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Eagles at War: Eagles of Rome 1 by Ben Kane
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Eagles at War: Eagles of Rome 1

by Ben Kane

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The Roman army was not invincible and the impact on history of the defeat at the battle of the Teutoborg forest in AD9 is huge. In this book Ben Kane writes a fictional account of the events leading up to the battle and of the loss of three legions in the mud of Germany.

The leader of the tribes was a naturalized Roman called Arminius, a member of the Cherusci tribe who had risen high in the ranks of the Roman military, but who betrayed his former colleagues and planned an ambush with devastating precision. Kane’s key figure is that of Tullus, an experienced Roman centurion who leads his men from the front but with humanity as well as. Tullus is a fictional character but many of those he interacts with are known in history.

Kane has very obviously researched this book in great detail. His confident knowledge and use of roman terminology is augmented by a glossary so that narrative is not slowed by endless explanations of vocabulary. His knowledge of the movements of the army and the terrain is clear and his descriptions of the battle are bloody and visceral.

This is top notch historical fiction, melding research, passion and quality storytelling.
( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
  TheIdleWoman | Aug 6, 2016 |
Having read Ben Kane's short story about the ex-legionary in the anthology on Pompeii, A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii, and been impressed, I was eager to read his conception of the AD 9 Battle of Teutoberg Forest in Germania, in which three legions were nearly completely massacred and their eagles stolen by the duplicitous Romanized German, Arminius [or to give him his German name Ermin]. Arminius had vowed from a young age to wreak vengeance on the Romans. He trained with them in their military, knew their strategies, and rallied the different tribes to his banner. This story was a masterful retelling. Kane incorporated details from much of the recent archaeological finds, such as a cavalry face mask and a pair of clothes fasteners. His use of historical events seemed quite accurate. He presented Varus, the Roman governor, as an intelligent man, but with a blind spot where Arminius was concerned. This led to devastating consequences. As the book ended, we left some of the men, led by the hero, Centurion Tullus, attempting to make it back to winter quarters at Vetera Fort through hostile Germans. My understanding is that this novel is the first of a trilogy on this battle and its aftermath.

Characterization of the major players was well done; minor ones were ciphers. Battle and skirmish scenes were well done, and not too bloody for me. I also wanted to compare this with an older novel I had read and really liked on the same battle and its aftermath: The Three Legions. My final verdict: this novel's strength is being truer to history and a more modern writing style. It was a pure action/adventure, whereas the other was strongest in characterization. Writing style was that of 50-60 years ago and kept with the strictures of those days. I felt myself comparing the two as I was reading, but that's probably not fair to either. I do wish Mr. Kane would have toned down the profanity and references to bodily functions. Although there was an unnamed woman character, I am very glad Mr. Kane did not include love interest, which would have been out of place here and cheapened the story.

Highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | May 15, 2015 |
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A time for vengeance. German frontier: Close to the Rhine, a Roman centurion, Lucius Tullus, prepares to take his soldiers on patrol. On the opposite side of the river, German tribes are resentful of the harsh taxes about to be imposed upon them. Suspicious that there might be unrest, Tullus knows that his men's survival will be determined not just by their training and discipline, but by his leadership.

A time for war. What neither Tullus nor his commander, Governor Varus, realise is that ranged against them is the charismatic chieftain and trusted ally of Rome, Arminius, who has long been plotting to drive the Romans from the tribal lands east of the Rhine.

A time to die. As Varus' legions prepare to leave their summer encampment, thousands of warriors - directed by Arminius - are massing nearby. Eager to throw off the Roman yoke, the tribesmen prepare a deadly ambush. Only the gods can save the Romans now....
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