In The Eagle's Brood
, the third novel in his Camulod Chronicles, Jack Whyte introduces a new narrator. Caius Merlyn Britannicus, known to his friends as Merlyn, is growing from a young boy to Commander of Camulod and living a life that will establish his place in legend. Whyte's great talent in the Camulod Chronicles is the use of everyday historical detail to make the world of fifth-century England as real to the reader as it is to his characters, and it is in The Eagle's Brood
that this approach really pays off. As Roman influence declines, other factors, including restless local warlords and kings and a Christian Church growing in strength, take its place. One result is an increase in warfare and adventure, and there may be as many sword fights in The Eagle's Brood
as in the previous two volumes combined. Yet it is typical of Whyte's attention to detail and to the intellectual life of the Britons that some of the bloodiest action takes place en route to a debate over the theology of Saint Augustine.
The Eagle's Brood also offers an alternative starting point for someone who has not read the earlier books and doesn't want to tackle a series of fairly large volumes all the way. This is possible because Merlyn is the bridge that takes us from the Roman-dominated world of Publius Varrus to the Briton one in which the baby Arthur will grow up. Wherever you start, though, the Camulod Chronicles offers flesh-and-blood characters living in an historical era so well portrayed that it is easy to see how it became the stuff of legend. --Greg L. Johnson
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From Kirkus Reviews
In the author's The Skystone (1996), set in the last years of the Roman occupation of fifth-century Britain, the sword Excalibur was forged, presaging the reign of King Arthur years later. This time, the narrator, grand-nephew of the forger of the sword, is none other than that (traditionally) eerie being, Merlin the sorcerer--sanitized here to the most high-minded of soldiers who survives wars, betrayal, and a tragic love affair. Caius Merlyn Britannicus, born in a.d. 401, is the son of the Commander in Chief of the forces of the fortress/town of Camulod, a community of Romans and Britons. Merlyn's best friend from boyhood is his cousin Uther Pendragon, a mighty warrior and the son of a Celtic king, though with a terrible temper that can show itself off the fields of war. Torturing Merlyn is the suspicion that it might have been Uther who brutally beat the waif whom Merlyn will name Cassandra after she violently resists Uther's sexual games. The deaf and dumb Cassandra (her real identity will be a surprise) is healed and then secluded, eventually becoming Merlyn's wife until her savage death. There are wars and invasions, waged principally by King Lot of Cornwall, wars that bring awful innovations like poisoned arrows. There are also theological conflicts, since the free-will doctrines of Pelagius are condemned as heretical by the Church. Merlyn's trek to a seminal debate of theologians is marked by skirmishes--he rescues the warrior/bishop Germanus at one point--and by the discovery of a half-brother. All ends with the deaths of those fierce antagonists Lot and Uther, and with Merlyn holding up Uther's baby son by Lot's dead queen, a baby who has ``the deep golden eyes of . . . a mighty bird of prey . . . a King perhaps, to wield Excalibur.'' With plenty of hacking and stabbing, pontifications, dogged sex, and a few anachronistic mind-sets: another dipperful from the fertile Arthurian well, sans magic but brimful of action. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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