This book is universally well regarded but I found the Eagle of the Ninth good but not great. It did not help that I did not realise it was a book for young adults going into the novel and therefore perhaps my expectations of epic story telling gruesome deaths were a little off to say the least. Still Harry Potter is meant for young adults and I love those books.
Set in Roman Britain this story is of a young Roman officer who sets out to discover the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of the Ninth Legion, who marched into the mists of Northern Britain and never returned. Marcus Aquila is determined to find out what happened to his father and the legion. His venture to find them is seen as a quest so hazardous, no one expects him to return.
Don’t get me wrong, the Eagle of the Ninth is not a bad book by any means. I just found myself wishing for more. The book begins with Marcus getting injured in battle and forced to recover at his uncle’s home. Here we are introduced to a series of admittedly interesting characters: from uncle Aquilla himself and his servants to the noble slave Esca and the young rebellious teenage girl Cottia. Just as we are getting to know these characters however the main plot (blurb above) kicks in.
Marcus then begins a travelogue of sorts searching for the Ninth Legion. Although this occurs over a large time period in the book, in terms of pages it is relatively quickly before he finds what he is looking for. Herein lies the problem I had with the book, every part of the story is good, it just felt summarized rather than epic. Marcus’s journey felt straightforward despite being told how difficult it was.
Sutcliffe manages to weave strong elements into her story telling. Some of the character’s loyalty is touching whilst the conflict in others intriguing. But ultimately this feels like a young adult novel. The ending is wrapped up nicely but I was left wishing there had been more substance. As a Young Adult novel you can see why it scores highly, personally I thought it was just “good”. My rating 7.5