Classic Story, Classic Adaptation,
This review is from: The Eagle of the Ninth (BBC Radio) (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)I first came across Rosemary Sutcliffe's thrilling tale of Roman derring do as a boy, when my mother read it to us during the powercuts of the early 1970s. That was a wonderfully evocative introduction to a story I have loved ever since.
Linking two (probably)unconnected historical facts, the discovery of a wingless Roman eagle in Silchester, and the disappearance of the Ninth (Hispana) legion in Scotland, Sutcliffe prodiced a gripping boys-own adventure. Marcus Aquila, heroically invalided out of the Roman army, sets off into Caledonia with freed slave Esca to discover what happened to his father, centurion with the Ninth, and to seek to prevent the lost Eagle from becoming a totem, uniting tribes against the Romans. Meanwhile, the beautiful and spirited Cottia waits for his return.
While the plot may have the odd small hole in it, and the characters speak like 1950s englishmen, that can be forgiven. This is a childrens adventure story, and ticks all the boxes delivering excitement, scares, tension, romance, endearing heroes, and honourable foes.
So the story is a good one, and the adaptation, as one would expect from the BBC, is equal to it. The narrative arc is driven with pace and skill, never losing the listener. In particular, the fight scenes, which in some radio plays and adaptations become a meaningless cacophony of crashes, bangs, shouts and screams, are here very well handled. Also, a central scene of the book, which I remember at a distance of nearly 40 years, as Marcus and Esca enter a tribal barrow at midnight is suitably creepy.
One interesting point for the anoraks amongst you, the presence of the eagle is denoted by an ethereal ringing, identical to the sound used in an earlier BBC radio adaptation to denote the presence of the One Ring.
So, thoroughly recommended listening for a long car journey, with or withour kids in the back.