Rosemary Sutcliff is expert at recreating ancient civilizations, so this novel comes as no surprise. In her SUN HORSE, MOON HORSE the native tribes are the heroes, pursued by invading Romans. In this novel it is the Romans who are the protagonists, with the tribesmen mostly the enemy. Set in Roman Britain in the early AD's, this book recounts a personal quest by Centurion Marcus Drusillus Aquila, lamed in a fierce battle. He and his faithful former slave, Esca, undertake a perilous mission beyond the safety of Hadrian's Wall--erected to keep the Highland barbarians at bay
Tortured by harsh rumors that the lost Ninth Legion turned feral and betrayed the Roman principles of Trust and Honor, young Marcus is grimly determined to prove the gossip false and restore the Honor of his father's old legion. No one knows the fate of the men who marched off into the mists of what will be known as Scotland in subsequent centuries. But without the actual Eagle which repreents that legion, there can be no Honor--more sacred to Romans than life itself. Thus Marcus vows to recover the lost eagle for Rome, so that the men of the Ninth may rest easy and that the Painted People may not use it as a psychological weapon against Rome.
This novel is quite long for YA status, but is enjoyable to read. Sutcliff presents a mystery which spans the dim prehistory of Britain and historically documented Latin times. The plot is interesting, while the style captures the flavor and language of the Anglo-Roman era. The reader will pick up some Roman history and clues about their lifestyle just by reading for pleasure. The book is truly worthwhile, though I recommend the stark chiller, SUN HORSE, MOON HORSE, as an introduction to the tribal life. Very good story in setting that is both literary and historically accurate. Based on archaeological findings.