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1,0701314,617 (3.96)54
A young Roman army medical officer, sent to Britain during the period of waning Roman rule, befriends a kinsman with whom he shares an adventure of intrigue, exile, and underground activity with the Lost Ninth Legion.
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» See also 54 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff is a wonderful young adult historical adventure novel that I dearly love. There are many reasons why, and I could go on forever about all of them. Instead, I'll jump between a few representative highlights of some elements I appreciate most.

My favorite part of this book is most definitely the characters. Flavius and Justin, especially, but also each of their friends - from strange little Cullen to tall and fabulous Evicatos of the Spear, from the great little Emperor to the inimitable Aunt Honoria. Even the villains and other evil characters are so well-written - realistic, believable, dastardly, complex, and never cliche - and the main villain and his henchmen are possibly the very best antagonists I've ever read in my life. I could go on for ages and ages about what I love about each of the heroes, but I'll focus on just a few prominent things - though be assured there are many more than these.

I love Flavius and Justin's character qualities - their incredible strength, goodness, commitment, loyalty, sense of duty, kindness, leadership, and courage. I love their good-natured, friendly, cheerful, and witty dispositions - Flavius in his fiery, bright way, and Justin in his own quiet, steady way. I love their close and brotherly friendship and the way they stick by each other, fighting alongside one another, through thick and thin. I identify with their loneliness and rejoice that they found each other and each gained a close companion who is much more than merely a friend or kinsman. I love stories of cousins, and there aren't enough in the world - and this is arguably my favorite one.

I love Flavius's great leadership, and Justin's as well - equally admirable in both although and because it comes easily to Flavius but not to Justin. Flavius is strong and valiant and is the first in every attack and the last in every retreat, as is Justin. Both of them are always with their men in the most dangerous place, fighting shoulder to shoulder with the rest and rallying them on to victory or defeat. I love Flavius's immense and laughter-ridden pride in his men, whether his cohort, his band of spies, or his motley, tattered "legion." I love the way he cares for his men as individuals like only a good leader can. There's a reason his men would follow him to the earth's end and back and through any battle or risk of death.

I love that Justin is a surgeon and a healer in every way - in title, heart, hands, mind, and very being. He's committed to doing his work to the best of his ability, and he always, always puts his medical duty and his patients first. He has incredible compassion, empathy, kindness, and care for people, and he has eyes to truly, deeply see them and a heart that cares and helps others. I love how he carries his surgical instrument case through everything he goes through, even beyond the seeming end of the world he knows. Without him ever saying so, the value he places on his career and his skill to live it out are vividly apparent in his every thought and action. I love that he's not strong in body but never lets that stop him. He was sickly as a child - part of what gave him his desire to be a surgeon - and he doesn't have physical strength or stamina, but he pushes on anyway, every bit as much as Flavius, and he never bows out of the fight. I identify with Justin so much - his identity as a healer and medical professional (though I'm not one quite yet); his insecurities, his feeling of not being good enough, and his low self-esteem; his compassion, empathy, kindness, and care; his desire and ability to help and heal others; and much more. I'm a tall, reasonably pretty female, and he's the opposite, but I recognize my heart and being in him.

I love this book's depiction of courage throughout, and it's one of my many favorite things about the characters and themes of The Silver Branch. Several of the characters exemplify this quality, and not just the two main heroes. Paulinus likes comfort and is timid and not at all adventurous, yet he risks mortal danger daily to fight for what he believes is right and save countless lives. Justin and Flavius know the danger, like Paulinus, and they at first do not want to join him in this task, but they can't help it in the end - their goodness and sense of justice win over their fear. They repeatedly make the difficult choice to continue Paulinus's work even when they could more easily refuse. And even before that, everything Justin and Flavius do speaks of their courage and refusal to do anything but what is right. They risk their lives to twice warn the emperor, to do Paulinus's work, and to fight in desperate battle to save the townspeople, the province, and countless individuals. Then there's Anthonius, who risks his own life to bodily defend the weak and helpless - and suffers the dangerous consequences for doing so. Then, after seeing the horrific danger first-hand, he makes the same courageous choice as Justin and Flavius - because he feels what they're doing is right and good. He also risks persecution for his faith but follows his Christ anyway, and I admire that as well - and I hope and trust that I would do the same. Their friends and comrades show courage as well as they fight alongside them. Each of these men, and others as well, risk death and terrible danger to fight for what's right - to fight corruption, wickedness, oppression, and darkness with light, justice, humanity, and kindness. That takes immense courage. These men stand up for what is right against overwhelming evil when most others want simply to stay safe and survive. To me, thought they are fictional, they represent real people throughout history and the world who have risked their lives to faithfully fight for what is right and true in the face of great danger and evil.

I love how extremely vivid and powerful the scenes and settings of The Silver Branch are. The pulsing tension of dark shadow shot with red flame; the pure beauty of marshes and birdsong, grassy hills and clouded skies; the soft, warm, golden lamplight; the bustling, colorful crowds and deserted natural expanses.

I love that Justin has an eye for small but significant details about people, places, and events. He truly sees things and people, and he thinks deeply about them. It shows in the few important details that are described in his narrative, details that have far, far deeper significance than they seem to have on the surface: a precious apple-tree, a half-finished chess game, a crimson "rose for the arena," Justin's instrument case, a battered gold eagle standard, a half-eaten radish, a leaf-bladed spear ringed with dangling white feathers, a sprig of rye grass, a green-painted dolphin sign, a faraway beacon gleaming red in the night, a country farm, a singed and crushed moth, a silver branch of tinkling bells, a green flawed emerald ring. And I could go on for even longer about the small vivid details that make each and every character incredibly real, alive, and human. These small details of people make the main and minor characters of Sutcliff and especially The Silver Branch the most lifelike characters I've ever read. They come to life in vivid relief with only a few descriptive details, and I can see every feature and movement of each person, which is rare for me.

