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Customer Review

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Imperfect, but thoroughly enjoyable and gripping., 20 Jan. 2011
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This review is from: Under the Eagle (Eagles of the Empire 1) (Paperback)
Going in, you should be aware that this is this book is not a soaring literary masterpiece, it's unashamedly pulpy, action-orientated, thoroughly enjoyable military historical fiction. As an early attempt (by this author) at the genre it does have the cliche, flimsy plot devices and one-dimensional female characters you might expect.

That said, it really is a good example of something we went without for years - an addictive page-turner about Roman legionaries on the ground. Dialogue wasn't bad, I engaged with the characters, I was keen to see where the story arc (there's only really one) went and the pulpiness is well executed pulpiness. This book was disastrous for my deadlines, I read it in two evening sessions which went into the small hours.

On to the historical aspects - the author does take liberties with historical accuracy here and there, but this comes across as intentional use of dramatic license. I did find myself disagreeing on some points with Mr Scarrow, but these were on matters of *interpretation* of history, not unforgivable holes in the factual fibre of the book.

On that note, if you're a history nerd, you'll notice one outrageously shaky thing that happens to Cato(I won't spoil it for you) after a battle, and despite the fact that it doesn't massively impact the book, I wouldn't be surprised if Mr Scarrow was deeply conscious of it, even now - it really does jump out at you a little. That said, Cato's life is dotted with unlikely events, and I suppose that's a good thing for the reader.

There are a number of reasons I think this book and this author get mentioned in the same breath as Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels. There are the obvious parallels in the genre, the way it is executed, the profile of the characters and their relationship, and the fairly monolithic story arcs that are mostly a vehicle for all-the-stuff-you-know-you're-going-to-get-out-of-this-sort-of-book. That's OK though, because it's all rather well done, and works.

The most Cornwell-like aspect of the book is that every now and then a deeply contrived excuse for a treatise on the detail of some sword or military formation (or a tie-in with some real historical events happens), and you can kind of see it coming. Just like Cornwell's books, though, it doesn't actually hurt the experience. If anything, I think it's a little lighter when Scarrow does it.

I would say, don't expect it to shatter the boundaries of modern literature, but if this sort of fiction is your thing at all, read this book, it's highly enjoyable.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Feb 2012 10:20:44 GMT
Great balanced review, that helped me decide to read the novel and thankfully find that the reviewer was spot on. What more could one ask for.
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