A few years ago, I saw a movie called The Eagle which was about Rome’s 9th Legion disappearing in the north of Britain and their leader’s son trying to retrieve their eagle, the emblem of Rome’s strength and courage. It wasn’t a great movie but it was interesting and had its moments. I thought this novel might be similar as it was tagged as being about the Forgotten Legion. However, The Silver Eagle takes place about 200 years earlier and while it is about Roman soldiers, Roman politics, gladiators, Julius Caesar, the ancient gods, the lives of slaves, merchants, soothsayers, and ordinary people, it wasn’t really anything like the movie I had seen.
The Silver Eagle is Ben Kane‘s 2nd novel in his Forgotten Legion Trilogy (#1: The Forgotten Legion; #3: The Road to Rome) about 1st century B.C. Eurasia. It has a map inside the front cover and a glossary at the back. (I wish I’d seen the glossary before I read my way to the back.) The story is about twins, Romulus and Fabiola, who were born slaves, the result of their mother being raped by a nobleman. Their early lives were lived in the power of a cruel merchant, Gemellus, who raped their mother every night. When his fortunes failed, Gemellus sold the twins separately, Fabiola to a brothel, and Romulus to the forum to be a gladiator. It is a hard life for each of them. When Spartacus leads a rebellion among the gladiators, Romulus escapes his slave life and joins an army fighting for the Republic. Unfortunately, their army is soundly defeated and thousands of them are captured and marched to the far east where they are forced to fight for their Parthian captors defending the borders against invaders who use poison arrows.
Given the times, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are lots of battles, a fair bit of blood and gore, much superstition, and quite a bit of sexual cruelty as well as jealousy and a general disregard for human life. Kane obviously knows his history and the terms of the time. His descriptions carry a reality with them and there is lots of action. The story moves along but skips back and forth between the events in Romulus’ life and those of Fabiola’s life. These two are continually getting into one scrape after another and are usually saved just in the nick of time. The ending, as apparently with the 1st in the series, is a bit of a cliff-hanger. I found it interesting but it wasn’t particularly my cup of tea. Maybe you read it and liked it? Tell us about it. * * * 1/2