Rebellion (Eagles of Empire 22)

Written by Simon Scarrow
Review by Edward James

Rebellion is the 21st book in Simon Scarrow’s Eagles of the Empire series (he has written or co-authored 15 other books) following the adventures of Roman legionaries Marco and Cato in the 1st century AD. Inevitably, a certain sameness begins to creep in.   There are lots of battles which the Romans usually win by closing ranks and engaging the enemy at extremely close quarters, ripping them open with their short swords.  I’m glad I wasn’t there.

Scarrow has varied his settings by posting his heroes to different parts of the Empire to fight different enemies. In Rebellion he is back in Britannia to re-tell the only story that most of us know about the Roman Occupation, the revolt of queen Boudica (aka Boadicea) in AD 60.  Boudica has probably had more books written about her than even Anne Boleyn.  Lately they have mostly been from an anti-colonialist or feminist viewpoint. Scarrow sticks strictly to the Roman point of view.

The story resonates with us today. The ‘pacified’ Iceni tribe breaks out from their Norfolk refuge to overrun South-East Britain in a storm of pillage, arson and murder.  The nascent Roman cities of Camulodunum, Londinium and Verulamium (Colchester, London and St Albans) are destroyed.  The Romans have been caught by surprise with most of their army in Wales.  They march back, and the retribution is terrible.

We know the story, but Scarrow still manages to make it shocking.  His style is short and to the point, like a Roman sword – his simile – and he can make a complex campaign easily comprehensible.  It was an epic tragedy, and Scarrow does it justice.