I stumbled upon this book many moons ago and gave it a try. It's the story of a young man called Cato joining the roman army under the command of a gruff and battle hardened centurion called Macro. This is the first instalment of the brilliant eagle series which continues their adventures across the Roman Empire.
Scarrow twists history and fiction perfectly and takes the characters into the 21st century whilst taking the readers into the 1st century. The way he brings the Roman world alive is the best thing since Bernard Cornwell had his touch with history. The characters of Cato and Macro are fantastic and you enjoy the story of the invasion of Britain through their eye. Scarrow understands the Roman world and the Roman ways and has the ability to delve you into with ease.
The true brilliance of this book is the way Scarrow makes the characters so relatable even though their issues are so different to the modern world. The buddy relationship they form and the progress they make as friends is brilliant to see between brutal battles and they adventures they go on.
Simon Scarrow is my favourite author and under the eagle is an excellent book which has everything. The battles are brilliant and are a real show stealer.
I recommend this book without a doubt, just be prepared, there are a lot of them.
'Under The Eagle' is the first of (so far) nine novels in his Eagles series. In this offering we meet Cato and Macro, Scarrow's protagonists. Macro is a hardened veteran of Legio II Augusta, with fifteen years service to his name; Cato is a new recruit, an ex-slave manumitted by the will of the Emperor upon his father's death, soft from a life in the Imperial Palace. Cato is weedy and bookish, socially inept and always attracting the wrong kind of attention. Nobody, least of all Macro, believes that Cato will come to anything in the Roman Army.
'Under the Eagle' deals with Cato's first months in the Army, his struggles with training and being Blooded for the first time upon the battlefield. Scarrow is detailed, and he writes well. His knowledge of ancient warfare is intricate and wonderfully explained to a new reader of Historical Fiction - you don't have to have read anything like this before, Scarrow takes you through it all from start to finish! Scarrow was a high school Classics teacher when he wrote this novel and it's easy to see how very much he loves his subject! His description has a brutal honesty to it, and battles are dirty and gritty and bloody, not effortless. His heroes do not come out of a pitched battle unscathed. That they survive at all is due to the strengths of their characters; Macro's gruff professionalism and Cato's quick wit and survivalism.
I really enjoyed reading 'Under the Eagle,' although it started out as a book picked up for £1 in the Post Office so that I would have something to read on a 'plane journey. I've followed Cato and Macro for years now, and can assure you - as excellent as 'Under the Eagle' is, as highly as I recommend it - Scarrow's Eagle series only gets better! For any fan of Cornwell's Sharpe novels or Iggulden's Emperor series, Scarrow is a must!
The recent shopping trip to asda had a more exciting prospect than usual , i didn't have a book to read and was on the hunt. To my surprise there was a sale with lots of books Stuck with £1 stickers and this one caught my eye.
Having nether read a book of this genre (romans , historical , military etc.), i couldn't wait to get stuck in and see wether it was a good purchase , man was i right.
The story revolves around young cato , a young man from the palaces of rome , thrust in to the army after the death of his father and although the men around him dont beleive he will last long , cato has a huge amount of determination. Cato is put into the second legion of the roman army, the best of the best. Add to this the fact that upon his arrival he is appointed as a optio , making him second in command to the centurion ,macro. The men discover that their next conquest is to fight the toughest and most feared tribes of the time , the britons. However all is not as it seems , cato and macro are deep in a conspiracy that threatens the entire leadership of rome and the emperor.
So a pretty exciting story and one that is difficult to put down as you become immersed in the lifes and skirmishes of the legion.
Unfortunatley i cant compare this to the likes of bernard cromwell as i have never read his books , he seems to be the main competitor to simon scarrow.
The writing is detailed and gives you lots of insight into the fighting and workings of the legion. The characters are difficult to remember as the story twists as they have roman names , whilst the likes of cato and macro i could remember , it was the political characters and the higher ranks which left me going back to remember who was who.
This was bought in asda for a quid but is available on amazon for aroun £4.
A really exciting story , just over 400 pages long and took me , who is a quick reader, 5 days to finish.
Set in Roman occupied Germany in the year 42 AD, Under the Eagle is a fast paced and at times humourous story of a young man's induction into the Roman army.
