Scarrow's third historical (Under the Eagle; The Eagle's Conquest) continues to chart the first-century Roman invasion of ancient Britain, as it records-skirmish by skirmish-the exploits of Centurion Macro, who commands the Sixth Century of the Fourth Cohort of the Second Roman Legion, and his optio (junior officer), Cato. In the early winter of A.D. 44, a supply vessel carrying the wife and two children of General Plautius is shipwrecked off the British coast. The general's family-with Prefect Valerius Maxentius, their official escort-is taken prisoner by the bloodthirsty Druids of the Dark Moon. A short time later, Maxentius, accompanied by a Druid warrior, approaches the Roman encampment and delivers an ultimatum: unless the Romans release five Druid prisoners, the general's family will be burned alive. In case anyone doubted his seriousness, the Druid summarily beheads Maxentius. Following the Fourth Cohort's great losses fighting its way through a horde of Britons, Plautius dispatches Macro and Cato to rescue his family. Macro and Cato's difficult undertaking is further complicated when their two captive guides turn out to be Macro's former girlfriend and her fianc , a fearsome Druid magician. Despite Scarrow's attempt to invest his characters with personality, they come across as cardboard cutouts, and their anachronistic dialogue is off-putting. But his settings are well described and, however predictable, the plotting is strong, with much of the action reminiscent of Bernard Cornwell's. Albeit a bit slight and sporadic, Scarrow's novel demonstrates improvement in crafting, which bodes well for the expected sequel. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Third installment in Scarrow's saga of Roman centurion Macro (The Eagle's Conquest, 2002, etc.), who rose from obscurity to command legionaries in an obscure outpost of the Empire known as Britain. Those who have followed Macro's rise will know the terrain, but newcomers should have no trouble picking up in media res. An illiterate foot soldier who rose to become a centurion (rough equivalent of a modern captain) in the crack Second Legion, Macro has survived both combat and palace intrigue and finds himself beset now by the warring tribes of Britain in a.d. 44. Although the British warlord Caratacus was soundly defeated (in the last episode), he somehow managed to escape the battlefield alive and has been coordinating resistance efforts against the Roman occupiers ever since. Some of his fiercest allies are the Druids of the Dark Moon, a bloodthirsty and fanatical cult who maraud through the country arousing terror in Roman and Briton alike. The Druids even manage to capture the wife and children of the Roman General Plautius after a shipwreck, and they demand the release of Druid prisoners in exchange for their prisoners' safe return. Since the Druids are fond of burning their captives alive in gigantic wooden totems known as Wicker Men, there's little doubt what lies in store for the general's family should he refuse to comply. But Macro and his faithful lieutenant Cato believe they can organize a rescue in time. Macro is aided by the dauntless Boudica, a tough daughter of the neutral Iceni tribe, who knows more about dealing with the Druids than ten centurions could ever learn. Together, Macro and Boudica manage something even more difficult than the raid itself-that is, fall in love.An account of war and religious fanaticism with plenty of spice, though not up to the adventure level of the first two.