Under the Eagle by Simon Scarrow
Book Review by Lost_Warrior
When I first opened Simon Scarrow’s Under the Eagle, I did not know what to expect. I found it to be instantly compelling; from the very first word I found myself eager for more. I even read the prologue; something I rarely take time to do but I just had to gobble up every single delicious adventure-filled word. For those who also tend to skip over prologues, I highly recommend reading this one, as it really does set up the story.
Scarrow starts the book off by explaining the organization of the Roman legions. This is something which you may also be tempted to skip over, but don’t. The information provided here s not very in depth, however it is background information which is vital to understand the story and well worth reading.
The story itself starts out at the barracks where the Second Legion is stationed in Germany. The year is 42 AD and Emperor Claudius is in the second year of his reign. A convoy is arriving with new recruits. One of these recruits is young Quintus Licinius Cato, who, on a direct order from the Emperor is immediately promoted to a rank he hasn’t the knowledge nor the experience to handle.
As the story unfolds, young Cato gets plenty of opportunities to prove himself; first, in an unexpected skirmish with local tribes and later after the Second Legion is transferred to Britain. Despite all odds, Cato soon makes himself a recognized war hero. The story becomes more entangled as a secret plot develops, an element which is vital to the story and of which most characters are blissfully unaware, which is expressed easily by the changing viewpoints from which the story is told.
Under the Eagle is written with an insight into the nature of warfare which is usually seen in a more modern light, not in the ancient context. Scarrow writes of the “basics” of everyday life in the legions, allowing the reader to discover the intimate details of this hard life at the same time as young Cato discovers them. Many of these details are not particularly pleasant, and when combined with the coarse language found within the dialogue they paint a vivid and realistic picture of life inside the Roman Legions-however these things make this book relatively unsuitable for younger readers.
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Overall Scarrow’s book fast paced and thoroughly enjoyable. It is comprised of short chapters which make the story easy to read and understand, and provide convenient stopping places for when you inevitably must put the book down for a while (though you definitely won’t want to!).
This is an excellent read which leaves me itching to get my hands on the next in the series, The Eagle’s Conquest.