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Eagle in the Snow Paperback – Jul 18 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (July 18 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842125192
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842125199
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 13 x 2.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 299 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #123,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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. His task is to hold back the Germanic tribes who are desperate to cross - to escape similar pressure behind them, to gain more productive land, to survive, to find a place always warm. Imagine a time in history close enough to the end of all the glory of Rome - a light even the non-Romans cannot imagine disappearing - that the perceptive viewer somewhere out on the fringe of that world, like Germany, can foresee it going out (which of course it will, to be followed by centuries of "darkness."). Maximus hopes that he can stop the decline, but also knows that he is quite unlikely to succeed - not with an indifferent court, rivals that prefer he fail before they act, a hostile new religion (Christianity), rule-obsessed bureaucrats, trickster tribal allies, "draft doggers" willing to avoid service even to defend their own home, and nature itself all conspiring against success. Maximus provides a gripping example of duty and loyalty (to a city he has never seen in his life), literally down to the last breath.
The book has flaws: the first fifth seems to have little purpose; with a short synopsis, a reader could drop into page 50 without any real loss. Characterization is also at times a bit shallow, particularly of the Romans (never have I had better insight into the Germanic tribes views though). Proofreading is poor in this reissued edition.
Still....as the Rhine began to freeze, the snow began to swirl, the wolves howl, and the barbarian horde prepared their onslaught, I too found myself shivering just as Maximus' legion undoubtedly once did.
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