Book Review: “The Eagle of the Ninth” by Rosemary Sutcliff

Title: The Eagle of the Ninth
Author: Rosemary Sutcliff
Series: No, though it forms a thematic trilogy with The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers.
Published: 1954
Pages: 255
Spoiler-free Synopsis: Around A.D. 117, the Ninth Legion marched north of Agricola’s Wall to deal with an uprising of Scottish tribesmen and was never seen again. Years later, the commander’s son, Marcus Aquila, decides to venture north to find the lost Eagle standard of his father, taking with him only Esca, the former British slave who has become his friend. The Eagle means Rome, honor, and good faith kept – but in the hands of Rome’s enemies, it could become a powerful weapon.
Reason for Rereading: The release of the film adaptation The Eagle prompted me to return to the book, some of which I’d forgot.
Reason for Finishing: It’s simply a really good story, exceptionally well told.
Story Re-readability: There are reasons this is considered a legitimate classic of both young adult literature and historical fiction in general; reasons I hope to expound below. This was my third read, and I can’t wait until I have a good excuse to return to it again.
Author Re-readability: Sutcliff is one of the very few authors whose books I will buy just on her name alone, as long as I have enough money available and it’s a book I don’t own. Her prose style is so consistently graceful, warm, and personal, that rereading her books feels like reminiscing about shared halcyon days with a fond old friend, and reading a new book by her feels like catching up on the life of a good friend whom you haven’t seen in a long time.
Recommended For: Surely everyone could get something from Sutcliff’s writing, but those who might especially appreciate The Eagle of the Ninth are: history buffs, particularly of Roman and “Dark Age” history, those who love adventure stories, and writers (because anyone who loves words and the good use of words should appreciate Sutcliff’s work)

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News as of April 3

So! I am preparing my episode-by-episode review of Doctor Who Series 2, with David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor. It will probably still take a little while to finish, but I’ve got more notes on each episode than I did for the previous series, so hopefully it’ll go faster by comparison. Also, I finished my long-postponed reread of Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth, and am writing that review too. I’m trying not to compare it too much to the movie adaptation, but certain observations will be made.

Books that I am reading for review are The Dragonheroes by Blake Garrett Anderson and King Arthur’s Children by Tyler Tichelaar, the former an epic fantasy novel in the tradition of David Eddings and the latter a scholarly study of, well, the children of King Arthur in fiction.

Recently I have purchased Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay, Hood by Stephen Lawhead (first in a trilogy that reimagines Robin Hood in a Welsh semi-fantasy setting), and Rudyard Kipling’s Tales of Horror & Fantasy, edited by Stephen Jones with an introduction by the one-and-only Neil Gaiman. It shall be some time before I get to the novels, but perhaps now and then I can review one of Kipling’s short stories.