Books are great reads especially when then involve history. To create a fiction book with all the historical settings takes great talent. To make it harder, have the author choose an event that has very few details and creating a story. Rosemary Sutcliff does a wonderful job doing just that in The Eagle of the Ninth.
This book is the fiction story of a young man in the Roman army. Marcus Flavius Aquila is following in his fatherís footsteps. He even is assigned a legion in the wilds of Britain where his father was last seen. Years before Marcusí father marched with his legion beyond Agricolaís Wall to settle unrest amongst the native tribes. The legion is never heard from again. The symbol of the Ninth Legion, the eagle, is lost. Marcus longs to bring honor to his fatherís name by bringing the eagle back to Rome. An injury during an uprising causes Marcus to stay with his uncle who also resides in Britain. As the body heals, Marcus discovers several new friends including that of a slave. Their friendship grows beyond normal master and slave boundaries. They find brothers.
During a fireside discussion with a friend of his uncleís, Marcus hears of a rumor regarding the eagle of the ninth legion. It is supposed to be part of a religious shrine in the wilds for an unknown tribe. It is only a rumor, but it more than Marcus has heard in years past. He longs to go on the journey to bring it back. As his leg heals, Marcus and his former slave embark on a journey through unknown territory looking for the rumored eagle. The discoveries along the way shape them into the men they were meant to be.
Sutcliff does a great job in creating a fictional story while keeping the setting historical. She pulls from some real life events to create this book. It seems that around 117 A.D. a Roman legion did march out into the wilds just like the one in the story. They were never heard from again. No one knew whatever became of them. In the early 1900ís excavations uncovered a wingless eagle that appeared to be of Roman origin. Why was it there and how did it get so far away from the Roman occupation? Sutcliff combines these two events and creates a possibility of solution for the mystery.
When we first got this book, I was anticipating a much harder read. It came with a reading set for my daughterís class that included such works as Odyssey and the Oedipus Trilogy. These are not light reads for an eighth grader. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a light and enjoyable read. This book would be a good read for as young as a fifth grader though it might be a slight challenge for them. If you are homeschooling, have them read it during a unit study of Roman history. It will fit in nicely.
I give Eagle of the Ninth a thumbs up in entertainment and in historical accuracy. Sutcliff did a wonderful job in creating a connection between events that have mystified archeologists. You will walk away wanting to know more about the period and the people. That constitutes success in my book.
Note: This book was purchased with my own funds for reading and reviewing.