I love that this book includes such wonderful female characters. Though they are on the page for much less time than the boys, they're all the more potent, vivid, and strong for that, since they're no less compelling than any of the men. Aunt Honoria is the most prominent and wonderful woman in this book, and she shines gloriously beside Flavius and Justin throughout. Aunt Honoria is amazing, and I adore her, admire her, and hope I become half the woman she is. She always keeps her cool and poise even in the most harrowing of situations - which is ironically the only time we see her - and rises to every challenge. I love her vivaciousness, her crooked but fabulous make-up, her generosity, her unique and lovely voice and laughter, her affectionate care for her nephews, her youth despite her age, her courage, and her immense strength of character. Other female characters appear for a total of only a few pages each, but they are themselves vivid, wonderful, and admirable. Vast and motherly Volumnia, the delicate and fragile "girl like a pale flower" who shows great courage and steadiness, and Manlius's courageous wife and other unnamed women who aid the heroes in their fight. I even love that romance is technically non-existent in this book - but I also love that there's still a barely perceptible hint of what may happen in the future, which I earnestly hope and believe must certainly take place someday.

I love the ending of this book. It's so perfectly bittersweet, and full of joy and tragedy, and it looks back on all the joys and sorrows of the rest of the book - battles and friends won and lost, hardships endured, victories and struggles. The final desperate battle is intense, heart-wrenching, and glorious. And I love how even though the heroes' fight has ended, they are given a new beginning and hope after it all.

I highly, highly recommend The Silver Branch to all readers of historical or adventure - and to any reader of any genre who loves compelling characters, suspenseful plots, and deep and beautiful writing. ( )
  Aerelien | Mar 23, 2020 |
If I had to point out one aspect of this book that earned it a five-star rating, it would definitely be the friendship between Flavius and Justin. From the moment they met they were inseparable, and they were stationed together, fought together, and suffered together. I think I could get away with calling them brothers.
That last battle scene about got me. The imagery was intense, the losses steep, and the reader watched helplessly. Actually, now that I think about it, that could be said for the whole book. There's so much packed into these 175 pages, and rarely a quiet moment.
And then there's Paulinus. Paulinus, who recruited our intrepid boys, died in their place, and left them his position to continue helping escaped soldiers, gladiators, you name it. He was such a great character, and shaped Justin and Flavius in so many ways.
Be aware that the various gods the Romans worshiped are mentioned from time to time, and there are some violent scenes, because of the time period and subject matter of tyranny, respectively.
And yes, I would definitely recommend this. Yes, yes,yes! I don't know why I didn't read this sooner. ( )
  Marypo | Nov 19, 2019 |
If I had to point out one aspect of this book that earned it a five-star rating, it would definitely be the friendship between Flavius and Justin. From the moment they met they were inseparable, and they were stationed together, fought together, and suffered together. I think I could get away with calling them brothers.
That last battle scene about got me. The imagery was intense, the losses steep, and the reader watched helplessly. Actually, now that I think about it, that could be said for the whole book. There's so much packed into these 175 pages, and rarely a quiet moment.
And then there's Paulinus. Paulinus, who recruited our intrepid boys, died in their place, and left them his position to continue helping escaped soldiers, gladiators, you name it. He was such a great character, and shaped Justin and Flavius in so many ways.
Be aware that the various gods the Romans worshiped are mentioned from time to time, and there are some violent scenes, because of the time period and subject matter of tyranny, respectively.
And yes, I would definitely recommend this. Yes, yes,yes! I don't know why I didn't read this sooner. ( )
  Marypo | Nov 19, 2019 |
The adventures of two young roman Britons in the legions of the short term emperor Catausius. The narrative skips over all the year and a half as a sort of underground movement to spend it's time on highlights of meetings and battles, the actual sole purpose of which seems to be to get the eagle from its previous storage place to the basilica at Calleva/Silchester. ( )
  quondame | Aug 8, 2019 |
This is loosely a sequel to the author's more famous novel Eagle of the Ninth, that is the eagle of the famous lost Roman legion that disappeared in northern Britain (I was prompted to read this after last week's Doctor Who episode offered a possible explanation for its disappearance). This sequel takes place a century and a half or so later, and concerns a descendant of the finder of the lost eagle, Flavius and his friend Justin. At a period when the Roman Empire has become too big to be ruled by one man, they uncover a plot to usurp the "little" Emperor Carausius in Britain, a plot led by the latter's chief adviser Allectus. This story has a good narrative drive and is as well written as its predecessor. One anachronism: during an idle moment some characters play chess, which had not yet been invented. ( )
  john257hopper | Jun 22, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rosemary Sutcliffprimary authorall editionscalculated
García Lorenzana, FranciscoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Garrido, HectorCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keeping, CharlesIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mikolaycak, CharlesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On a blustery autumn day a galley was nosing up the wide loop of a British river that widened into the harbour of Rutupiae.
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A young Roman army medical officer, sent to Britain during the period of waning Roman rule, befriends a kinsman with whom he shares an adventure of intrigue, exile, and underground activity with the Lost Ninth Legion.

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A young Roman army medical officer, sent to Britain during the period of waning Roman rule, befriends a kinsman with whom he shares an adventure of intrigue, exile, and underground activity with the Lost Ninth Legion.
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