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Eagle in the Snow

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,319 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
The year is 406. A single Roman legion stands guard on the Rhine. Only these few men, a thin stretch of river and the determination of their general, Maximus, hold the frontier for Rome against the barbarian hordes. Maximus is urged to proclaim himself emperor, but he stands by his concept of duty and holds the frontier for longer than seems possible. Then chance plays a c ...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published August 7th 2003 by Weidenfeld & Nicholson (first published 1970)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jane
A splendid novel: an absolute masterpiece!!! I loved the author's style and descriptions of the bleak landscape, forts, and towns; I could feel every sword thrust, the ice and snow, every emotion of the protagonist! The mood of foreboding permeated the whole novel. Set in the 4th and 5th centuries, the time of Honorius, Stilicho, and Galla Placidia, the story is told in the first person in flashback by the dour Roman General Maximus, to a group of tribesmen in Segontium (modern-day Caernarfon, W ...more
Jason Golomb
"Eagle In The Snow" by Wallace Breem centers on the years 405 AD to early 407, capturing a key moment in the Roman Empire's death throes as hundreds of thousands of mostly Germanic peoples mass on the east bank of the Rhine waiting for the river to freeze and to walk into Gaul. The tale is an epitaph for the Roman Empire with General Paulinus Gaius Maximus serving as the lone pall bearer, carrying the weight of an empire marching inexorably toward its grave.

Compared to the action adventures of S
...more
Mark
I am by no means a regular reader of historical fiction, but whatever genre you want to file EAGLE IN THE SNOW under, it's an absolute masterpiece: a gripping and terrifying story told in prose that is literary and beautiful but never flowery. As the Roman Empire is crumbling in the early Fifth Century, a Legion is sent to try to hold the Rhine during a bitter winter, and keep the massing barbarian tribes from crossing. The tribes are waiting for the Rhine to freeze over. As Stephen Pressfield's ...more
E.M. Epps
While I was reading this, by happenstance my uncle (a naval man) began a blog post with a quote: "Amateurs talk tactics; professionals talk logistics." And that sums up the consummately professional Eagle in the Snow in a nutshell: it is a book about logistics. If you are looking for Hollywood-style speechifying, swordfights and fanfare, look elsewhere. If you want to experience alongside the main character what it's like to be a Roman general just before the fall of the Empire, trying to raise ...more
Curtiss
Oct 23, 2011 Curtiss rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
This is the story of the Roman leader Paulinus Maximus, who first serves on the frontier in Britain along Hadrian's wall, where he suppresses a bloody revolt by the Picts led by a former childhood friend. While contending with the Picts he hears word of the loss of two legions along the Danube, with the chilling realization that the Empire and even civilization itself may not last forever.

He is then posted on the Rhine to defend against the Germanic tribes with only a single legion. He deftly pa
...more
Marilyn
Feb 10, 2016 Marilyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished reading Eagle in the Snow. It held me spellbound from cover to cover. The portrayal of the actions and the characters was so strong to me that I still feel, painfully, a sense of loss. This is not one book you can jump from carelessly to another waiting on you shelf. It needs to be savored.
Carlos
Apr 03, 2015 Carlos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very sad book, but in the end an uplifting one if You know what I mean for this.

The story of a detachment of people, their leader and how they had to follow orders until the very end. Now We know exactly what book Steven Pressfield was reading when He wrote Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae.

A great empire about to fall is the perfect background to tell the story of honor, bravery and the sense of duty that It is lacking today in our lives.

Loving this book and I
...more
Alex Harrison
Jun 09, 2012 Alex Harrison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely tremendous novel that deals with the waning of the Roman empire and is a terrific, exciting read. Imagine the first half hour of "Gladiator" but better. The general here is also a Maximus, but not the same; this Maximus has to stand against the enormous hordes that are about to sweep over the Northern borders of the Roman empire, and who will basically end the empire in the West.

A magnificent book.
Simon Cook
This book gets excellent reviews from other readers. I can see why. The writing is basically sound and - more importantly - the gritty detail of army life and intense appreciation of logistics are certainly impressive. But I confess that I have not finished and doubt by now that I will return to it. The story begins with the Romans in Britain but the main action - where I left things - is with the Roman defense of the Rhine against an inevitable barbarian invasion. The inevitability is the probl ...more
Panagiotis
Sep 23, 2013 Panagiotis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First of all-Steven Presfield's prologue should be read carefully and be taken as an oath for anyone who tries to crate a historical-fiction book. In one single page he describes the process in an elaborate way.

