The Eagle of the Ninth Chronicles

Written by Rosemary Sutcliff
Review by Julie Parker

It is pleasing to be able to report the re-issue of Rosemary Sutcliff’s trilogy, The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers in one volume, largely due to a new film. The books, important in the canon of children’s historical writing, were originally published in the 1950s and were seminal in telling the story of Roman Britain through the eyes of three young heroes from different generations, linked by the Aquila family dolphin ring.

In the first book a young Roman officer, Marcus Flavius Aquila, wants to know why his father and his legion disappeared in the outpost of northern Britain, near Hadrian’s Wall. In the 2nd century AD, the young boy discovers that the Roman legion suffered a catastrophic, but not ignominious, defeat and is able to return bearing their symbolic bronze eagle. In the second part of the trilogy, two young Roman cousins find themselves caught in the power struggle between Carausius, self-proclaimed emperor in England, his treasurer, Allectus, and the Emperor Constantine back in Rome. Finally in the third volume, set in the 5th century, Sutcliff describes the story of a Romano-Britain after the Roman legionaries pull out of Britain. Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Literature, this volume deals with more complex emotional themes and will appeal to older readers.