Friday, December 13, 2002

Simon Scarrow, a high school history teacher from Norfolk, England and author of "Under The Eagle" has produced a second novel, "The Eagle's Conquest". Unfortunately, the critics of Publishers Weekly weren't too impressed:

From Publishers Weekly
"British writer Scarrow (Under the Eagle) offers a second action novel set in ancient Rome, focusing on a key battle in Britain during the Roman invasion led by Claudius in 43 A.D., then turning to an attempt to assassinate Claudius. The first half of the book follows the adventures of Centurion Macro and his eager young subordinate, Optio Cato (both of whom played prominent roles in the first book), as the Romans try to outmaneuver the forces of Caratacus, king of the Celtic tribes of Britain, in a series of skirmishes along the Thames. The battle scenes are lifeless and generic despite the nonstop action, mostly because Scarrow offers little in the way of character development (most of the combatants are military stereotypes) or period detail (the contemporary colloquialisms offer some unintentional levity: "Just make sure you get some proper bloody swimming lessons," Macro chides Cato). The assassination conspiracy that takes up the second half of the book is far more interesting. Macro and Cato must get to the bottom of a plot involving fellow soldier Vitellius, a Carthaginian surgeon and Flavia Lavinia, a former romantic interest of Cato's. Scarrow deftly negotiates this tricky, labyrinthian story line, but his writing style remains pedestrian. Cato and Marco are one-dimensional, albeit fitfully amusing, protagonists. Scarrow will need to elaborate their personalities considerably if they're to carry the sequel that Scarrow foreshadows in this book's rather predictable conclusion. "
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

However, a new Roman novel, Centurion: A Novel of Ancient Rome by Peter W. Mitsopoulos garnered respectable reviews. The story recalls the Varan disaster in the Teutoburg Forest. One critic remarks:

"[The author] He provides a good sense of the metropolitan nature of the roman empire. We meet italians, greeks, gauls, germans, egyptians, etc. He gives an accurate description of the weapons, equipment, politics, prevading beliefs, etc. common to the legions in the 1st century without being forced. These historical facts flow naturally in the course of his characters' actions and conversation, so the story is as much educational as it is entertaining."

You have to dig deep for this one though. Even the paperback edition is listed for nearly $30 (US) up on Amazon. Half.com have copies for about $20.