Under the Eagle is the first book in the Eagle Series, by Simon Scarrow. The book opens with a small preface set during the first Roman invasion of Britain in 55 BC. As a group of legionaries lose the army's pay chest in a marsh while withdrawing to the ships. The narrative then proceeds to the German frontier in AD 43, where a new draft of recruits is arriving at the base of the Second Legion.
We are then introduced to the two main protagonists; Quintus Licinius Cato and Lucius Cornelius Macro, are both Roman soldiers. Macro, a veteran with nearly 15 years’ service (at the start of the first novel) within the Roman Army, has recently been appointed to the Centurionate; Cato is subsequently made his Optio. From the get go straight Under the Eagle into the action and the reader is given a vivid account of in the Rome Army on the Rhine Frontier. For those of you who have sampled other books in the series you will no doubt be familiar with Mr Scarrow's approach to action scenes as the reader is immersed into the narrative, better than some video game. What you also get in this book are some new and interesting plot threads and the building of solid friendship between Optio and Centurion. There is action seen in Germany where the Romans are involved battle/skirmish with German tribesman. The action later on shifts to the second invasion of Britain by a Roman army.
Mr Scarrow also pays attention to historical element - the reader gets a thought-provoking look into Roman military society and here we really get to see the differences between say the new recruit and the veteran soldiers. The dialogue is framed in such a way - so you really get a feel for the merits of this book. The pacing, as ever is good, and is pretty engrossing as well as entertaining and at time amusing. Under the Eagle is literally edge of your seat stuff, as the author has mastered the art of balancing between well molded characters and pulling the reader into their `world'. The characters of Macro and Cato are polar opposites, for they are the center piece of the narrative and the series, they are really well crafted characters. They do not fail in keeping the readers interest; after all `we' the readers have `invested' ourselves in their lives - warts and all.
So, if you're interested in reading about the rich tapestry of Imperial Roman army and the Empire they forged, or you are already familiar with Simon Scarrow's Eagle series - then look no further as Under the Eagle will be right up your street. Great story telling that only Simon Scarrow could have put together.