The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff
Guess why I read this? Go on. Guess. To be fair, I have been meaning to read this for a long time (ever since the film version came out in 2011 in fact, and I’ve had it on my Kindle since Christmas), but it was after reading The Shadowy Horses and not getting a resolution on the search for the legion that made me finally pick up Rosemary Sutcliff’s take on the mystery of the Ninth Legion.
For a children’s story, The Eagle of the Ninth is a really good story. I feel bad using that qualifier, because it implies that most children’s stories are bad, which is blatantly not true. I think what I mean is that there is clearly a lot of research gone into it, and it has a no holds barred depiction of the Roman occupation of Britain that doesn’t shy away from violence where necessary. I think this is best exhibited in the fact that the main character is referred to several times as a follower of Mithras, when most fiction aimed at adults wouldn’t touch on that.
I did know what I was getting with the story, as as I said, I have already seen the film (which is definitely worth watching, despite the interesting linguistic choice of having the Pictish characters speaking Gaelic!), and any cuts made between the two are fairly insubstantial, (aside from the climax, which swaps a covert flight for a full on battle, as per usual!) though it was nice that the whole time I was picturing Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell as the two main characters the whole time I was reading.
I can’t think of anything really to complain about this book, or any detractions to level against it at all, which is in itself, fairly high praise. It’s short, it’s incredibly well written, there’s no reason for you not to read it!