A ferventi aestuosa Libya
Volat Aquila Legionum
Supra Terra Brittannorum
Volat Aquila Legionum
Roma, Roma, O Roma
Legio! Aeterna! Aeterna! Victrix!

Winter is coming, both for Britain and for the Druids. Rome, drawn to Britain because of its tribes’ support of their Gallic brothers during Caesar’s rise to power, has been campaigning there for decades — but no matter how many times organized rebellion is crushed, it always appears again, in part because the British priestly caste, the Druids, instigate it. On the eve of political disruption in Rome, the Blood Crows are sent through the mountains to confront and destroy the Druids directly. With British command of the treacherous landscape, this would be task demanding enough — but Prefect Cato has to do it alone, his strong right arm Macro confined to base duties after a Briton tries to shish-ka-bob his leg. Things will get worse, though, because once Macro learns that Cato and the others are heading into a trap — goaded by the woad, shall we say? — he sets forth into the hostile wilderness to offer warning. Further complicating matters is the political scene in Rome, as the Emperor is expected to die or be knocked off any moment, and Rome’s would-be-potenantes are already circling each other growling, and making sure they have supporters — willing or bullied. Cato and Marco were accidentally exposed to Roman politics in a prior adventure, and Cato is especially vulnerable to intimidation because of his young wife and newborn. The more I read Scarrow, the more I find it’s difficult to write new reviews for him, rather like Cornwell: he’s so consistent with characterization, detail, etc that I feel like I’m merely repeating myself. Suffice it to say, if you’ve read and liked Cato & Macro stories, this will repeat that enjoyment, and make it all the more interesting with the dramatic final showdown between a Roman army marching through winter gales to confront the Druids at Mona, who then find themselves pinned between two British armies. Funny, dramatic, richly detailed: Scarrow is a good as ever!

Cato was too angry and bitter to trust himself with any remark. He wanted to refute the argument being put to him. He wanted desperately to stand on principle and defy the will of powerful men who decided the fates of others. He earnestly longed for a world in which honour, honesty and achievement counted for more than guile, avarice and ambition. Yet here was the proof that his longing was mere wishful thinking. Despite all he had accomplished, every battle he had fought in and won, every promotion he had earned, he lived on the whim of men like Narcissus and Pallas. They were not even proper Romans. Merely freedmen who had learned how to play their former master like a cheap flute.

‘You’ve seen the officers and the men of the Illyrian cohort. Thoughts?’
‘If I may speak freely, sir?’
‘Please do.’
‘They’re a useless shower. They don’t march in step, they don’t look after their kit and they don’t look after themselves. Some of them are old enough to be my grandad, and others are young enough to be my son. Gods forbid, but if it comes to a fight, the only danger they pose is that the enemy may die laughing at the —— spectacle presented by Centurion Fortunus and his men. Other than that, they’re a fine body of men who do the emperor proud, sir.’

Next up: a British consul in Charleston’s experience with the coming of secession and war.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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4 Responses to Brittannorum

  1. Cyberkitten says:

    I really need to start reading this series……

    • Yep! You’ll get a kick out of Cato & Marco. They meet when Cato is a wet-behind-the-ears teenager being mentored by the grizzled old soldier, and progresses from their until they’re less mentor-and-trainee, and more brothers from two different classes of Rome.

      • Cyberkitten says:

        I already have the first 3-4 in the series, so *maybe* this year? Although I really should *finish* a series before I start yet another one!

      • I’ve found them to be quick reads, much like Sharpe. Scarrow matches Cornwell for a mix of drama, action, humor, and admirable characters, I think, Cornwell has better villains, though.

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