This is the first Simon Scarrow book I've read. In "The Eagle in the Sand," I think this author tells a good story; he definitely does a good job with...moreThis is the first Simon Scarrow book I've read. In "The Eagle in the Sand," I think this author tells a good story; he definitely does a good job with the plot and setting. Too, the action in "The Eagle in the Sand" is as exciting as it is incessant. The main issue I have with Scarrow, however, is his dialogue. Instead of attempting any kind of archaic parlance, the writer has the characters in his novel speaking modern-day idioms. While reading this book one gets the impression that the two protagonists of the novel, Macro and Cato, are really 21st century soldiers who have somehow been transported back to the Roman army of the first century AD. To illustrate, I am listing a few examples of dialogue from the novel:
Macro and Cato talking to each other:
"What now?" he whispered softly. "Fuck knows." "Great. Just what I needed to hear."
"Fan the flames of discontent?" Macro smiled. You've been writing poetry on the sly, have you?" "Just a figure of speech. Be serious, Macro."
"Run, Macro! Don't stop!" "Fuck that."
Cato's remark upon realizing that he left his sword where the enemy might find it: "Oh shit," he whispered.
Macro yelling at his troops: "What the fuck are you doing? Get moving."
A conversation between Macro and Scrofa:
Scrofa looked up from the document with a shocked expression. "You can't speak to me like that!" Macro grinned as he leaned forward over the table and tapped the parchment. "Read it again, sunshine. We can do what we like."
Macro to his officers: "As your new commander, I'd like to begin by saying that this cohort is one of the most piss-poor excuses for a unit that I have ever come across."
Macro's comment to a fractious brigand: "Easy there, sunshine."
While I may be exacting, I still find it hard to attribute such phraseology to Roman soldiers of the 1st century. Now, I understand that an author of historical fiction has to make his novel comprehensible for modern-day readers. Too, I also understand that, in order to make such a novel readable and entertaining, the writer must also take some liberties and make amendments to his dialogue. Scarrow, however, seems to go too far. In "TEITS," the author doesn't even try and make the characters' conversations resemble the dialect of the era in which his novel takes place. Why Scarrow chose to write this book the way he did is a mystery to me. After all, everything else is well done... the story, the setting, the plots and sub-plots, the conclusion; unfortunately, however, the author's deployment of modernistic cliches and contemporary word usage in his characters' dialogue throws everything off kilter.
In summary, there are plenty of historical fiction writers who write good dialogue, conversations that fit well within the time period of their characters. These writers also manage to make their novels intelligible and engaging. A few examples are H. Rider Haggard's, "Pearl Maiden," and Gunnar Bengtsson's "Long Ships." Scarrow should learn something from these two writers. I give this book two stars.(less)