Well crafted, detailed and expertly told historical fiction with an element of fantasy.
The Forgotten Legion, the first book in The Forgotten Legion Chronicles was the eighth bestselling debut novel in 2008 and won Ben Kane comparisons to Bernard Cromwell and Conn Iggulden. It was also Fantasy Book Review’s Book of the Month for May 2009. The Silver Eagle continues the story.
The Forgotten Legion – ten thousand legionnaires made captive by the Parthians – has marched to Margiana on the edge of the known world. In the midst are Romulus, Brennus and Tarquinius, all men with good reason to hate Rome. Together the trio must face the savage tribes which constantly threaten the area. But other, more treacherous enemies lurk within the ranks of the Forgotten Legion itself. When all hope is lost, the three friends’ character will be tested to the upper limit.
Meanwhile in Rome, Fabiola, Romulus’ twin sister, also fights to survive. Beset by enemies on all sides, she must travel to Gaul to find her lover, Caesar’s right-hand man. There tribal rebellion under the charismatic chieftain, Vercingetorix, threatens not just Caesar’s route to power, but his life and the lives of all who support him.
The Forgotten Legion was an excellent book, historical fiction at its finest. The characters were larger than life - yet believable - and the tale of bravery, suffering and hope at the height of the Roman Empire made for compelling reading.
The Silver Eagle is a very brave second book; it does not simply attempt to recreate the winning formula of the first book but introduces new elements that see it move away from traditional historical fiction and into areas that could divide its existing fan base.
There are two areas in which I thought the author showed courage. Firstly, Fabiola takes on an increasingly authoritative and prominent role. The reason I think this is bold is because I remember the reception to David Gemmell’s Andromache in his Troy series – she was similarly confident and commanding of men but many commented that this simply couldn’t have happened in that time and place. I personally think that her character works, due to her relationship with Brutus, although some may not agree with me.
The second act of daring was in moving slightly away from solid historical fiction and more into the fantasy/mysticism arena. This will delight some but many prefer their historical fiction to be more swords than sorcery, more might than magic. It will be interesting to see how those who enjoyed the first book receive Fabiola and the new fantasy element.
If you take The Silver Eagle as a whole you will find that Ben Kane has once again written another captivating book, one that is very good at making you start another chapter rather than doing the something else you had planned (such as sleeping). There are also pleasant little references to what has gone before for those who may need their memory refreshing (as well as a very helpful glossary).
The Silver Eagle is an extremely well crafted novel; detailed, and expertly told with serious and engaging characters. It is novel that focuses on the experience of the ordinary soldier, a tale that allows us to travel through Gaul, Egypt, India and Persia. The stage is now well set and I look forward to the third and final instalment.
About the author
Ben Kane was born in Kenya and grew up there and in Ireland. He studied veterinary medicine at University College Dublin, and afterwards he travelled the world extensively, indulging his passion for ancient history. Now he lives in North Somerset, where he researches, writes and also practices as a small animal vet. The Forgotten Legion chronicles are born of a lifelong fascination with military history in general, and Roman history in particular.
Review by Floresiensis
Ben Kane was born in Nairobi in 1970, returning to Ireland when he was 7. From an early age he loved reading all things historical, devouring classics written by authors like Henry Treece, Rosemary Sutcliffe, T.H. White and S [...]
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