“The Eagle’s Conquest” carries straight on from “Under The Eagle” and doesn’t vary much from the first book.
We continue to follow the Second Legion as it plays a part in the conquest of Britain on behalf of Emperor Claudius.
The story is told mainly through the eyes of Cato, the (very) young Optio, with occasional dips into the heads of Vespasian, Legate of the Second and exemplary Roman officer, willing to do whatever it takes to serve Rome with honour and win the respect of his men and Vitellius, First Tribune of the Second and exemplary ruthless schemer, willing to betray and kill anyone to further his own ends.
As a total immersion into life in a Roman Legion at war, “The Eagle’s Conquest” is engrossing. The battles and the individual conflicts are brought to life vividly and with enough realism to avoid any romantic glorification of the bloody work involved in hacking your way through the enemy. I also enjoyed the picture of the impact of the leadership of the hapless but supremely powerful Emperor Claudius on the effectiveness of the Legion.
The relationship between Cato, bright and fierce but too introspective to be a natural soldier and Macro, his larger than life, “C’mon lads, let’s do the bastards” leading-from-the-front Centurion, enlivens the story and allows a little character development.
The conceit of an intrigue, executed by Vitellius, which can only be thwarted by Cato and Macro, ran a little thin for me. I hope the next book moves away from this into something less repetitive.
For me, this series is developing into a reliable, if unchallenging source of entertainment but not something that makes me want to stay up for another couple of hours to see what happens next.