Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Eagle and the Wolves

The Eagle and the Wolves
© 2003 Simon Scarrow
452 pages



The Roman Empire's campaign in Britain may about to become a victim of its own success. While a great victory last summer established a stronghold in the heart of the island, the Britons haven't given up yet -- and  are finding in the Romans' lengthening supply lines an opportunity to bleed the Empire white. If more troops are pulled from the front lines to defend against Celtic raiders, the advance will stall -- but what if Rome creates a few cohorts out of the Celtic tribesmen themselves? Britain is riven with petty chiefdoms, some allied to Rome, some arrayed against it, and some shifting with the wind.  What if two centurions with experience on the island -- one an old hand at training, the other with a working knowledge of the Gaelic spoken here -- were to train to put some of the allies to work?  So begins The Eagles and the Wolves, in which Cato and Macro raise two auxiliaries (the Boars and Wolves) to defend their post.    Naturally things go south; the Romans are allied to an old king who is attacked by an assassin, and a few of the would-be successors to the king want to overturn the Roman alliance.  The Romans themselves are not united, as Cato and Macro are undermined by a weaselly politician who is manipulating everyone for his own advancement.  It comes down to a good old-fashioned last stand at the Alamo, with Cato and Macro holing themselves up in a supply depot while the Celts  serenade them with the sounds of their captured prisoners being tortured.  Buuut, as there are many more books in this series,  it doesn't quite end like the Alamo.

As with a Cornwell review, the usual strengths are here -- Romans swearing like Englishmen is funny,  the two main characters are solid, Cato is now wilier than his old mentor in some respects, and the action is gripping until the end.

10 comments:

  1. "Romans swearing like Englishmen is funny" -- well, that is funny! It reminds me of watching some of the Hollywood epics on TCM -- the ones featuring ancient Romans -- and hearing the actors plowing through their lines with their British accents (high-class Romans with high-class British accents, and low-class Romans sounding like Eliza Doolittle before her transformation). The disconnected anachronism is a hoot! Of course, I cannot really expect them to be speaking Latin!

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    1. I still chuckle over one bit in 'Carry On Cleo' when the Roman army was based in Britain. Their greeting was 'Hail... Rain, sleet, snow....'

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  2. I would, of course, be rooting for the Britains and the Celts. If only Boudica had kicked the Romans into the sea.... [muses]

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    1. In the end, what did Roman rule in Britain amount to? Weakening Celtic response to the Saxons and company?

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    2. I'm not exactly sure what effect the Roman Occupation had on us. Not a lot I'm thinking. We were Celtic when they arrived and Celtic when they left 300 years (IIRC) later. It was only after the Romans left that we started seeing regular invasions from the rest of Europe and Scandinavia.

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    4. BTW: Been book shopping (plus Amazon receiving) as it's my Birthday and picked up a few things you might like:

      Moondust: In Search of the Men Who Fell to Earth by Andrew Smith

      Stranger than we Can Imagine - Making Sense of the 20th Century by John Higgs

      Churchill's Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare - The Mavericks who Plotted Hitler's Downfall by Giles Milton

      Blood, Iron & Gold - How the Railways Transformed the World by Christian Wolmar

      Stand Firm - Resisting the Self-Improvement Craze by Svend Brinkmann

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    5. Many happy returns!

      I'm reading a book now that I think you'll appreciate for the Celtic flavor. You may have read it already, actually. I started it at lunch and can't stop reading it!

      Those do sound appealing -- will this be your first time reading Wolmar?

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    6. Thanks. Many more years ahead of me I hope. After all I can't die until I've finished my TBR pile [lol]

      Yes, this will be my first Wolmar. I thought you'd read it as it sounded familiar. I did notice a new (and huge) book just out about the history of British Railways. I'll try and remember to get the title for you.

      Intrigued by the Celtic book. I do so love the Celts!

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  3. Latin is so complicated i can't imagine it being spoke colloquially... amazing how our imaginations are so much more limited than we realize(at least mine is...)

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