Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

Cover Art for The eagle of the Ninth Here is another long lost jewel of a book.  Marcus Aquila is a young Roman centurion on his first assignment.  He is charged with leading a legion to a Roman outpost in Britain.  During his first year there, the outpost is attacked by Druids, and through great personal bravery he is able to repel the attack.  He is wounded in the process, and must retire from service.  Once his leg begins to recover, he agrees to undertake a dangerous mission to try to recover the lost eagle standard of his father's legion, which had disappeared without a trace 20 years earlier.  He takes with him his freed slave, Esca, and together they enter the world of semi-primitive Celtic tribes. This was written by Rosemary Sutcliff back in 1954. It is shelved in the Children's department, but the story contains no children.  It made me think about other older children's novels.  Swiss Family Robinson, Robison Carouso, and even The Hobbit are books written with children in mind, but are about the adventures of adults.  At what point did publishers decide that all children's books had to be about children?  I could totally see a child, probably a boy, reading this book, and then wanting to pretend to be a Roman Centurion at all his recess games for the next month or more.  It is a wonderful adventure, and both Marcus and Esca are tremendously heroic and noble characters.  The story is full of action, adventure and danger, but devoid of any really graphic violence.  Even when Marcus is injured, he merely passes out in battle and wakes up with a massive leg wound.  Anyway,  if there were a family with boys ages 8, 10, and 12, this would be a great story to read together as a family, a chapter per night.  I would not, however recommend the recorded book version to the same family.  For some reason the publisher decided to insert 30 seconds of random classical music between each chapter.  The music doesn't match the story very well, and slows down the action.  Sadly the book has a most unfortunate cover.  I am not sure what 10 year old would ever pick it up and read it.  The recorded book cover is somewhat better. (291 p.)

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