Newest Review: ... to. This book keeps to the same writing style as the previous creations and brings something slightly to different to the mainly battle... more
An Eagle That Rides on the Breeze
When the Eagle Hunts - Simon Scarrow
Member Name: samueltyler
When the Eagle Hunts - Simon Scarrow
Advantages: Great battle scenes, exciting
Disadvantages: Not much character development
I am an avid reader and also an avid worrier. I guestimated once that I read on average 100 books a year; I then multiplied this by the number of years I have left on this Earth - hopefully 50 at least! Therefore, how many books have I got left to read? Only 5000! I have around 500 books in my 'to be read pile' already - 10% of my remaining life total. The fact that I was down to 5000 books was not only depressing, but also made me reflect on what I should bother to read. If an author cannot grip me within 50 pages I should move on before it's too late. Sometimes this can be too premature as series of novels in particular can take a few novels to mature. I had read the first two books in Simon Scarrow's 'Eagle' series and they were ok. Could book 3 - 'When the Eagle Hunts' prove my patience correct? With the Grim Reaper constantly reading over my shoulder I hope so!
Marco the Centurion and Cato his Optio are camped in Ancient Britain with the Roman Army as they wait for spring and another campaign to claim the Isle for their Emperor. When the head of the campaign army's wife and children are captured by vicious Pagan Druids the Romans suddenly find themselves at battle during a bleak season. With their previous adventures in mind Marco and Cato are sent on a special mission to go deep into British territory and find the missing Citizens. With the aid of a British Nobel lady called Boudicca can Marco and Cato survive what is surely a suicide mission?
As I mentioned in my opening paragraph a series of books often mature like a fine wine or a stinky cheese. Thankfully, in the case of the 'Eagle' books they are growing from strength to strength. It was clear from the offset that the books were planned to cover the entire career of Cato as he grew up in the Roman army. Book 1 saw him as a green cadet and 2 saw him finally become a man. Now that both Cato and Marco are fully fleshed characters Scarrow is able to assume that the reader knows their personality and concentrate more fully on the wider picture - and it is a joy.
I do enjoy historic fiction, and in particular books that contain military battles. The Roman period therefore is one that I have read about several times from the top level Emperors, to the growth of Rome via both land and sea. Therefore, Scarrow is covering some well trod ground and must be talented to stand out. Luckily, he is very talented as 'Hunts' is the best in the series so far balancing historical accuracy with fictional melodrama in a skilful style reminiscent of Bernard Cornwell's 'Sharpe' series.
What makes 'Hunt' stand out more than the previous books? There is a fantastic battle that occurs over about 80 pages that sees a Roman Legion retreat slowly under great pressure from the British. This has to be one of the most vivid and exciting battles that I have every read and felt very authentic as well as being entertaining. By using their superior discipline and advanced fighting techniques the Romans slowly withdraw in formation, their strength being slowly sapped in a war of attrition. Having great characters like Marco and Cato amidst this carnage only makes it more personal and exhilarating. In my eyes it was at this point that Scarrow went from being just another author of historic fiction to being one of the best.
The organised retreat is a standout in the book, but by no means all of it. The book paints a rich image of the Pagan Druids as seen from a Roman point of view. The men in the army were brought up to fear the Druids by their parents, so to see them in the flesh is awe inspiring. Scarrow is able to create a realistic, if slightly over stimulated, version of Britain at the time of the Roman invasion. When Cato and Marco go behind enemy lines we learn a lot more about what the period was really like.
With an increased importance on place and action the characters of Cato and Marco are not as developed as before. Personally, I am fine with this as they are well established now and can grow at a more leisurely rate over the coming novels. The relationship between the Centurion Marco and future Queen Boudicca is particularly intriguing as hindsight tells us that this is a romance destined never to work.
'When the Eagle Hunts' is a great example of an action packed historic fiction novel. There is just the right balance of fictional story with non-fiction descriptions. Throw into the mix one of the best battle sequences that I have yet to read and you have an author hitting his peak around three books in. With this in mind I hope that Simon Scarrow is able to maintain this high standard in future books as if he does he will be alongside the likes of Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden as a favourite author of mine in the genre.
Author: Simon Scarrow
Price: amazon UK - £5.79
play.com - £5.99
Summary: Book 3 - the best so far