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This review is from: Under the Eagle (Paperback)
Written in 2000, long before many of this historical-novel-writing genre began their debuts, Simon Scarrow's debut anticipated good things to come in Under the Eagle. Having scarcely read the first few pages the pace of the plot and the action, parallel with Simon's broad knowledge of Roman history, reached full speed.
I've always wanted to read a novel focussing on the the Roman invasion of Britain, and the parts played in it by Vespasian and Plautius especially. That search ended with Under the Eagle.
The author hereby well describes the atmosphere in the officers' mess, and he tackled that by poignantly bringing in Cato, who was raised in comfortable, well-to-do surroundings. Having arrived at the fort in Germany on a cold day and facing the wrath of Bestia, Cato couldn't have encountered a more stark contrast or been worse-prepared, and Pulcher the bully was brought in to specially add insult to injury.
The fights, the fallings-out and the resulting punishments amongst the legions, especially marked the beginning of a new era, whereby the historic novel showed evidence of veering away from the glossed-up, romanticised views that most previous authors had, even of war and other conflicts. In their place came the state of war and life in the military as it really is, including the swearing and the horrific consequences of a bloody fight described in detail. Love it or hate it, it really happened, and that is what the reader tries to absorb.
Under the Eagle to me marked beginning of the last chapter in the development of the ideal novel, which could bring the reader into the realistic world of the Roman military. I look forward to reading Simon's other books.