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The Eagle

(The Dolphin Ring Cycle #1)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  8,219 ratings  ·  735 reviews
The Ninth Legion marched into the mists of Northern Britain—and they were never seen again. Thousands of men disappeared and their eagle standard was lost. It's a mystery that's never been solved, until now . . .
Marcus has to find out what happened to his father, who led the legion. So he sets out into the unknown, on a quest so dangerous that nobody expects him to
Paperback, 240 pages
Published January 4th 2011 by Square Fish (first published 1954)
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Leah Good My mom read these books aloud to my brother and I when we were around those ages (maybe a little older). I remember begging her to keep going, so it…moreMy mom read these books aloud to my brother and I when we were around those ages (maybe a little older). I remember begging her to keep going, so it must have worked pretty well as a read-aloud.(less)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,219 ratings  ·  735 reviews

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Lance Greenfield
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Classic historical fiction

At the age of eight, I read Eagle of the Ninth, my first encounter with historical fiction. I became hooked. Since then, I have been read Nigel Tranter, John Prebble, Conn Igguden, Simon Scarrow, Ruth Downie, and many others.

Forty-four years later, re-reading this classic is no less exciting for me. My view is that it should be compulsory reading in primary school as it really does bring Roman Britain to life. It is an exciting adventure that could possibly have been
Katie  Hanna
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


. . .

It's so weird. When I read The Shield Ring, my first Sutcliff book, a few weeks ago, I had the exact same experience. I was reading along merrily, enjoying myself greatly, thinking "wow this is a really solid, fun story," until just about the next-to-last chapter . . . and then, out of the blue, stuff happened. And I was crying. Like, a lot.

Dang it, woman. What are these emotions you're trying to give me??? I am the Girl Who Does Not Cry Over Books; you're ruining m
Allison Tebo
Oct 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*Mini Review*

For many years, Rosemary Sutcliff has been one of my favorite authors . . . and she always will be. It had been a long time since I had read this book, and I decided it was high time to rediscover it. It was even better than I had remembered. Meet Marcus, a young soldier who’s career and future seem dashed after a courageous defense cripples him for life. But Marcus is one of a rare breed, he possess a raw, white courage, a grim determination, that forces him to press on
Joanne Harris
I loved this book dearly as a child, and it has lost none of its magic now. Beautifully-written, discreetly poetic without a single word out of place, it's a thrilling adventure, an excellently-researched piece of historical fiction and a fabulous depiction of friendship all in one. Read it at any age, and marvel at the pacing; the gradual build-up, the terrific characterization, the breathless race to the final climax. Sutcliff brings Roman Britain to life as no-one else has ever done; and her ...more
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating Clarification: 4.5 Stars

My first Rosemary Sutcliff book, but it will not be my last. This tale of Roman Britain and the lost Ninth Legion brings the reader into a fully imagined yet realistic world in which honor and duty are sacrosanct and the meeting of two cultures can be either a time of mutual respect or bloody conflict and distrust. Sutcliff is one darn brilliant writer of characters and settings. I could fully picture the time period, the people and the atmosphere. It rang true
In 117 AD/CE, the Ninth Legion of the Roman Army marched into the mists of Caledonia (the land known today as Scotland). They were never seen again.

The standard-bearer of the Legio IX Hispana, who held aloft the golden eagle as they marched, was the father of our hero, Marcus Flavius Aquila. Marcus was a lad of twelve years when his father vanished. Now a young adult eager to prove his mettle, Marcus himself serves as a Roman officer in Britain.

He is discharged after a grievous battle wound that gives him a sli
The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff is so much more than the usual riveting adventure story - though it is most definitely that. It's deep in thought and emotion, vibrantly vivid in character and setting, and rich with living history and with truths about life and people. This story of the journey and quest of two young men holds much meaning for me, even more now than it did when I first read and loved it as a young teenager. I couldn't have known then that my future life experience would be ...more
This book is fully as good as I remember. That's a lot to say for a book that I adored from the age of eight until about fourteen, reread at seventeen-ish, and then haven't read for a few years... In my head, it was always one of the most amazing books of my childhood, and my memory didn't overstate it. It is written for children, so it's very easy to read and perhaps a little less than subtle, in places -- particularly with foreshadowing. "Little did he know how important this piece of informat ...more
Before I picked this book up, I had gathered two points from, respectively, the title and the edges of assorted flailings by my friends: (1) that it was about baseball or something, and (2) that it was about a couple of boys who love each other very, very, very much and who have talks about their innermost feelings and so on.

