One of my favourite books forty years ago, I got a good deal on the three connected Rosemary Sutcliffe's Roman Britain novels for my Kindle. So this wOne of my favourite books forty years ago, I got a good deal on the three connected Rosemary Sutcliffe's Roman Britain novels for my Kindle. So this was a re-reading after perhaps twenty years and in the meantime I've seen the movie 'Eagle' which is based on the book.
Marcus, intent on following his deceased father into the Roman legions is sent north to command a small post on Hadrian's Wall – his first command. Unfortunately it's a short command because, though he acquits himself well, he's seriously wounded in a clash with local tribes and is invalided out before his career has begun. It's while he's recovering in the villa of his elderly uncle that he's moved to buy a British gladiator, Esca, who becomes, at first, his slave and then his friend. When he hatches a plan to go north beyond Hadrian's Wall to recover the eagle of the lost Ninth Legion, Marcus' father's legion, Esca goes with him of his own free will.
So in the guise of a quacksalver – a travelling occulist – Marcus heads into the wild lands with Esca to begin is search for the honour of his father's legion, learning much, not all of it pleasant or heroic, before finally achieving his aim – though things never turn out quite as imagined at the outset.
This is a beautifully written book, thoroughly enthralling and I think I fell in love with Marcus forty years ago and haen't fallen out yet. (Pity that the recent movie version had such a lacklustre Marcus in Channing Tatum.) ...more
The third of Rosemary Sutcliff's books to feature a descendant of that first Marcus from Eagle of the Ninth, this time Aquila, the owner of the familyThe third of Rosemary Sutcliff's books to feature a descendant of that first Marcus from Eagle of the Ninth, this time Aquila, the owner of the family's flawed Dolphin ring and a soldier of Rome in Britain goes 'wilful mising'. Aquila's loyalty to Rome doesn't overrule his loyalty to Britain and he lets the last galley sail without him, setting the Rutupiae light ablaze one last time in defiance of what he's lost. His return to family at the villa on the Downland is harshly interrupted by a Saxon raid which leaves his family dead, the farm lost, his sister captured and Aquila himself a thrall in Juteland. It's only chance that brings him back to Britain's shores where he discovers his sister already absorbed into the Saxon camp, with a child and a man of her own. Though she helps him to escape, she won't come with him and he feels utterly let down.
Bitter and ooking for revenge on the Lantern Bearer who betrayed his family Marcus stumbles across Brother Ninnias and is instead directed towards Ambrosius, of the house of Constantine, the last hope of Britain and of what's left of Rome in Britain - Roman and native Btiton united against the Saxon sea-wolves. His father suported Ambrosius and so lacking any cause of his own he takes up his father's, and proves very adept.
Thus begins Aquila's service with Ambrosius against Vortigern and the Saxons and his connection with Artos (Arthur), the bastard son on Ambrosious' brother Utha. It's many years and many experiences before Aquila, the Dolphin, begins to understand and forgive his sister and to understand his place in the grand scheme of things, making peace with his past and coming to terms with his own family.
Aquila is a much more flawed character than Sutcliff's other Romans. He's damaged by his experiences and doesn't always make life easy for those he cares for. ('It's not what you do, it's the way that you do them!' his wife tells him more than once.) He harbours a grudge against the Saxons for his sister and carries resentment with him until he's suddenly able to send his sister a gift that denotes forgiveness and understanding. It takes him half a lifetime, but he gets there in the end. ...more
Set some time after Eagle of the Ninth but tied to it because the main characters are probably a descended from Marcus and we return to the farm on thSet some time after Eagle of the Ninth but tied to it because the main characters are probably a descended from Marcus and we return to the farm on the Downs that Marcus was granted after recovering the Eagle. It's 100 years before the last legion will leave Britain, but already the great days of Rome are over. Carausius is the Roman emperor in Britain and may be the one to hold back the dark, but he's betrayed and usurped by Allectus the Traitor.
Justin, an army surgeon with the legions, is posted to Britain for the first time, though his Grandfather was born there. One of the first people he meets is Flavius who has the flawed Dolphin ring of the first Marcus and it proves that they are (somewhat distant) cousins and destined to become good friends.
When they uncover Allectus' plot to betray Carausius they try and warn the emperor, but it seems their warning is unheeded and they are bundled off to the Northern wall together, feeling that they are in disgrace. A chance meeting with a tribesman, Evicatos of the Spear leads them to believe that Allectus is about to close the trap on Carausius and they set off to warn him again... leading to their rebelion not against Rome, but against Rome in Britain.
