Published by Headline
First Published 9th October 2014
This is the 13th book in this series, which was originally called The Eagles series but is now more commonly known as Macro & Cato. I’ve been with this series a long time though and I, as do some other long-standing readers, still refer to The Eagles (the first seven books all had ‘Eagle’ in the title).
You can read a synopsis of the earlier books in my earlier article The Eagle Series that article covers the first ten books and doesn’t give any major spoilers. You can also read a review of the 12th book The Blood Crows.
This series follows the exploits of two Roman soldiers Quintus Licinius Cato and Lucius Cornelius Macro. Two men thrown together by circumstance in the first book, now bonded like brothers.
My copy of this book is from Waterstones and comes with an exclusive extra short story, The Red Sail, which deals with the early life of Caratacus.
Caratacus, also spelled by historians as Caractacus and in Wales known as Caradoc, was the King of the Catuvellauni (a British tribe from the ‘Home Counties’). Last book saw Caratacus battling Macro & Cato in Wales this book continues that campaign.
In earlier books other famous Celtic personalities have appeared, such as Boudica. In this novel we meet Cartimandua, queen of the Brigantes, a coalition of tribes that spanned the north of England, though commonly they are identified with Yorkshire by many (I’m from Yorkshire so am thrilled with this). Simon explores the historical characters’ lives, after all we don’t know much beyond what Tacitus or Casius Dio wrote.
This being a book about Roman soldiers during the early years of Roman expansion in Britain there are combat scenes. The Legions are presented with historical accuracy without too much Latin to make things easier for readers without knowledge of the language or indepth knowledge of the Legions. So the weapons and unit designations are correct but you’d easily mistake much of the dialogue for a group of British Squadies.
Cato has grown more than his friend Macro in this series and in this book we see him develop even more as a Roman Officer willing to do things that he may have shied away from in the past. However he retains the deeply human elements of his personality that readers instantly warmed to in the first novels. Macro is in some ways the everyman who grounds the story.
Politics is never far away, after all Roman politicians invariably spent at least a few years in the Legions. Macro and Cato have been embroiled in plots and counter plots by the Imperial Secretary, Narcissus, several times. This time Narcissus sends them a warning that their lives may be in danger and that there is a plot to stop the Roman conquest of Britain. If Rome lost Britain as a Province it would undermine Narcissus’ position.
A brilliant continuation of our heroes’ story and a thrilling account of Roman Britain.