Turns out, not about baseball! Actually about Romans, which makes a certain amount of sense, since a book about Romans is one of the few things with a decent chance
Luisa Knight
I love it when authors take a real life mystery or two and try to provide a plausible explanation. This one is about the unknown fate of Rome's Ninth Legion that marched to Britain and was never heard of again.

So having my curiosity piqued with this mystery and adding to that Sutcliff's easy narrative and absorbing story-line, it's no wonder I was quickly pulled into the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was deeply satisfied with the characters and the adventure! If you're looking fo
Melissa McShane
4.5 stars, rounded up for the wonderful friendship between Marcus and Esca. Hallie has been bugging me encouraging me to read this for a while, and I put it on the list for the 31-day reading challenge. When I finished reading The Bone Clocks, I needed something lighter, and as it happens, in the last section of The Bone Clocks the kids are reading The Eagle of the Ninth. I took it as a sign.

Marcus, a centurion posted to Britain, is severely injured in a battle that ends his longed-for career in the mili
Victoria Lynn
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
re-read 2018
This book is definitely a gem in the Roman historical genre, which doesn't really exist all that much. That being said, I enjoyed this greatly the first 5 times I read it. This time through felt a bit slow as I wanted to hit the highlights going through, so it did feel like it lagged a bit at times. This was only because I've read it so many times! :D If you haven't read this yet, I definitely recommend it!
Angela R. Watts
Amazing book! I loved Esca best but Marcus was amazing and realistic, also. Their relationship is definitely a fictional favorite for me. Also: CUB. What a great addition! I did see (view spoiler) coming and while it felt a smidge rushed to the end, it was nice.
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
EDITED BECAUSE MARY JUST POINTED OUT THE AUDIO IS ABRIDGED. I am extremely disappointed rn, and need to get my hands on a hard copy ASAP.

I read this on a bit of a whim, after being inspired by some excerpts from a different Sutcliff novel that Aerelin posted in her insta stories. She recommended I start with this one. (AND YES, I know Aerelin's name is actually Mary when I stop for two seconds and think about it, but Instagram is apparently taking over my brain. Sorry.)

I was a littl
Jan 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: YA historical fiction
Recommended to Terence by: GR Swap
Around AD 120, the Legio IX Hispana (or Hispania) “disappeared.” Its last known posting was on Hadrian’s Wall in northern Britain, and a legend has grown up that it was ordered on a punitive expedition against the Picti beyond the Wall and was lost campaigning against them. Numerous authors have exploited our lack of certain knowledge to speculate about what might have happened – from getting transported to alternate worlds (Codex Alera series) to less fantastical versions (Around AD 120, the Legio IX Hispana (or Hispania) “disappeared.” Its last known posting was on Hadrian’s Wall in northern Britain, and a legend has grown up that it was ordered on a punitive expedition against the Picti beyond the Wall and was lost campaigning against them. Numerous authors have exploited our lack of certain knowledge to speculate about what might have happened – from getting transported to alternate worlds (Codex Alera series) to less fantastical versions (The Last Legion), including this novel. Alas, historians are notoriously unromantic (at least modern ones) and demand annoying things like evidence, and the latest evidence would seem to indicate that the Ninth was destroyed in either Judaea or Parthia in the 130s and not reconstituted.

If I had read The Eagle of the Ninth when I was 13 years old and still blinded by romantic depictions of the Roman Empire (fostered by films watched in history class and TV movies like Masada), I would have really liked this book and given it four stars. But I’m 43 years old and I know too much about Roman history to be able to completely surrender to Sutcliff’s story so it only merits three stars. And only a moderately enthusiastic three. The first part of the story is “clunky,” for want of a better word. Sutcliff recreates 2nd century Roman Britain quite well but her prose style left me cold and uninvolved. It improved a bit in the latter half of the story when she recounts Marcus and Esca’s escape from the Epidaii with the Ninth’s Eagle; there were moments when I felt like I was there with them as they crossed the Scottish highlands.