About the book- Maximus is a man of honour and duty. A strong character lawfull to his orders, a man who decides to stay and fight till the end,knowning that this will be his last battle. Like the Spartan Leonidas he fights till the bitter end, but not to delay his enemies and awaken tho
...more
Tasha
This one started off slow for me and didn't really grab my full attention until really towards the end. Throughout the book, I felt disconnected with the characters and felt they were not developed well. They felt flat and unemotional. I found myself struggling to remember names, places and events. At times, I felt like this might end up being a 2.5 star read and at others a solid 3 stars. The end really picked up during the last battle scene and it was here, finally, that I felt I could really ...more
Simon Turney
May 01, 2012 Simon Turney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finished this fairly recently after having had it recommended to me by several different people and heard it called the 'seminal work of Roman fiction'.

The thing that stopped it from being a 5* book for me was the pace and POV. I'm not a lover of first person perspective in books and, while I can cope with that on a pacy, exciting read, I found the novel hard going at times.

That is more than made up for really by the main character and the general feel of the book. It is almost possible to fee
...more
Daniel
Jun 13, 2012 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book gives great portrayals of what made Rome in one of the last stands against the barbarians. Maximus remains true as we see him hold to Roman gravitas and discipline in the face of insurmountable odds. The corruption, the weakness of civic leaders, the citizens unwilling to serve, all leading to the fall of Rome. The soldiers fight and die because they know how to do nothing else, but was it worth the cost?
This is not a book that will inspire hope. You will be left feeling the bitter col
...more
Stuart Mccunn
Sep 21, 2015 Stuart Mccunn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can't understand this book's popularity. I enjoy reading about the later empire so I was thrilled to see a novel set in that time. But boy does it not get the feel of it. First off, the entire writing style is ponderous and overdramatic, like a soap opera combined with a Victorian novel. It constantly reminds you that THIS IS AN IMPORTANT BOOK in such loud cries that it seemed vaguely insecure. Secondly, all of the characters are wooden cutouts. The lead might as well be called Semper Fidelis ...more
Lucas Conway
Jan 27, 2015 Lucas Conway rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When it come to historical fiction you couldn't get a better book than this. In this gripping story Wallace Breem tells us about the life of general Maximus and of Rome’s final stand. The beginning of the novel tells of his years commanding the forces on “the wall” in britannia, but the real adventure start when he is sent to protect Germania against the Vandals, Alans, Franks, Alamanni and Burgundians. However, Maximus soon finds himself abandoned by Rome and is left with nothing but his wits a ...more
Kristen Smith
It was truly OK. I admire the research that Breem put into this novel. His personal experiences obviously influenced it in a good way. I wanted this novel to be as good as the intro and blurbs said it was.
This novel only needed a few tweaks to make it the brilliant and moving novel that the introduction and jacket quotes say it is. Unfortunately, the tweaks were not done.
The relationships and nuances were too subtle so as to be lost in the confusing passages of time and additions of new characte
...more
Steven
This book is one of the best works of historical fiction that I have ever read! It is an engrossing, moving, and poetic novel, which begins in Roman Britain, with Celtic tribes, along with Saxons, overwhelming Roman defenses in 367 AD, and ending with the defense of Roman Gaul, invaded by Germanic tribes in 406 AD.

Much of the book focuses on the efforts of a Roman legion, led by the fictitious General Maximus, to prevent the Alemanni, Marcomanni, Vandals, and other tribes crossing the Rhine Rive
...more
Larry
Oct 03, 2014 Larry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Once past the first 50 pages, Breem's novel is one of the best I've read. Holding the Rhine frontier in the face of an immense number of German tribespeople, Breem's protagonist legion commander is an interesting man. His ultimate failure is heart-breaking. I wish that Breem had written more than three novels ("The Legate's Daughter," is one).
Bryn Hammond
He has a great plot to work with but what isn't history is contrived. Thinly written, even the battles can be flatly written - or sentimental.

I can see why this might have been a milestone, why people who came early might be attached to it. Perhaps it's aged poorly; it seemed a tissue of cliches to me.
Yoel
Dec 25, 2015 Yoel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Muy interesante por el periodo en el que se ambienta y por lo bien que se cuenta la historia. Aunque sabes como terminará, te mantiene en tensión esperando algún giro imprevisto.

