Book one of the “Eagle” series.
A little easier on the eye than a lot of military fiction, perhaps being the equivalent of Lindsey Davies (minus the humour) rather than Patrick O’Brian. This is the first in a series of books detailing the life of Cato, a young recruit to the Legio II Augusta who is – to the annoyance of his fellow recruits – immediately appointed as Optio because of an imperial link despite having zero military training.
This books follows his exploits in Germania in preparation for the invasion of Britain and getting used to the life as a legionary and a low ranking officer when he has no military experience. Most of the early part sets the scene and really hammers it home just how absurd it is that such a man could be given such a rank. Those fans of ‘Sharpe’ will relish to contrast that Cato provides despite using the cliché of the outcast rising through the ranks.
The book flows well and the scene is set nicely for the historic achievements Legio II Augusta would go on to be famous for. Along the way are some stock characters but Scarrow seems more concerned with entertaining the reader than educating them on the finer points of the Roman military. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed this but it suffers for the lack of real depth.