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The silver eagle is the second book in this set of novels , unfortunatley I didn't know this when I picked it up so I am left with an intresting before and after story now , which will still be intresting.
Another book about the wonderful Romans and Ceasers legions. The book begins with the Forgotten legion marching in Margiana as border gaurds, after suffering a heavy defeat to parthia. Taken as slaves to work as soldiers , the men of the legion are downhearted.
Among them are 3 freinds Romulus, Brennus and Tarquinius. Seeing as two of them are slaves and Tarquinius is a soothsayer , seeing visions and hidden messages, the 3 must stick together to survive.
Unfortunatley , Rome is not only enemys of parthia, but Parthia too has enemys and a surprise attack wipes away even more of the legion although the 3 freinds manage to escape. They are left with one sole want , to return to rome and their families. But they are at the edge of the known world and in enemy territory......
In Pompeii , Fabiola has escaped her life as a slave and prostitute. Living now on a big estate she too wills of Rome. After aiding a group of slaves she has made a deadly enemy, but she also wants to travel to Rome in seek of revenge. Ceaser raped her mother and tore the family apart, not to mention she has a lover fighting in the legions, Brennus, and a missing brother presumed dead , Romulus.
Romulus is a barely a man, aged 17 and saved from the world of Gladiators by Brennus they escaped to be mercanaries in the legions. But being a slave and fighting for Rome is a fate only to be met by crucifixtion. Romulus is a nice character who grows alot throughout the story as you see him learn to survive , but also to be more perceptive of his sorroundings. He means well and cares for his 2 freinds highly.
Brennus is the strong Gaul, a champion fighter in the colluseum and is definatley the braun in the trio. He is very noble and throughout the book stands tall against enemy, maybe his biggest moment is standing strong against a war elephant, he too cares for his freinds and treats Romulus like a son.
Tarquinius is a soothsayer and believes in the warrior god Mithras. He is only kept alive by his ability to see visions which although met with specualtion, often come true. He offers an intresting swing to the story as the reliance on visions and belief is not something which is coverd highly in many other Roman novels.
Fabiola , sister of Romulus , she is a lady with a lot of sass and trickery. Her flirtacious ability hides the strength and courage not normally associated with the women of Rome. This is proved early on with a stand off against 4 burly slave owners who she manages to see off, she offers a little change to the story as hers covers more of the politics and love storyline. However the politics of rome is of course a bloody and dangerous thing.
Im mixed on the writing really , it is slower than previous novels, but it still fits in a lot of action , detail and storyline. I found that the writing would rise and then drop again , although half way through it manages to hold strong and stay at a great pace and is very entertaining.
The last quarter of the story also jumps ahead at different amounts, e.g. goes ahead 2 years , and then another 15 months and then another year. But when this is done the time inbetween is well summarised and lets you know what small things occured.
The final battle of the story leaves the book wide open for the final book , Road to Rome , and is a brilliant way of teasing the reader with a cliffhanger so big.
includes a few sex scenes although not gratuitous and a lot of violence , so not one for younger readers.
£4.62 on Amazon which is a good price for the book as it will last you a few weeks.
A good story but struggles to find its feet in the beggining, although stick with it and you will be rewarded.
I thought Ben Kane's debut novel ''The Forgotten Legion'' was excellent, but that it ended a little abruptly, even with the knowledge there was more to come. Having now read that "more to come", I feel a lot better about it. The story is so relentless that there was no obvious place to pause between books.
Fabiola, having been bought out of prostitution by Brutus, one of Caesar's closest allies, is living on his estate in Pompeii. Life seems to be going well, but soon after her arrival she is involved in a confrontation with Scaevola, a man hired to hunt down runaway slaves. Frightened by his promise of reprisals, Fabiola flees back to Rome, but on finding the city in disarray and close to civil war, she heads for Gaul to find Brutus and safety.
Fabiola is haunted by not knowing if her brother is alive, after his legion was defeated at Carrhae. Romulus, however, has been captured by the Parthians and forced to join their army in the distant East, along with his friends Brennus and Tarquinius. However, not all is well, as Tarquinius' ability to read the future has deserted him and Brennus and Romulus have been exposed as slaves by some of their fellow legionaries and are being shunned and threatened. Romulus is desperate to return to Rome to find Fabiola, but he can't see a way to escape his situation other than being killed in battle.
There's a slightly different feel to ''The Silver Eagle'' after ''The Forgotten Legion''. Before, much of the story took place in battle or in the gladiatorial arena, with the characters fighting to survive. Here, there is a much greater focus on the politics and power plays rather than physical struggles. The situations are less tangible and it's more of a latent threat than the mortal danger the characters found themselves in before. There may be less action here, but there's more menace and the story seems to stalk the reader through darkened streets rather than drag you along in a headlong rush.
It's not often a writer is as comfortable writing detailed, slow moving plot as they are at writing action, but Kane certainly is. His sense of pacing in both styles is perfect and he switches between the thrust of action and the steadier pace of politics with ease. It helps that the politics of First Century B. C. Rome were quiet violent, but the story never drags for a moment.
Some of the reason for this can be found in the vividness of Kane's writing. In ''The Forgotten Legion'' you could almost smell the blood being spilled and hear the screams of dying men. With fewer battles, there is less of this, but Kane describes landscapes and cities with the same care and detail. There's a part where characters land on the African coast and see certain animals for the first time with is particularly descriptive.
It's not just in the visual field that Kane shines, but also in the emotional. The shame Fabiola feels at some of her actions is so well written I could share it with her. The combination of sights and emotions when she sees a corpse strewn battlefield is palpable and the nausea the reader feels is one part Fabiola's and one part our own. The only way Kane could have got the smells of rotting corpses across any better would have been in a scratch and sniff novel.
As with the mid-parts of some series, I did feel that the main point of the book was the manoeuvre characters into positions for the end game. Having followed the characters through two books, it is clear that there is still much more to come, but also that destinations and destinies are near. Where such books often fill little purpose than to kill time and move characters around, Kane inputs enough story here to make this a worthwhile read. He may be playing chess with his characters, but he does so with such style that if chess could match it, it would be a spectator sport.
Kane has also addressed what I felt was the one failing of the original book. Here, he has found a natural break in the story and used it as the perfect point to pause. He's also left it in such a place that if this were a television series, you'd be fully expecting the theme tune to strike up and the credits to roll. This is no sudden stop, but a well worked cliffhanger.
This is a great combination of everything you should find in a decent book. It's a well-researched historical thriller, full of action and intrigue and written with vivid descriptions and full of well-drawn characters. This is as close to a master class in all the varied aspects of writing as you can get and with copies seen on Green Metropolis for £3.75 for the hardback version, it's a class worth taking.
This is a slightly amended version of a review that has previously appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk