Rosemary Sutcliff‘s book, the award winning The Lantern Bearers set blogger and reviewer Sam Hawken writing about her again:
I’ve written about the Roman Britain Trilogy before, reviewing both The Eagle of the Ninth and The Silver Branch. If you go back and read those reviews, you’ll see that I have nothing but praise for the writing of Rosemary Sutcliff even when her plotting let me down. I can’t think of any other writer whose work I’ve read recently who has similar power to evoke sense of place. I’ve never been to the regions Sutcliff writes about, but I can feel like I’ve been there because of her ability to engage with colors and smells and sounds to create a living tapestry of the senses.
Writing in the ’50s, she had the insight of someone from the Roman Britain period and that’s why, whatever my issues with The Silver Branch, the second in the trilogy, I think Sutcliff was a truly great author.You’ll be pleased to know that The Lantern Bearers is a much more assured piece of work than The Silver Branch. I tend to think that Sutcliff wasn’t totally in love with her story the second time around and that showed. This time, however, she’s clearly attached to the period and the characters.
I loved The Eagle of the Ninth because it was a rip-roaring adventure tale with all the trappings of fine literature. The Lantern Bearers is a much more sophisticated offering and Sutcliff’s gifts are in full flower.The action picks up some 150 years after the conclusion of The Silver Branch and the time of the Roman occupation of Britain has come to an end. Young cavalryman Aquila is ordered, along with the rest of the Eagles, to return to Italy to bolster the Roman defenses against another barbarian incursion. Aquila, born and bred in the Down Country of Britain, is less than thrilled with this turn of events and, in an act of defiance, goes “wilfull missing” when it’s time to ship off. He is of Britain, he says, and will not go.