Por A o por B he tardado mucho en terminarla, pero no porque se me haya atrancado, me ha dejado satisfecho.
Sungmin Han
Jan 14, 2014 Sungmin Han rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a historical fiction novel about the Roman Empire before the collapse. The background given is during the invasion of the Western Roman Empire by German tribes. The main character is general Maximus who is Greek but has never been to the Roman capital. He was a general who was not corrupted like others and rational enough so that the soldiers could obey him. He had a dream to get the capital someday. However, he was assigned an order from Stilicho, who was a general, to defend a bor ...more
Regan
Feb 15, 2013 Regan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-very-best
One of my favorite historic military reads. Set during the waning days of the Empire when the Romans are under ever increasing pressure to hold back the "Barbarians" in Northern and central Europe. Snapped this book out of a bargain bin 10 years ago and will likely never part with it.
Robert LoCicero
Apr 07, 2016 Robert LoCicero rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As the earlier reviewers noted, this is a very good read. Interesting pacing allows the author to build tension to the inevitable conclusion. We watch the weather that the main characters worry about. We calculate the Roman legion's chances facing the starving masses on the East bank of the Rhine River. We marvel at the detail of war preparations that the author is so conversant with and so fascinatingly draws in his word pictures. Above all we nod our heads in agreement with the difficult decis ...more
Kirsten
A stark, tragic story of the twilight of the Western Roman Empire. The fragility of the frontier, the stagnation of a once-great empire, the last march of the Twentieth Legion and their final battle are all so poignantly portrayed.
Carol Smith
Goodness, I am a stubborn reader. Took me 10 days to finish this disappointment, largely because I kept falling asleep each time I picked it up. Great for insomniacs.

It had everything going for it - I love military history, enjoy historical fiction, have been reading quite a bit on ancient civilizations over the past two years, am hopefully visiting Rome in December, and it's a "classic bestseller" with oodles of positive GoodReads reviews. Alas.

It was clearly meticulously - exhaustively - resea
...more
Darkpool (protesting GR censorship)
Super good. Such atmospheric writing. The description of the cold of winter left me feeling chilled. Not at all surprised this is a classic.
Kenny
Nov 16, 2015 Kenny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gah! I was so excited when I picked this up as the time period interests me a lot - the fall of Rome, the barbarian hordes, the last stand of a Legion - all sounded like gripping stuff.

Then came the writing. Oh.

I can appreciate the historical details, and the general plot was interesting, but the writing just couldn't sell the events for me. It is all a first person account that is being relayed as a story. So immediately we know he survives whatever happens - a horrible way of deflating any ten
...more
Dave
Jul 31, 2015 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, though it started a little slow, once I realized this wasnt going to just focus on battle scenes I really got into it. The writing style suits the story very well, and provided a nice window into the life of a Roman general near the end of the Roman empire. I did struggle at times with following some of the character names and actions though -very detailed, just a lot of names and events going on that were revisited later but without a lot of hints or reminders of why the ev ...more
Rob Chmara
Feb 22, 2014 Rob Chmara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's not often you see a novel about the legions set in the warning days of the empire. Most tend to be set during or right after the reign of Claudius during what's considered the heyday of Roman power. This novel is excellent and shows the problems facing the army in the empire's dying days. Logistical problems, desertions, traitors and an out of touch civilian government all contribute to the difficult situation in which the 20th Legion finds itself. A brilliant novel of courage in dire circu ...more
Dario
Feb 06, 2009 Dario rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A superb account of the final collapse of Rome's Rhine frontier in the 4th century. Grim, powerful, compelling.
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Wallace Wilfred Swinburne Breem was a British librarian and author, the Librarian and Keeper of Manuscripts of the Inner Temple Law Library at his death, but perhaps more widely known for his historical novels, including the classic Eagle in the Snow (1970).

At the age of 18, Breem entered the Indian Army's Officers Training School, and in 1945 was commissioned as an officer of the Corps of Guides,
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More about Wallace Breem...

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“Maximus said, "They have no tombstones. Not one man in Treverorum wept for their passing." he looked at his audience in turn and smiled. "In the name of Mithras, my master, may the gods be kind to you on your journey.” 0 likes
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