Published by Headline
First Published 24th October 2013
This is the 12th book in this series, which was originally called The Eagles series but is now referred to by the Publisher as The Roman Series and by some fans as Cato & Macro (or Macro & Cato) though I, as do some other long standing readers still refer to The Eagles.
The two main characters are, you might correctly surmise from the paragraph above, are Macro and Cato. Or more accurately Quintus Licinius Cato and Lucius Cornelius Macro.
You can read a synopsis of the earlier books in my earlier article The Eagle Series that article doesn’t give any major spoilers.
Macro and Cato are back in Britannia after many years elsewhere in the Empire. Finally back with the Legions, this time the 14th. Prefect Cato has been given his first permanent command, the fort at Bruccium and the 2nd Thracian Cavalry. Centurion Macro has been positioned as the Fist Centurion of the Fourth Cohort of the 14th Legion.
Before they take up their posting they meet their old friends Prasutagus and Boudica, King and Queen of the Iceni. They meet Caratacus, King of the Catuvellauni and leader of the Britons resisting Roman rule. They also hear of Centurian Quertus, the Black Crow, who the Britons fear almost as much as the Romans fear the Druids.
The plot has has Macro and Cato plunged into danger that is a little more straight forward on the surface than of late. The fort that Cato is to command and where Macro is to be a senior officer is deep within the territory of the Silures, or Wales to the modern world. In other words it is well beyond the frontier of the Roman held territories and deep within the area of a tribe loyal to Caratacus.
They have to learn the secrets of Quertus, consider the suspicious death of Albinus, Cato’s predecessor, and battle the wild savages.
Simon Scarrow has created two characters that are easy to get to know. Macro, the hardened veteran, is depicted very much in the way a WWII Sergeant might be. Cato ias the gentler of the two who found himself in the Legions without much say to it and quickly rose through the ranks on his own merit. The Legionaries are very much depicted as regular squaddies. Yet the setting is clearly the 1st Century AD in the Roman Empire.
Most Latin terms are dropped, it isn’t Primus Pilus but First Centurion. Most names are the anglicised versions including Boudica rather than the popular 19th/20th century version of the Boadicea, Only a few Latin terms are used rather than using inaccurate modern equivalents.
The characters are human, with flaws as well as strengths. We are often told the inner feelings of characters, not just Macro and Cato, and are told their fears, regrets or hopes. The characters are people.
Of course much of this period isn’t well recorded. We don’t know where many of the large battles actually took place for example. So historical accuracy is often not too troubling.
The action scenes are detailed and don’t pull punches, some might consider some scenes a little graphic. We are dealing with violent death, so that is hardly out of place. Balance between the action and dialogue is very well judged and the pacing of the story felt very natural.
This is a great read and I am sure I’m not the only fan who is happy to see the two heroes doing some real soldiering. Many fans will also be glad the action is back in Britannia, where the next book will continue.