The Eagle’s Conquest
© 2002 Simon Scarrow
In Under the Eagle, Simon Scarrow introduced readers to two legionnaires: Macro, a grizzled veteran, and Cato, a young bookish sort straight from Rome , a boy made an officer because of his father’s influence. No one though Cato would make it as a soldier, let alone as a leader of men, but in Germania and the beginning of the invasion of Britain he proved himself. Now the Romans are moving further inland, where some scattered tribes are uniting under the Catuvellauni banner, whose leader intends to crush the small but stubborn invasion force. In The Eagle’s Conquest, Rome struggles to make a decisive strike against the barbarian horde, even as our two officers find evidence that points toward someone within Rome working to undermine the invasion. Worse yet, the Emperor is coming to take personal charge of the campaign, and Rome’s enemies may find the murky bogs and chaotic wilderness of Britain an ideal spot to induce a little regime change. As the plot thickens, Rome’s forces crashes through thickets and wade through bogs, constantly fighting the natives and hovering on the verge of utter fatigue. Rome’s goal is to crush the opposing army outright, as other as-yet neutral tribes may join if the legions falter; their opponent, however, stays on the run and likes to rest near terrain that puts paid to any ideas about maintaining any kind of troop cohesion. Cato continues to mature as a man, taking command of his entire cohort during an especially frantic bit of fighting and vying with a personal enemy within the ranks, one who costs him dearly. Humor abounds, more in the dialogue than with physical humor this time, and the author unintentionally adds to this by writing the invading Romans in his own vernacular. It’s “bloody hell” this, and “jolly good” that, as our Roman chaps brave painted stinking hordes, a landscape not kind to invading armies, and the fickleness of woman. The book ends with one word – “Boudica” – that promises all kinds of fun to come.