where the countries he's trying to conquer (1) had a pretty good idea that he was coming and have had time to prepare and (2) are religious hard-liners, by and large, while the king has kind of set himself up as the head of a more modern version (with the blessing of certain corrupt clergy members). The populations of these countries are determined to resist him on spiritual grounds if nothing else. But I can't help but feel that my grasp on all of this is woefully simplistic. With so much political turmoil in the world right now, it feels kind of... cheap, just to leave it at that.

My problem is that this kind of wide-angle plotting is not really my thing. I've queued up some documentaries on Netflix about the Roman empire, rise and fall, etc, but I wanted to put this out there in case anyone who is better versed in history than I might have some ideas, or suggestions for resources I could check out.
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Thanks for the ideas, Becc. I can probably get The Prince and The Gathering Storm for free or cheap on my Nook. I remember trying one of the HH books a while back and had a hard time getting into it, but I've been looking for a new audio book to 'read' during commute so I might see if the library has any of those available. Thanks again :)