Eagles in the Storm
© 2017 Ben Kane
Six years ago, a German auxiliary named Arminius used his place of respect within the Roman army to lure Governor Vaurs and three legions into a devastating ambush. Rome began to exact her revenge last year, clearing out German villages connected to rebelling tribes and even kidnapping Arminius’ wife, but the work is not yet done. Two of the battle-standards taken by the Germans – imperial eagles — are still in the hands of Rome’s enemies, and Senior Centurion Tullus is determined to recover them, for the honor of his fallen men….and his personal need for revenge. Eagles in the Storm witnesses the culmination of Tullius’ quest for vengeance, in service of his general Germanicus. Although the action isn’t on grand a scale as Eagles at War, it’s a fitting conclusion to this series.
As with Hunting the Eagles, Kane splits the book primarily between Arminus and Tullus, with an ocassional foray into the Roman ranks. We find Arminus struggling to keep his alliance together: despite the great success six years ago, many tribal leaders regard Arminius warily, disdainful of his claim to be the only one who can lead the tribes to victory against Rome. They increasingly don’t follow the execution of his plans even after they’ve agreed to, and Arminius’ stores of patient diplomacy appear to have been exhausted by all the work he undertook to make the Teutoberg ambush happen. The action in Eagles in the Storm occurs across several armed conflicts, until the summer begins to wane and both Arminus and Tullius make the same desperate move. Although both protagonists were compelling viewpoint characters in Eagles at War, Tullius was far more sympathetic in Hunting the Eagles, and that continues here, and the reader shares his frustration when Arminius evades him again and again. The lower-ranks characters are particularly useful in the battle scenes, but here they also provide a little comic relief –as when Piso sneaks into an incredibly punchable officer’s tent and decorates it liberally with dog dung. They’re also how Kane keeps the reader emotionally vested in battles: we know Tullius and Arminius both have to survive the minor scrapes to continue their cat and mouse games, but the redshirt characters don’t have plot insurance.
So ends my introduction to Ben Kane, which proved excellent. It compares favorably to Scarrow’s much longer series: this is shorter, but darker and more intense. I’ll be continuing with him in April, with his Richard the Lionheart series, and some different historical fiction will appear here before — the continuation of David Liss’ series of business/crime thrillers set in 18th century London.