And realizing that this novel is geared toward the “young adult” crowd, I still could wish that Sutcliff had explored the problematic nature of the relationship between Marcus and Esca in greater depth. Marcus is the son of the man who commanded the First Cohort of the IX Hispana; Esca is the son of a Brigantian chieftain who fought that legion. The recent film adaptation, The Eagle, takes a more realistic perspective on their friendship (though not all that much better, but it is – I think – truer), especially in a scene where Marcus berates Esca for withholding information from him.

There are also too many fortuitous coincidences to make me entirely happy with the story. ((view spoiler))

I can still recommend it, however, if not strongly, to readers who enjoy this genre.

PS - Lord, I feel so cynical rereading this before I posted. I want to stress that this is a good story taken just by itself. Don't be put off by my own difficulties with the text - I read too much :-)
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ten years or so ago I was sitting in the waiting area for the Indiana branch of Immigration and Citizenship. The room is always a fertile ground for imagining people's stories and I found my attentions drifting between my book and the cast of characters surrounding me. A man walked in the room, looked puzzled and walked to the reception desk, only a few feet away from my distracted digressions. He introduced himself in our local way and began to tell the story of his son, one Private Jones who w ...more
Nov 10, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Eagle of the Ninth is a story that plods its way through a beautifully detailed setting.

Rosemary Sutcliff found her inspiration for The Eagle of the Ninth in two real stories of Roman Britain – one, the legendary (and somewhat historically disputed) disappearance of the Ninth Legion after it was sent north of Hadrian’s Wall to battle the Picts in 117 AD; and two, the discovery of a wingless Roman Eagle at an archaelogical dig in Silchester. And so Marcus was created, the son of t
Dec 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

In Rosemary Sutcliff's books the history of Britain comes alive through sensuous descriptions of luscious forests and ragged mountains, and characters so deeply imagined that linger in your mind after the book has ended, like childhood friends untouched by time and the drudgery of life.

Her books are not popcorn historical fiction novels with anachronistic characters dressed in the costumes of the time but keeping the ideas and se
Benjamin Thomas
If you're looking for a good novel to get a young person hooked on historical fiction, look no further. This is the first of an 8-book series, each of which can be read as a stand-alone novel. This first one is about a young Roman legionnaire named Marcus Flavius Aquila who leads a unit to Britain, gets injured to the point where he can no longer participate and thus must find his own way forward...without the Roman army that has been his home for so long. He embarks on a quest to recover the lo ...more
Dan Lutts
In 120 AD, the 9th Legion – Spanish marched out of its fortress in Eboracum (York) in Britain, passed through Hadrian's Wall, disappeared into the wilds of Caledonia (Scotland), and was never heard of again. Up to this day, no one knows what happened to the 4,000-man legion.

Mary Sutcliff provides her theory in The Eagle of the Ninth when Marcus Flavius Aquila, whose father was the senior centurion of the first cohort of the 9th, takes command of a military fort on Britain's frontier.
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Oct 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
A good adventure story set in Britain under the Roman domination. Sutcliff is a very talented storyteller and paints a vivid landscape of Roman forts and Celtic moors. I appreciated the easy flow of the text, a real page turner without excessive descriptions or political infights.
For readers searching the modern "gritty" feel, foul language and geysers of blood this is not that kind of story. There is a certain YA vibe, of an epic in the style of Karl May or Alexandre Dumas. There is war,
Elizabeth Rose
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, personal
The Eagle of the Ninth is the perfect book for those mizzly days between winter and spring. Sutcliff infuses her story with living description, such that flawlessly transports her readers to the harsh and beautiful Britain under Roman rule. It took me the first fifty pages or so to get into the swing of the narrative, but now that I've finished it, I want to go back and savor those early chapters. Proud Marcus, fiery Cottia, loyal Esca, and faithful Cub — I loved each in his time, though perhaps Esca ...more
The first half of the book tells of how Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young Roman officer arrived in Britain as a centurion and was injured in a battle and then, unfit for duty, was discharged. Some years earlier, sometime in 117 AD, the Ninth Hispana Legion, led by his father had marched north from its base at Eburacum (York) into the mists of Northern Britain to deal with a rising among the Caledonian tribes and was never heard of again – their Eagle Standard was also lost.

