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Fighting in a lost cause
on 4 May 2004
The Lantern Bearers follows the story of a British Auxiliary Decurion, Aquila, serving with the last of the Roman Eagles in Britain.
Beleaguered closer to home by invading barbarians, the last of Rome's worries is Britain, one of the further-flung provinces and one which is becoming increasingly difficult to hold against the combined attacks of the Picts and the Saxons. Rome withdraws its troops from Britain, including Aquila's own cohort, which includes many native-born like himself. As the last of the Eagles prepares to depart, Aquila faces a hard choice between his loyalty to the Eagles and the call of the land and hearthplace he calls his own: born into a line of soldiers, a decision to desert the Eagles is not one to take lightly.
Aquila loses one of the mainstays of his existence when he allows the ships to sail without him, and less then a week later, when his home is razed by a band of Saxon looters, his father killed and he and his sister taken as slaves, he ceases to live for anything but vengeance.
When finally he is taken back to Britain with the incoming wave of Saxon settlers, with an iron thrall-collar round his neck, he finds that his worst nightmare has come true: that his sister was also taken alive, and is in the Saxon camp with a half-Saxon child.
The book follows his escape and his attempts to rebuild some kind of life from the ruins while fighting for the desperate forces of Britain, which are pressed on every side and harried by internal conflicts.
A dark book, giving the impression to the reader of something precious about to be lost forever, with only the occasional jewel-bright flashes of Aquila's personal victories to offset Britain's inevitable slide into darkness.