Rosemary Sutcliff, ‘Eagle’s Honour’

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Eagle’s Honour is one of Rosemary Sutcliff’s less well-known books. It is in fact two stories in one: ‘A Circlet of Oak Leaves’ and ‘Eagle’s Egg’. Both stories are set in 2nd Century Britain which provides “the setting for epic battle, high drama, bravery, and romance in these two stories for younger readers,” according to the cover blurb. That’s not over-selling it too much. Both stories feature veterans from the Roman army in Britain and both focus on campaigns north of the border. They are stories about outsiders who become heroes, though not without a few plot twists on the way.

Rosemary Sutcliff captured better than any other children’s author the flavour of the eras about which she wrote. She created utterly convincing pictures of the life and times of her characters but was also a great crafter of plots. Short though these stories are – 59 and 65 pages respectively – they keep readers on the edge of their seats as they wait to discover what happens next. Rosemary Sutcliff’s most famous books – especially The Eagle of the Ninth trilogy – present contemporary readers who are used to a much simpler diet with a real challenge. Eagle’s Honour is therefore a good way into the often dangerous world of early Roman Britain and a good way into her more complex children’s fiction.

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