Eagles at War by Ben Kane

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Eagles at War by Ben Kane

Buy Eagles at War by Ben Kane at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sam Tyler
Reviewed by Sam Tyler
Summary: There are three things in life that are certain; death, Roman taxes and historic fiction being gruesome fun. Join Tullus and Arminius as they fight on opposing sides to determine who should rule Germany in AD 9.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: April 2015
Publisher: Preface Publishing
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781848094048

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War, what is it good for? Looking at the ever buoyant historic fiction genre it would appear that war is great for selling books. This is especially the case with the Romans; there are more books about Ancient Roman battles than there were mad Caesars. One of the leading names in the historic fiction genre is Ben Kane and when he releases the first book in a new series fans of the genre take notice, but would they be right to do so?

Eagles at War may sound like it is taken from the Simon Scarrow Marco and Cato series, but this book is all Kane and covers a fictionalised retelling of a real event that I was unaware of. In AD 9 the Romans thought they had the local German populace tamed, but unbeknownst to Emperor Augustus and his Generals, the tribes had been rallied by the turncoat Arminius. The tribes have put aside their differences to make a concerted and joint attack against the occupying force. Will centurion Lucius Tullus survive to tell the tale?

The plots for books set in the Roman era sometimes feel as well trodden as the roads that the soldiers of the time walked on; battle at the start, a bit of intrigue and then a battle at the end. Kane himself is not adverse to this and Eagles at War starts as if it will be the same again. However, this is a slow burn of a book that develops a sense of dreaded anticipation, rather than just plying the reader with plenty of gruesome action (although that is also in abundance).

Kane is able to portray the world of AD 9 wonderfully. An era of Roman arrogance and boiling German hatred. The first two thirds of the book are stretched out to introduce us to Tullus and Arminius as their paths intersect. The reader is aware from an early stage that although Arminius is a Romanised German, his heart remains with his tribe. Witnessing him working behind the back of his own army is done extremely well and you start to dread what will happen to the Roman army when their General ignores the warnings of the likes of Tullus.

What makes the book stand out are two things; the moral ambiguity of the characters and the battle sequences towards the end. In terms of who to root for, Eagles at War does not really offer a palatable hero. Tullus would normally be the lead – he is a noble fighter, but he kills with ease and don’t the German people have the right to fight for their homeland? So is Arminius the hero; is he a traitor, terrorist or freedom fighter? Kane places neither the Romans nor the Germans in the right; this makes the book feel more authentic and the final battles all the more barbaric. Based on real events the massacre that concludes the book is all the more powerful as neither side covers themselves in glory.

With a slow start and ambiguous leads Eagles at War is one of the more complex historic fiction books that I have read in recent years. Some readers will find themselves unable to care for either side and pondering why war is so depressing. However, this theme is perfectly valid and should perhaps be explored more often in a genre that profits in a lot of ways from the wars of yesteryear. Read the book and enjoy it, just remember that 2000 years ago real men, women and children died in the conflict.

Bookbag had an interview with Ben Kane back in 2009, which is certainly worth reading; after that you can check out one of his earlier novels such as The Forgotten Legion.

Buy Eagles at War by Ben Kane at Amazon You could get a free audio download of Eagles at War by Ben Kane with a 30-day Audible free trial at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy Eagles at War by Ben Kane at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Eagles at War by Ben Kane at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Eagles at War by Ben Kane at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Eagles at War by Ben Kane at Amazon.com.


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