Reviewed by David Maclaine
The Eagle’s Conquest is the second installment in Simon Scarrow’s series on the military adventures of the odd-couple duo of Macro and Cato. Macro is an experienced lower-level officer. Cato is an educated freedman raised in the imperial household who in this novel is beginning to feel at home in the new world of a Roman legion on campaign. This time the campaign to conquer Britain is moving toward a crisis. There are rivers to be crossed and fortifications to storm if the army is to meet its schedule and be ready to break British resistance in a battle supervised by Emperor Claudius himself. But the arrival of the imperial household brings with it a new whirl of conspiracy. A plot is brewing against the emperor, and our heroes have more to worry about than a succession of deadly encounters on the battlefield. Cato’s concerns include his relationship with a lovely slave and his fear that he has a rival for his affections.
Many of the secondary characters from Under the Eagle return in The Eagle’s Conquest, including the Second Legion’s steadfast commander Vespasian and the scheming Vitellius, with Emperor Claudius added to the mix as well. This is not the wily version of Claudius created by Robert Graves, but instead a deluded armchair general whose misplaced confidence may lead to disaster. Can you guess whose skill and bravery will save the army from its blundering overlord? Okay, that’s an easy one, but the big battle is still a treat. More suspenseful still is the climax of the assassination plot, in which it’s very much up in the air which characters will survive. Once again Scarrow delivers what you’d expect from a military adventure: well-crafted action whose historical trappings feel authentic, centering on an event, in this case the battle for Britain, that’s well worth exploring in detail. (2002, 320 pages)More about The Eagle's Conquest at Powell's Books or Amazon.com