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Eagle in the Snow [Paperback]

Wallace Breem
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 18 2002 Phoenix Press
The year is 406, and the hero of this remarkable historical novel (soon to become a film) is the commander Maximus. Only a single Roman legion stands guard on the Rhine, and these few men, led by the determined general, must somehow hold off the barbarian hordes. A taut and gripping story of the fall of the Roman empire, as seen through Maximus's eyes.

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About the Author

Wallace Breem was born in 1926 and educated at Westminster School. In 1944 he entered the Indian Army Officers' Training School and later joined a crack regiment of the North West Frontier Force. After the war he took a number of temporary jobs, eventually joining the library staff of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. By 1965 he had become the 11th Chief Librarian and Keeper of Manuscripts. He was a founder member of the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians. He served the organisation in a number of senior capacities from 1969 until his death in 1990, when the Association and the Inner Temple jointly set up a Memorial Award in his honour.

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"You think I am lucky because I am old, because I knew a world that was not turned upside down." Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Orgin of Pressfield's Gates of Fire? May 31 2004
By A Customer
It is quite telling that this reprinting of Wallace Breem's 1970 novel "Eagle in the Snow" has a forward by Steven Pressfield, author of the best selling novel, "Gates of Fire." Because upon reading "Eagle in the Snow," it's very evident that this is where Pressfield got the idea of his novel being narrated by the sole survivor of a lost battle retelling his story for an audience. It is little wonder that Pressfield is so praiseworthy in the forward because "borrowing" the narrative format from "Eagle in the Snow" helped make him a very wealthy man.
Breem has an eye for detail in some matters, but not in others. For instance, he gives few details on how these people looked like. How are these barbarians dressed and what do they use for armor and weapons? Do these early 5th century Roman legionnaires look anything like the 1st century Legionnaires shown on the cover of the book? (The cover of this reprint was obviously designed to attract fans of the movie "Gladiator." It also helps that the main character is a Roman general named "Maximus." Did "Gladiator's" screenplay writers read this book?") I would have really appreciated more detail on arms and equipment, but Breem gives very little. Also, I was curious why Breem didn't even bother giving a name to one of the few female characters in the story- she's just "Rando's daughter" or "the girl."
Where Breem does give detail is on the personalities of various characters- ruthless, opportunistic barbarian kings; cowardly, venal civilian authorities; and proud, professional Roman soldiers. (Breem, a former British Army officer, does not hide his sympathies.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MAGNIFICENT Oct. 24 2003
Rome fell because Romans stoped believing in its glory. The one man who cared watches his legion die in his last futile attempt to turn back time and restore the glory that was Rome. I could emphatize with Maximus, the noble and decent warrior in his attempt to try to stop the barbarians from crossing the Rhine and taking Gaul. He almost succeeded against inmense odds (one legion against six nations !) but ultimately the elements and the lack of care of Rome's corrupt officials conspire and bring ultimate defeat upon the legion so paisntainkingly raised and trained by Maximus. In the process he loses love, friends, family but leaves a legacy of honor. What a great narrative about a not very well comprehended period of history. Will our civilization succumb becuase we stop to care ?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite a book!! April 19 2004
An excellent work. Told in the first person, this is significantly different from "Gates of Fire". The heroism is of a different variety. The tone is grim from the beginning. It is, after all, a part of the story of the end of Rome. I found Maximus, the storyteller, to be a compelling figure. The historical context seems to be accurate and the story is skillfully told, particularly the overall mood of the book and the descriptions of the battles. Might appeal more to males.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Waiting for the end Aug. 25 2003
This recent reissue has my vote as belonging with the finest historical novels ever written. My vote may not count for much, of course, but Mary Renault's does, and she agrees with me. Shortly before she died she wrote an enthusiastic, praise-filled review of Wallace Breem's then newly published (1970) novel, every extravagant word of which is true. Many other readers have loved this brilliant novel, and it is a mystery why more than thirty years have passed between editions. It is available now, and I am grateful.
Eagle in the Snow is among the vanishingly few works of historical fiction that can stand comparison with Renault's novels of Classical Greece or Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin sea stories of the Napoleonic wars. I have no higher praise.
Breem's story is concerned with a pivotal event in Western history, the decline and destruction of the Roman world. Eagle in the Snow is the most polished and elegiac fictional account of Rome's fall yet published. It's a moving but unsentimental narrative of loyalty and duty set against fate, with its larger theme a disturbing look at how easily life as we know it falls apart.
The highest of the virtues, says the novel, is loyalty, unless it be love, but what is love without loyalty? The narrator, P. Maximus, commander of the Twentieth legion, loves Rome, or at least loves the idea of Rome. He will not abandon her in troubled times. With growing unease we follow Maximus as, without illusions but with courage, determination and skill, he sets about a seemingly hopeless attempt to stop the unstoppable.
Those with even a slight knowledge of our history will recognize that Maximus has chosen a mission (turn away the Dark Ages) in which real success is simply not possible.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Puts "Gladiator" to shame! Sept. 17 2003
I can not help but think that "Eagle in the Snow" was used as inspiration for the movie "Gladiator"...too bad "Gladiator" borrowed some of the characters but not the entire storyline.
This is a great book and I recommend it to any any who has enjoyed reading Mary Renault's historical novels. Without being boring it gives an excellent picture of life (and death) on the Roman frontier in 406 B.C. and also succeeds as a novel by building real characters.
The best novel about ancient warfare since "Gates of Fire".
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!
This is an excellent book. It is historically accurate, moving, detailed, and fair. The barbarians were not always so, and the Romans were not always civilized. Read more
Published on June 27 2010 by R. Thatcher
5.0 out of 5 stars To march with a real soldier
Wallace Bream puts you directly into the sandals and mind of General Maximus! Few books make you anticipate the battle, fear the enemy, and feel the cold wind and snow sweeping... Read more
Published on April 13 2004 by Patrick Rivette
3.0 out of 5 stars Dully Narrated
I recognize that this book was originally published about 30 years ago and that the author is now dead, but it still remains a good example of a trend in historical fiction which... Read more
Published on Nov. 21 2003 by Paul McGrath
4.0 out of 5 stars The Gathering Darkness
A very good read for the sober historical novel reader. Maximus shockingly finds himself suddenly in command of the only legion Rome can manage to support on the Rhine River. Read more
Published on Sept. 15 2003 by Jim Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Rome on the Brink
If the first half of this book had been more compelling I'd have given it 5 stars without a second thought since the second half is so beautifully done, a dark and devastatingly... Read more
Published on Aug. 26 2003 by Stuart W. Mirsky
5.0 out of 5 stars Long live Maximus!
This book was.. for lack of a better word, Awesome. From the start, it keeps its readers captivated and with the sense that they have an eye in the past, viewing the end of the... Read more
Published on Aug. 6 2003 by Palmetto
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best
After having finished this gripping, touching, and historically accurate page turner I HAD to write a review to offset the previous one. Read more
Published on July 20 2003
1.0 out of 5 stars Blah
Extremely stale and old fashioned writing make this a bible-like read. Skip this one. There's a reason you couldn't find it before this reprint. Read more
Published on May 26 2003
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