The mighty Roman army faces Britain's defiant tribes in the series's powerful fifth book It is late summer AD 44, and the battle-weary Roman legions are in their second year of campaigning against the British tribes. The troop'' commander, General Plautius, is under considerable pressure from the emperor to crush the natives once and for all. Centurions Macro and Cato are with the crack Second Legion under the precarious leadership of Centurion Maximus, and it's their task to hold a ford across the river Tamesis when the natives are forced into a trap. But Maximus's nerve breaks at the critical point, allowing the enemy leader and his men to escape. Outraged by this failure, General Plautius orders the decimation of Macro and Cato's unit. Their choice: die, or escape to become fugitives pursued by soldiers of their own ruthless army. Hiding from their former comrades, as well as the Britons, Cato's small band of fugitives has only one chance to redeem itself before its soldiers are hunted down, like animals.
As Rome consolidates its control over Britain in A.D. 44, the legions prepare to lure the remaining defiant tribes into a trap to crush their resistance; the Emperor Claudius is anxious for the new colony to be pacified; and his commander in Britain, Plautius, is clearly feeling the imperial heat to Romanize "those bog-hopping barbarian bastards." When thousands of the native warriors slip through the trap into the nearby marshes, one Second Legion unit is blamed for the lapse: that of the young and impressionable Cato and the crafty veteran Macro, returning for the fifth installment in Scarrow's series of Eagle-titled military historicals. The intrigue and treachery that follow condemn Cato to death and get Macro relieved of his command. Redemption requires the two to deliver the rebel commander, Caratacus, to their superiors. Scarrow's combat is brutal and sanguinary; his imperial politics are almost as sharp. The pace throughout, whether in debating tactics or deploying slings and arrows, is fast, building to a satisfyingly high pitch. Scarrow hits his stride with this fluid post-Caligula bloodbath. In a one-two swing of the blade, his appealing odd couple's next appearance is set for this December. (Nov. 4)
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Thomas Dunne Books
October 12, 2005
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