on 11 June 2007
In my own opinion, this - the fifth in the Eagle series of books about the adventures of Centurions Macro and Cato - is by far the best piece of Scarrow's writing to date. I admit to enjoying the first three, but felt a little let down by the fourth which I felt seemed to be inspired by Scarrow sitting down one Christmas after a healthy helping of X-mas pudding, watching the annual re-run of Zulu on the TV and then adapting it into The Eagle And The Wolves !
The book mainly concerns the aftermath of the disastrous attempt of the third cohort - under the leadership of the perpetual back-stabbing Maximius - to delay Caratacus from escaping from the main body of the legion, and ending the war with the rebellious Britain's as early as possible to keep the name of Claudius respectable in Rome.
After some serious passing of the buck by Maximius, Narcissus decides that a decimation of the legion would be best and the novel details the results, the escape of those facing death, the chase by the surviving members of the third cohort and the eventual final show down with Caratacus in the Marsh lands.
I found that when Macro and Cato's legion were facing decimation I could just not put the book down until I knew what was going to happen - and we all knew that one of our illustrious duo were going to draw the short straw.
Being a lecturer on Roman history the details of Roman society, political intrigue and army life in the legions are superbly written as usual and exactly what I have come to expect from Scarrow`s earlier novels. Scarrow's addiction to detail, mixed with adventure, political intrigue, friendship, blood and gore once again do the business for me.
The only down side I can see in this book, was that I wanted to know what happened to Figulus after he returned to Vespasian, and how much trouble Plautius got into politically after events of the final few pages of the book.
I would also like to thank Scrarrow for not flogging the British part of this series to death. The end of this book sees the duo departing for shores anew and new adventures - too many writers these days seem to flog a series to death just to sell books.
As a final note, I would like to ask the publishers of these novels to stop using Elizabeth Chadwick's praise on the back of these books. THERE IS NO LOVE in these novels (OK, Vespasian`s for his family, but...)!!! So if you pick this book up and think its romance, just ignore her !!
on 22 July 2004
The Eagle's Prey is the best written of all Scarrow's Macro and Cato's adventures so far, in my opinion.
It begins with an attempt to trap the Celtic leader Caratacus by an increasingly desperate General Plautius, who is himself facing mounting pressure from the Emperor's freedman, Narcissus. However, under the weak leadership of the senior centurion, Maximius, Caratacus escapes with several thousand of his men. Infuriated, Plautius insists on a show of Roman disciplinary measures - decimation - to appease the Emperor. Unfortunately, Cato is amongst those singled out to be killed by his friends, which leads his loyal friend Macro to help him and the other condemmned escape.
Vespasion in turn comes up with a suggestion to restore the honour of the 2nd Legion by ordering Maximius to stir up the natives by brutal means so that Caratacus will retaliate and be forced into another trap. Cato is therefore trapped between the angry Celtic hoards, and the Romans who are determined to capture and carry out punishment.
Where this story excels is in the quality of writing which has increased in style and clarity. There are numerous fine descriptions of the landscapes, and of battlescenes that are both bloody and realistic. Both Cato and Macro develop more as characters too. Cato has to learn to lead his rag-tag followers by force of personality alone, and Macro becomes more reflective as though the two friends have undergone a personality swop. Cato's language becomes more like the colourful Macro's and Macro himself has to think hard in order to survive the fall-out from Cato's escape.
Scarrow shows also, that the brutal discipline of the Legions is in fact little better then that of the Barbarian Celts.
The ambition of the senior Roman Army men is all consuming to the extent that the men under them are considered expendable.
Several weakness do occur in the book however. Figulus seems to disappear at the end with no word as to what happens to him and
the dialogue Caratacus speaks is a little hammy. Overall though a great read, with a few hints as to the next episode for our beloved heroes.
This novel picks up where the previous one finished and as such doesn't contain a massive time delay between the events that unfolded and as such give the reader the opportunity to understand, perhaps a little clearer, the turbulent times in which our ancestors lived. However if your a new reader you dont have to have read the characters past excursions as each novel is self contained. As such it adds few complications that will leave you wondering as to what the hell happened and what have I missed as this doesnt make any sense.
As I discovered in the previous novel the tale is crisp, exciting and action packed and never leaves a dull moment in the whole of the book. If you love Cornwell then this is definitely an author to add to your shelves and will be one that you read time after time, more for enjoyment than anything else, but also to build your excitement for the next installment.
This is the fifth volume of this Roman saga featuring Macro and Cato two Roman legionnaires who contrive to be present at most of the diverse campaigns of the period. Most of the stories are based around historical events and people, .Most of the historical detail and facts are accurate as befitting the work of a history teacher and enthusiast of the Roman era and the writing style is comfortable and easy to read. Simon Scarrow has done for Roman history what Bernard Cornwell did for the Peninsular Campaign.
Overall, the books are very readable, and importantly very entertaining. These earlier volume are by and large better thoughtout and less 'commercial' than some of the later ones. I have the complete collection on my bookshelf and am now part way through re-reading the series from the beginning and am finding it a joy.
Although this is part of a series, it was the first I had picked up and it was very easy to get into. Based during the Roman invasion of Britain this is a mix of action, politics and intrigue and is set around two Centurions.
The author has a very easy to read style and while this reads very much in the Bernard Cornwall style, it uses stronger language and the characters speak 'modern' English.
I enjoyed it and the pace of the story consumed any minor flaws. A very entertaining read and I shall be picking up the rest of the series.
on 14 November 2012
Review of the series (followed by a review of this book):
This series of books is based around the adventures of two men - Macro and Cato. Macro is a soldier through and through; he has spent his life in the army and is a centurion when we first meet him in the first book. In that book we also meet Cato who joins the legion as a new recruit, although he seems an unlikely candidate for a soldier. The series goes on to relate their many adventures and the relationship between them. Most of the stories are based - sometimes loosely - on real events and people, with a healthy dose of artistic license.
