Author – Simon Scarrow
Published – 2007 (paperback)
Genre – Historical fiction
I’ve always been a fan of historical fiction – but more Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden, than Philippa Gregory or Jean Plaidy. With an interest in Italy and all things Italian, Simon Scarrow’s “Eagle ” series was bound to appeal to me. Centurion is the eighth book in the Eagle series.
In the first century AD the Roman Empire faces a new threat from its long-standing enemy Parthia. Parthia is vying with Rome for control of Palmyra an officially neutral kingdom. Palmyra’s royal household is on the brink of open revolt, and so a task force under the command of experienced soldiers Macro and Cato is dispatched to defend its king and guard its borders. When Parthia hears of the Roman army’s presence, it starts amassing its troops for war. Macro’s cohort must march against the enemy, deep into treacherous territory. If Palmyra is not to fall into the clutches of Parthia, they will have to defeat superior numbers in a desperate siege. The quest for a lasting peace has never been more challenging, nor more critical for the future of the empire.
Centurion picks up where ‘Eagle in the Sand’ finished, with Cato and Macro in Syria – Macro’s dream posting. Still unpopular with General Longinus following their attempts to spy on him for Narcissus, they are the natural choice to be despatched into the desert to go to the aid of the King of Palmyra. As Macro leads his own cohort of the Tenth Legion, Cato is promoted to acting Centurion with the Second Illyrian auxiliaries.
The book delivers exactly what you expect from Simon Scarrow – tough marching, graphic battles, tension and peril. But knowing that there was already a book 9 published, it’s more a case of figuring out how they will get out of the scrape, than worrying that they won’t make it at all. Nevertheless the twists and turns are ingeniously plotted and the descriptions really do bring these Roman soldiers to life.
There is one difference in this book, with the introduction of romance for one of our heroes. I’m not sure how realistic this sort of involvement would be, but perhaps Cato’s speedy rise up the ranks doesn’t bear too much scrutiny either.
The only weakness for me is that the book starts with some tension between the two cohorts Macro and Cato are commanding – but nothing really comes of this. I also find it surprising that Cato doesn’t have more of a problem in getting his men to follow him, or getting his superiors to accept his ideas. Sometime it all seems a little too good to be true.
Still an enjoyable read and I already have The Gladiator on the shelf waiting to be started.
Score – 3/5