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The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff
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The Lantern Bearers is the third in the Eagle of the Ninth sequence (or fourth if you include the later novel Frontier Wolf) and is probably my favourite of the lot.

The novel (ostensibly written for young adults but Sutcliff never talks down to her audience and it reads like an adult novel) begins with the last of the Roman Legions leaving Britain, never to return, and our hero, Aquila (a descendant of the previous books heroes. He wears the familiar signet ring.), deserting to stay behind with his family. But his peace is short-lived as the Saxons invade, burning and killing all in their path. Aquila is captured and carried off over the North Sea to serve three years as a Jutish thrall, while his sister is taken prisoner by Saxons. He returns, eventually, and escapes to begin the long journey to redemption by taking service with Ambrosius, Prince of Britain, who seeks to drive out the invaders and unite the tribes of Britain.

The timespan of this story is the longest of any of Sutcliff's Eagle novels, twenty year pass as we follow Aquila from slavery to command of a cavalry wing under Ambrosius. He is a complex character, full of bitterness and regret initially, who finds it difficult to interact with his wife and son in the way he wants to. Some of Sutcliff's best writing is here, detailing the relationships as well as the battles. Every character is fully realised, the story gripping and moving.

The Lantern Bearers also sets the stage for her next novel, Sword At Sunset, which is her take on the King Arthur story, set in a post-Roman Britain. Artos, as Arthur is called here, crops up as Ambrosius's nephew, a brilliant cavalry leader who inspires complete devotion in his men.

There is an air of melancholy that runs through the book too, a sorrow for the loss of the civilisation that Rome brought to Britain. Ambrosius and his followers are left to guard the light of civilisation against the encroaching darkness of the Saxon hordes, which they do, for a time. Hence the title.

It is perhaps a darker novel than her previous books, less a ripping adventure yarn than a meditation on loss - of family, of Rome, of certainty. But quite brilliant all the same. ( )
2 vote David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff is the third book in her Roman Britain series. (also known as the Dolphin Ring Cycle.) I still have book 2 in the series to read, but McLure did not have book 2 so I skipped it for now. That is part of the beauty of this old series (this book was published in the early 60's) - the trilogy doesn't follow each book immediately but puts the focus on different points in time that are important to the development of the history of Britain.

The major characters of this book are still the Flavian family but this time it is at the end of the Roman Empire. The Legions are called back to Rome and Aquila makes the decision to desert and stay in Britain rather than go with his Legion to Rome. It is the beginning of a long hard journey that brings the reader to the struggle to preserve Britain for the British rather than surrender all of it to the migrating and invading Jutes, Angles, and Saxons, as well as the Vikings.

This is a sad book as it is clearly about endings and how hard decisions are made that affect a person for the rest of their life. Historically it is about the rise of Ambrosias and Artos. The King Arthur of legend and fame.

This book won the Carnegie medal for children's literature when it was published and it is very deserving of that hono. ( )
1 vote benitastrnad | Dec 15, 2015 |
One of my Favorite Rosemary Sutcliff books. Several of her books are listed as young adult but frankly are so well written and sometimes deal with some pretty adult stuff I'm not sure why.

She effectively evokes the mood and scenes that draw you into the ancient British lands. While it has been many years I still remember the dolphin ring and the oath calling on the mountains to fall on the oath taker if they did not keep their word. Probably one that I could stand to re-read soon. ( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
I love these atmospheric and colourfully told old historical novels. But I wonder how many children or young teenagers now could take the very slow pace at which the story unfolds, or identify with its rather dour hero Aquila.
  PollyMoore3 | Jan 18, 2015 |
One of the Aquila family stories, and deals with Ambrosius Aurelianus. A good book, though we are being set up for `The Sword at Sunset`. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jan 19, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rosemary Sutcliffprimary authorall editionscalculated
Keeping, CharlesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lively, PenelopeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pisarev, RomanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374443025, Paperback)

Threatened by a tide of invaders, the last of the Roman Auxiliaries are to leave Britain forever. But Aquila, a young legionnaire, chooses to stay behind, in order to join the fight to save his native land.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:37 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Instead of leaving with the last of the Roman legions, Aquila, a young officer, decides that his loyalties lie with Britain, and he eventually joins the forces of the Roman-British leader Ambrosius to fight against the Saxon hordes.

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