Throughout the Roman Army, the Twelfth Legion is notorious for its ill fortune. It faces the harshest of postings, the toughest of campaigns, the most vicious of opponents. For one young man, Demalion of Macedon, joining it will be a baptism of fire. And yet, amid all of the violence and savagery of his life as a legionary, he realises he has discovered a vocation – as a soldier and a leader of men. He has come to love the Twelfth and all the bloody-minded, dark-hearted soldiers he calls his brothers.
But all that he cares about is ripped from him when, during the brutal Judaean campaign, the Hebrew army inflict a catastrophic defeat upon the legion – not only decimating their ranks, but taking away their soul – the eagle.
There is one final chance to save the legion’s honour – to steal back the eagle. To do that, Demalion and his legionnaries must go undercover into the city of Jerusalem, into the very heart of their enemy, where discovery will mean the worst of deaths, if they are to recover their pride.
And that, in itself, is a task worthy only of heroes.
There are many Roman era Historical Fiction books and authors on the market now and they explore differing facets of the Roman world and the roman army. What the majority of them have in common is that the culmination, the pièce de résistance of the story is the great battle, the pulling together of all the threads so the hero wins, or survives to fight another day over coming terrible odds. All this is what most of us readers want in a novel, something of great power and motivation, coupled with great story telling and that touch of escapism to take us beyond the borders of our lives into another time and place, to maybe give us a little piece of that heroic feeling.
With Manda Scott’s Eagle of the Twelfth you get all the usual accomplished parts of a roman novel, but then you get something more, something that I always felt I got touches of in Simon Scarrow’s early eagle novels, but In Manda’s to a much greater depth. You get to be the hero, to feel the heroes thoughts, cares concerns, you ride along in his skin rather than as an observer, but you experience it as a real person doing heroic deeds rather than a prefab hero.
Eagle of the Twelfth is not just Manda’s triumph, Demalion of Macedon is her triumph.
For those readers who are expecting a swords and sandals heroic ride with a Scarrow or Riches style swagger, its there, but expect also for the legion to finally be stripped back to its real warts and all self. Because Eagle of the Twelfth gives an expose on just why these men conquered the world, how they were so tough, why they fought so much as a unit and how they used that comradeship, that family of the eagle to survive the cold the heat, the rain the hell of war, Life in the ancient world.
The cover of the book proudly states on a sticker, “as good as Conn Iggulden or your money back”, And I have to say Conn in the case of this book, I think Manda has you beat (well maybe not Wolf of the Plains) but Rome for Rome.
This book captures not just the epic scale of Rome’s legions, but its core, its heart, its soul, its very essence, what made the men tick.
This book is going right up there as one of my best for 2012 Very Highly recommended, not just for those who like Historical fiction, but for those whole love great fiction told by a great story teller.
For another view of this book and an excellent review http://forwinternights.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/rome-the-eagle-of-the-twelfth-by-m-c-scott/