The Eagle and the Wolves
© 2003 Simon Scarrow
The Roman Empire’s campaign in Britain may about to become a victim of its own success. While a great victory last summer established a stronghold in the heart of the island, the Britons haven’t given up yet — and are finding in the Romans’ lengthening supply lines an opportunity to bleed the Empire white. If more troops are pulled from the front lines to defend against Celtic raiders, the advance will stall — but what if Rome creates a few cohorts out of the Celtic tribesmen themselves? Britain is riven with petty chiefdoms, some allied to Rome, some arrayed against it, and some shifting with the wind. What if two centurions with experience on the island — one an old hand at training, the other with a working knowledge of the Gaelic spoken here — were to train to put some of the allies to work? So begins The Eagles and the Wolves, in which Cato and Macro raise two auxiliaries (the Boars and Wolves) to defend their post. Naturally things go south; the Romans are allied to an old king who is attacked by an assassin, and a few of the would-be successors to the king want to overturn the Roman alliance. The Romans themselves are not united, as Cato and Macro are undermined by a weaselly politician who is manipulating everyone for his own advancement. It comes down to a good old-fashioned last stand at the Alamo, with Cato and Macro holing themselves up in a supply depot while the Celts serenade them with the sounds of their captured prisoners being tortured. Buuut, as there are many more books in this series, it doesn’t quite end like the Alamo.
As with a Cornwell review, the usual strengths are here — Romans swearing like Englishmen is funny, the two main characters are solid, Cato is now wilier than his old mentor in some respects, and the action is gripping until the end.