The story runs parralel to actual historic events and the author's attention to detail and knowlage of the subject is clear from the start.
Cato is thrust into the harsh rigours of the Roman legions where he is resented for his fast promotion due to his connections to those at the very top of Roman society. As a result he is forced to fight for himself from the very start. He finds himself as second in command to a battle hardened and fearless centurion named Macro. Although the 2 characters are like chalk and cheese they depend on each other more and more and Cato's brains and academic ability work well with Macro's strength, experience and brute stubornness.
As the legion is set to invade Britain they discover a dark conspiracy that threatens Emperor himself.
A fantastic book with fast action and great characters and plot. I would recomend to anyone.
Everything has to start somewhere. Some things burst onto the scene in an epic explosion such as the big bang. Whilst for the like of Madonna this can be sustained for decades, others will fade away in a blur of shaven heads and rehab. However, for every instant spark, there is a slow burner. The band that had 8 albums before a hit, or the TV show that breaks away from its cult status only after several series. This slow burn affect effects books more than most media as it can take a long time for a character to grow into themselves. Perhaps Poirots first adventure lacked depth? Maybe Ruth Rendell took a while to get to grips with Wexford. So with this is in mind will the two Roman heroes in Simon Scarrow's Eagle novels be instant hits, or long time friends?
Cato and Marco could not be too different legionnaires. Marco has become a Centurion by years of battles and experience whilst Cato has become his second in command via politics and at a young age. Although they may be complete opposites they must combine their experience and intelligence to lead their men in battle. This is made even more important when they discover themselves involved in a political struggle for power and a long march to the barbaric shores of Great Britain.
The main factor that I took from Under the Eagle was the sense that Scarrow really enjoys his subject matter. Scarrow is a teacher and this comes across in his writing as he is able to make what could be a very dry text instantly accessible. Throughout we are informed in some detail about the day to day life of people in Ancient Rome, but we are never bored or patronised. By keeping the balance just right between action and description Scarrow describes a vivid world not too far removed from our own.
It is the parallels between the Roman setting and our own timeline that gave me mixed feelings. Some historic authors will look to make their text highly academic and immerse themselves fully in their historic world. However, Scarrow has taken an approach far more similar to HBOs Rome that sees an ancient society plagued by the vices of man. Vices that are still very prevalent today; greed, anger, revenge etc. I found that by writing the book with a slightly contemporary feel that Scarrow lost some of the historic impact, but made the book far more accessible. For my tastes this was a great idea as I much prefer books that are well written and easier to read. The one area of contemporary writing that I would complain about was some of the more Anglo-Saxon swearing in the book that made me jolt every time I saw it.
The central characters of Cato and Marco are probably the factor that makes this book most fun to read. They have such opposing attitudes to a Centurions life that the friction between them leads to a great dynamic. Marco is probably my preferred character of the two, but he is not at the centre of the story. He is an older soldier who has seen it all before and now must take on this inexperienced and outwardly weak boy as a second. It is this weakness that Cato possesses for a large part of the book that makes him the lesser of the two characters. However, I can see that the Cato set of books are set up to last some time and must see the character grow from a naïve boy to a strong man, therefore, I can let him off.
This sense of growth is also present in the story itself. As book one of a protracted series Under the Eagle has to work both as a standalone title and as an introduction to the series. I think that Scarrow achieves this purpose brilliantly. Unlike the likes of Cornwells Sharpe novels Scarrow as obviously thought ahead to make sure that he takes his time telling the journey. Cornwell is now known for slotting books in-between earlier efforts that leaves the reader slightly confused and the characters too busy. By taking his time, having each book follow immediately from the next, and only covering a number of months Scarrow is ensuring a rich future for Cato. Under the Eagle is packed full of intrigue, politics and promise for the future titles whilst still being a solid tale in itself.
Like any historic book about soldiers the authors quality is tested most during the battle scenes. Scarrow managed to infuse these with as much respect and life as he does the routine aspects of a Centurions life. The book feels well researched throughout and has a high quality to the writing. Under the Eagle is a must for fans of action historic fiction such as Cornwell or Iggulden. I am really looking forward to the next in the series and witnessing how Marco and Cato develop.
Author: Simon Scarrow
Price: amazon uk - £5.29
play.com - £5.49