This novel was the Carnegie Medal Winner for 1959 - over fifty years ago - yet it's still fresh. Sutclifff handles the history with a light hand whilst seeming superbly well researched. Personally my favourite of Sutcliff's three Rome in Britain stories is Eagle of the Ninth, but this is still a good read. I knew very little about Carausius and Allectus, real historical figures, of course, so I got a smattering of education as well as entertainment. ...more
A slight book in every sense of the word. Aimed at YA but the very low end of that spectrum, I think. Set in Roman Britain at the latter end of the ocA slight book in every sense of the word. Aimed at YA but the very low end of that spectrum, I think. Set in Roman Britain at the latter end of the occupation. Minna and her brother find a newborn foal dumped on the shore of the small garrison town where their father is a blacksmith. Minna saves the foal and raises it - though her brother lays claim to is for huis mount when he joins the Roman legion. A few years pass and all that happens but Minna is still given permission to ride the horse (Silva).
Minna's childhood friend Theo is promoted to temporary command the small garrison and when the village is attacked by pirates Minna's brother is ordered to swim Silva acroiss the estuary to alert the garrison at Colchester, however he fails and Minna does it instead. Her brother in the meantime - afraid to retirn to the garrison and face punsihment finds a way to cut the pirates off from their boat. It's a won-win situation. Theor gets his promotion ratified.
There's a romantic subtext between Minna and Theo but it's not resolved. I like K.M.Peyton but I wasn't impressed with this. It's not a patch on the Pennington books or Flambards. ...more
The battle of Agincourt told from the viewpoint of common English bowman, Nick Hook. Despite the battle being the main character, there is a story. NiThe battle of Agincourt told from the viewpoint of common English bowman, Nick Hook. Despite the battle being the main character, there is a story. Nick, very probably the bastard of the local landowner, Lord Slayton, is a troubled young man not above committing murder as the sworn enemy of the Perrill brothers, themselves the bastard sons of a jumped up priest, Sir Martin. Through a rolling set of circumstances he's serving as an archer at an execution of a group of Lollards – religious martyrs and is outlawed for striking a priest – the same Sir Martin – who was about to rape Sarah, a condemned prisoner.
He hires on as an archer in order to get out of England and ends up as the only English survivor of the sack of Soissons, from where he rescues Melisande, the bastard daughter of a French noble who has been placed in a convent. Hook and Melisande travel across the French countryside and eventually get to tell the tale of Soissons and hook signs on with the company of Sir John Cornewaille, tourney champion and seasoned veteran, whose rough and ready, but fair treatment of his men (and Melisande) earns him loyalty.
The story then follows Nick through what looks like Henry V's ill-fated campaign to claim the French throne via the siege of Harfleur where Henry wastes too many men (many killed by dysentery) and too much time before attempting to march to the English-held Calais with 4,000 bowmen and only 2,000 men at arms. Rightly wary of English bowmen who made mincemeat of them at the battle of Crecy, the French miss several opportunities to trounce the English, but finally come to a pitched battle on a deeply muddy stretch of ploughed land at Azincourt where the English are hopelessly outnumbered 30,000 men at arms to 2,000 plus 4,000 unarmoured bowmen.
Yes despite the odds it's the bowmen who make a difference, killing the first wave of heavily armoured Frenchmen by firing 15 arrows a minute, felling bodies in the vanguard and creating obstacles which hamper the next wave of men at arms, and the next, and the next. The facts are a matter of record, the French were thoroughly routed by the tiny force of English, but Cornwell's writing gets under the skin of the archers. You can taste the mud and the shit. Nick's personal story – his feud with the Perill brothers and Sir Martin – plays out against a background of living history. ...more
Not necessarily a sequel to ‘A Place Beyond Courage’ as all Chadwick’s books are stand-alones, this is the first part of the story of William MarshallNot necessarily a sequel to ‘A Place Beyond Courage’ as all Chadwick’s books are stand-alones, this is the first part of the story of William Marshall, penniless younger son, who has only his wits and his skill to lift him up out of obscurity. Fortunately he not only has wits and skill in plenty, but he also becomes a favourite of the King’s estranged wife, the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, whose sound advice sets him on the right course to prosper, though not without trials and tribulations as Henry’s children jockey for position in the race to take his throne.
William’s honour and loyalty are tested to the full as son goes up against father, but what sets William apart is his personal integrity. When he gives his word, he doesn’t falter. William’s worth is recognised even by his enemies and the potential rewards are great – if he survives the royal power struggles to reap them.
William Marshall has a special place in history. His skill and prowess on the tourney field in his younger days is legendary, as is his skill in battle his level head and his solid good sense. Above all William is a survivor, eventually outliving his masters to become the greatest knight. ...more