Eagle in Exile – Hesperian #2 – Alan Smale
Release date: March 22th, 2016
Publisher: Del Rey
Age Group: Adult
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
In A.D. 1218, Praetor Gaius Marcellinus is ordered to conquer North America and turning it into a Roman province. But outside the walls of the great city of Cahokia, his legion is destroyed outright; Marcellinus is the only one spared. In the months and years that follow, Marcellinus comes to see North America as his home and the Cahokians as his kin. He vows to defend these proud people from any threat, Roman or native.
After successfully repelling an invasion by the fearsome Iroqua tribes, Marcellinus realizes that a weak and fractured North America won’t stand a chance against the returning Roman army. Worse, rival factions from within threaten to tear Cahokia apart just when it needs to be most united and strong. Marcellinus is determined to save the civilization that has come to mean more to him than the empire he once served. But to survive the swords of Roma, he first must avert another Iroqua attack and bring Cahokia together. Only with the hearts and souls of a nation at his back can Marcellinus hope to know triumph.
After reading Clash of Eagles, the first book in the Hesperian trilogy, I had some difficulty reviewing the book. I enjoyed the book, but I couldn’t quite connect with the main character and I had some doubts about his role in the new society he discovered. I’m really glad I got an opportunity to read the second book, Eagle in Exile, because all the things that didn’t work for me in the first book worked perfectly now. I started to care about Gaius Marcellinus almost right away and I was glad to see that he expressed the same doubts I had in the second book and tried to do something about it.
Lets get in to that in a bit more detail. Roman Praetor Gaius Marcellinus’ Legion was sent out by the Roman Emperor to explore Nova Hesperia, what we know as America. There he stumbles across a lot of different indigenous tribes that are different in every way from the Romans. Marcellinus’ goal is to find gold in the big city Cahokia, but the Cahokians won’t stand for their city being invaded by these strange men in shining armour. Marcellinus’ Legion is obliterated by the Cahokians. Marcellinus is spared and spends the next few years living with the Cahokians. I had a real problem with him trying to push Roman habits on these people. In Eagle in Exile, he seems to realise that he’s been manipulating these people to be more like the Romans and for the most part he regrets it. The changes he did bring weren’t all bad, but I thought it important to recognise that the Cahokians had their own culture and own war strategies and that those had worked perfectly for them. I was very glad to see this acknowledged in this book.
Eagle in Exile took a leap forward in every aspect compared to the first book. The characters were engaging, the relationships between them investments that were realistic and emotional. The story itself took various unexpected turns and took us across Nova Hesperia to discover more of this America.
Marcellinus is now fully focusing on the imminent threat of Rome to Nova Hesperia. He doesn’t want to see his friends get slaughtered by a bigger Roman force, so he tries to do everything in his power to unite the different clans and tribes. Together they could form a united front that will hopefully lead to a peaceful exchange with the Romans. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees. Their culture is heavily based on war and how well their warriors perform, the idea of peace therefore throws them off completely.
I liked how Cahokia took its fate into its own hands again, even though that wasn’t always a positive thing. I also enjoyed that most of the book was spent away from Cahokia and took us into the Iroqua capital, the Mud Market, the plains with the nomad tribes and even gave us a glimpse of the people living on the peninsula that we now know as Yucatan. So much to explore! All of them seem to have different habits and cultural beliefs and it was immensely fascinating to read about that.
The relationships Marcellinus has with the various people in Cahokia went much deeper in this book. Though romantically nothing gets rushed, true to what you would expect in that situation in real life, the bonds he has with for instance Enopay, Tahtay and especially Kimmimela were worked out beautifully. I also reading about Tahtay’s growth throughout the story.
Lastly, I think Smale made a terrific choice when it comes to how Marcellinus handled the return of the Romans. I’m sure this was a tricky bit, but the choices Marcellinus made were true to his character and made the whole thing even more interesting.
Even though it’s not a short book, I read it in just a few days which is testament to how much I enjoyed it. I’m pleased to see that the second book has improved on the first book and I’m looking forward to read the third part of this trilogy!