Marcus then s
Cynthia Haggard
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
No-one knows what really happened to the Ninth Legion, the Hispana. All that is known is that it marched north into what is now Scotland to deal with the Painted People, and disappeared into the mists. A battered eagle, shorn of is wings is in the museum at Reading, having been found during the excavations of Silchester, formerly known as Calleva Atrebatum.

Out of these two facts, Rosemary Sutcliff has written a wonderfully resonant story about hard choices, bravery and the ways in wh
Sep 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
An engrossing adventure that takes the reader from a well-staffed Roman garrison to the wilds of Scotland during the last days of Rome. Roman soldier Marcus Aquila and his British servant Esca are an interesting pair, and I liked seeing the contrast between their two cultures. I also liked the day-to-day details of life in Uncle Aquila's household. I never felt that the story dragged, and it honestly could have been longer. I did like that there wasn't a lot of traveling around, eating at campfi ...more
Probably since the day of my arrival on GoodReads, 2.5 years ago, my friends have shoved Rosemary Sutcliff at me. To my own credit, I probably would have read her sooner if I’d gotten my hands on a book, but I rarely go out of my way to hunt down a book. However, a few months ago, I had more than 50 cents in my book budget & decided to finally hunt down Sutcliff.

Boise, should I have done that sooner!

I’m entirely out of time & internet to write reviews in (if you w
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have always loved early Britain stories. This is my first Sutcliff even though my boy has loved this series forever.

Really decent YA writer. The three in this series "Eagle of the Ninth," "The Silver Branch," and "The Lantern Bearers," are very well done. #1 is almost pre-Christianity, #2 Rome is crumbling, #3 Rome is vanquished, Hengest is invading Britain, Arthur is rising. Of course anything touching Arthur's legend is my favorite so I liked #3 best.

Good for boy and girl audiences. Good for
Jan 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Audiobook reread June 2019: <3
katayoun Masoodi
i'm not a really a historical fan or know much about britian's or rome's history, and all this made me put aside reading this book, till a friend's 10000th time praises for this book made me pick it up. this only reminded me that i should be only reading what hallie tells me to. a most lovely story, with interesting people in it and do please read anything hallie recommend! :)
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Marcus Flavius Aquila is a young Centurion with a bright and limitless future in the Roman Army before him, sent to the frontier of Britain to command his first Cohort. Service to Rome and pride in the army is in Marcus's blood, for his father had proudly served with the Ninth Legion. However, a shadow hangs over that legion's reputation, and the honor of every man who served in her ranks - for ten years prior, they marched north and disappeared. When an uprising threatens Marcus's command, he w ...more
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Rosemary Sutcliff, CBE was a British novelist, best known as a writer of highly acclaimed historical fiction. Although primarily a children's author, the quality and depth of her writing also appeals to adults. She once commented that she wrote "for children of all ages from nine to ninety."

Born in West Clandon, Surrey, Sutcliff spent her early youth in Malta and other naval bases wher

Other books in the series

The Dolphin Ring Cycle (8 books)
  • The Silver Branch
  • Frontier Wolf
  • The Lantern Bearers
  • Sword at Sunset
  • Dawn Wind
  • Sword Song
  • The Shield Ring
“You cannot expect the man who made this shield to live easily under the rule of man who worked the sheath of this dagger . . . You are the builders of coursed stone walls, the makers of straight roads and ordered justice and disciplined troops. We know that, we know it all too well. We know that your justice is more sure than ours, and when we rise against you, we see our hosts break against the discipline of your troops, as the sea breaks against a rock. And we do not understand, because all these things are the ordered pattern, and only the free curves of the shield-boss are real to us. We do not understand. And when the time comes that we begin to understand your world, too often we lose the understanding of our own.” 29 likes
“Better to be a laughing-stock than lose the fort for fear of being one.” 22 likes
More quotes…