Clash of Eagles

Written by Alan Smale
Review by Justin M. Lindsay

1218 AD. The Roman Empire, having withstood the barbarian hordes and moved on to conquer most of terra firma, including the redoubtable Norsemen, has turned its eyes across the Atlanticus. Praetor Gaius Marcellinus, heading the 33rd Roman Legion, has disembarked on this new world to gather still more gold and land for his Emperor. Before him is a continent of unknown size and civilizations.

Roman strategies that have worked so well in the old world are unable to withstand the unimagined weapons and tactics of these new enemies. Marcellinus finds himself the sole survivor of his legion, and a captive of the city-state of Cahokia, deep within the interior. His loyalties and newfound friendships are tested as he must decide exactly how he fits into this new world, and what he will do when the next Roman force arrives on these shores.

Smale drops the reader in the middle of Marcellinus’s westward march across the continent, and does a wonderful job of getting the reader caught up to speed with how first contact has gone – and how the Empire has survived and flourished through the last millennium. Roman tactics and mindset, even accounting for advances in doctrine and technology, feel authentic. He breathes life into the New World civilizations and offers up a compelling view of what might have happened had these two continents collided in this fashion. Marcellinus is a tremendously sympathetic character, as are the many Cahokians he interacts with. Though Smale takes some liberties with New World kite and ballooning technologies, I found the New World of 1218 AD fascinating. I look forward to the next installment.