The Silver Branch, by Rosemary Sutcliff
Back to the Lost Legion again. Except this time, although the book is a sequel to the Eagle of the Ninth, it takes place 200 years later, during a series of rebellions by the Romano-Britons against the empire.
The Silver Branch definitely isn’t as good as its prequel. It’s a little convoluted and hard to follow in places, but on the whole it’s still a really good children’s story, that has all the strengths I mentioned in my previous review.
Like Eagle, the Silver Branch is a story of family honour and loyalty to the eternal Rome, though the form this vision takes has changed drastically in the past two centuries. No longer are the army inherently strong and noble (though the beginnings of this were seen at the end of Eagle) Nor is the authority of the Empire still ordered and perfect. The empire has declined, and Britain is going down with it, and that is the world The Silver Branch takes place in.
Part of the reason I didn’t like it as much as the first book is that I knew nothing of the history, and since the preface states that most of what is told is based in truth, I was as much concerned with working out the history as I was with the story itself. Which is never a good way to read a book. In any case, despite my glowing recommendation for The Eagle of the Ninth, I’ll temper it back a bit for the sequel. If you happen to buy the combined copy of the first three books in the series, then there’s no reason not to read the second (I’ll maybe get back to you on the third), but I wouldn’t go so far as to say you should hunt it out.