As far as I can tell the historical detail and facts are accurate, and the writing is generally engaging. There are criticisms in other reviews about the authors use of 'modern' slang; I know what they mean, but would we identify with 'roman' slang? For me, it is not a problem, I am not a fan of trying to invent historical language, it is too easy to fall into the 'ye olde shoppe' trap!
Overall, the series is very readable, and rolls along at a good pace. Like some other historical series, it doesn't do to try and fit the events into a timeline, as it soon becomes clear that the two men could not have done everything they do in one lifetime, but that doesn't detract from a fun series. Two niggles:the formatting annoys me in that the gaps between paragraphs are too long, particularly where there are long conversations, and they are a little over-priced.
Review of this book:
The saga continues! Macro and Cato find themselves involved in a fight which goes seriously wrong, thanks to a senior centurion who loses his nerve. As a result, their legion undergoes the punishment of decimation. The story is well written, as we now expect from the author, and is a real page turner. I do not want to put any spoilers in here, but I am doubtful as to whether the outcome of the story could ever have actually happened, but that is fiction for you!
on 19 June 2010
So as the set grows I return once more with a review of the 5th book in the eagles series , written by Simon Scarrow.
The battle for britain , although longer than expected , is coming to an end. Caratacus is left with only a small amount of troops to fight alongside him and the prospect of being under Roman rule is growing heavily. However , unfortunatley for the stories protagonists Cato and Macro , the barbarians have learnt a little from the roman invaders and what is supposed to be a final push across the tamesis goes horribly wrong. Blame is passed down the ranks and the most powerful army in the world is about to hand out the worst punishment known in the legions. Decimation.
Considering this book sets out to show the end to the conquest in Britain , there is a lot less fighting than the previous installments. The story is more set around survival , leadership and madness. Now this is not a bad thing , the story is still as exciting as ever and runs along at a steady pace, it just feels strange as it deviates from the battles. Then again it is a show of ability from the writer that they can make such an intresting story that can adapt.
The book does a good job of tying up this section of the series , showing the state of relations in key areas and the relationships between characters. The books most important character is probably Caratacus , all the rumours and speculation are finally killed off as he shows his true colours and that he isn't as bad as the romans make out , in fact , in classic narrative , there isn't much difference between him and rome.
The book also see's the leaving of a important character as well as the prospect of a change of scenery for Macro and Cato.
on 2 October 2009
By `The Eagle's Prey' Simon Scarrow has managed to establish the characters of Marco and Cato and their part in the Roman's attempts to bring Britain into the Empire. Finally they are getting to fight the main British leader, but does book 5 do the build up justice? In my opinion this is the best in the series so far and shows that Scarrow is really finding his feet with the franchise. Cato in particular is now a well rounded character and hints at great things to come. Marco has been less developed since his dalliances with Boudicca a few books earlier, but he is still a great character. Together they are very different, but as a team you really like them as they spark off one another. Scarrow is able to use their odd couple relationship to add poignant moments, or moments of laughter.
With the knowledge that Marco and Cato were finally going to fight the British King I was looking forward to an epic battle. However, this is not the case as the two Centurions only ever play a minor, if significant, role in the battle. I thought I would be disappointed by this, but was not as it felt more truthful and allowed a more personal tale. The legion that contains our two heroes is shamed and is forced to punish its own, this gave great insight into the Roman army and made Cato question what he stood for. The book becomes less about a battle and more about a personal adventure that contains some great action set pieces and some real emotion. The book takes all the best elements of the earlier books and polishes them. The storyline is effecting and efficient, whilst also staying true to history.
One of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read.
BRIEF STORY DETAILS - SLIGHT SPOILERS
44 AD and the second campaign is well under way. The Emperor wants Britain quelled. Centurions Macro and Cato lead their Second Legion under Centurion Maximus to trap Caratacus but he escapes. For their failure, General Plautius orders the decimation of the unit.
SAFE READING _ NO SPOILERS
I have read all the "Eagle" series in order, followed the careers of Cato and Macro with great interest and eagerly await the already pre-ordered "Praetorian".
Not the heights of Literature (nor pretending to be), but well-written nevertheless, the series is filled with his great depth of knowledge, enthusiasm for and interest in the Romans.
Cunningly peopled with all the names from our history lessons - Vespasian, Cladius, Caratacus, Boudica - and the Roman campaigns to extend the Empire but centred on two Roman soldiers who become unlikely close friends, Macro and Cato, their careers and friendship carries the stories along. Following them closely allows the intimate details of human life to be in the forefront while the everyday lives of Roman soldiers and the political intrigues of the Roman Empire provide the backdrop.
PS I found it helpful to have a one-page list of Roman army ranks, which I used as a bookmark, and I had the odd glance at ancient maps (not mine I hasten to add!).
on 2 August 2011
I thought this would be more of the same, but once again, we delve deeper into the 2nd legion (which incidentally you can visit the remains of a barracks in Newport, South Wales). I have no knowledge of military rules, regulations, procedures etc, but this book immerses you into life of two soldiers with ease, one is intellectual and would rather be a librarian, the other is a hard Centurion who sees army life much more simply, who has grown respectful of his softer, yet competent companion. Sounds implausible, but that's what makes these stories so intelligent than perhaps the chick-lit style novels we tend to get in supermarkets. The character build up in each novel is vivid and crafted very well. Not a single paragraph is wasted in Scarrow's writing, it's efficient, rather like the Legion's he writes about. My only criticism is when he writes about troop movements and describing landscapes, sometimes it is tricky to imagine what is going and where, but they don't matter as the execution and outcome of the battles are ultimately the key issues.