Eagle in Exile – Book Review

by Courtney Martin

Courtney looks at Eagle in Exile, the second book looking at what would happen if the Roman Empire never ended.

Eagle in Exile, the second book in the Clash of Eagles trilogy by Alan Smale, picks up right where the first novel left off, with former Roman Praetor Gaius Marcellinus feeling the effects of repelling an invasion of Cahokia by the Iroqua tribes. Marcellinus has become shunned by the upper echelon of the native society, blaming him for the crippling of the Chieftain’s son, Tahtay. As Marcellinus works to rebuild trust and hope to repair his relationship with the Cahokians, he realizes that a fractured and warring North America won’t be able to stand up against the larger threat of more Roman forces arriving. He takes it upon himself to try to unite the native tribes as one league in order to be prepared for future dangers.

Eagle in Exile review

Eagle in Exile is divided into four sections, as there are four main stories that occur. This book is the same as the first in that it is told from Marcellinus’s point of view only. I’ve got to say this book is long, and the pacing is a bit off. But once the action starts it picks up and is very entertaining. Marcellinus has grown to be a more likeable main hero; he truly has come to love his new adopted nation and in many ways feels more compelled to save them than the Roman Empire he once served. He still deals with conflicting feelings on if he would fight Roman soldiers if they arrived in the new world, and throughout the book he makes it his mission to unite all of the native tribes along the Mississippi River. He wants to create a united front in hopes to persuade the Roman Empire, if and when they arrive, that the peoples of Nova Hesperia are a worthy ally.

I really enjoy the descriptions of the area where Eagle in Exile takes place (around the Northern Plains and along the Mississippi River). I live near this area in the U.S., and it really gives a great impression of how the land used to be during native times. However, the author delves way too far into native traditions, clothing descriptions, city layout, and language. Like the first novel the author is using his extensive knowledge of a culture but it just slows the pace of the book. I skimmed a lot of paragraphs where these descriptions where going on.  In fact, there are four appendices and the back of the book, and one describes the area where the story is taking place, and how to tour the Native American mounds from which the city of Cahokia is based. Pretty cool information to include in the book.

Throughout the book there are many of the same characters introduced in the first novel in the series, Clash of Eagles. The characters are growing up and forming new relationships both between themselves and with Marcellinus. Because of this I really felt connected to many of the characters this time, and truly didn’t want harm to befall them during battles. Mr. Smale does an excellent job of writing battle scenes, and in this book something new, a buffalo hunt. The scenes are well written and exciting, the best parts of the book by far. And there are quite a few battles in this book, so despite the slower pacing from time to time, it is broken up by great action sequences.

Section four of the book was where the novel really got good. Again, stick with this book until the end because it really does become exciting. I don’t want to say too much and give it away – but the Romans do eventually come back to Nova Hesperia. Marcellinus finds himself faced with his loyalty to Roma, and his new home (and family) in Cahokia. Obviously this is where these novels are heading, and I was glad to finally see how Marcellinus would handle this confrontation. The final few chapters of this book are really excellent, and now I can’t wait for the final installment of this trilogy.

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