Something short, too. Not really a conscious decision yet to move toward shorter reviews. That’s just how it turned out.
This book came from Amazon’s Vine program
Review: Eagle in Exile, Alan Smale, 2016.
My complaints about the second book in Smale’s Clash of Eagles trilogy are nearly identical to those of the first: implausible warrior babes, a curious lack of disease exchanges between Old and New Worlds, and loose enough speculation to be questionable alternate history.
In this volume, Smale does tell us the deviation point of Roman history that produced this world where Rome stomps across Eurasia in the 13th century: Septimus Severus’ son Geta kills his brother Caracalla thus stabilizing the Empire. (Smale doesn’t explain how this work exactly. The higher taxes and extended citizenship of Caracalla avoided?)
I have some trouble believing, in a world of such a vigorous Roman Empire, Islam would have come into existence, but it seems to.
That’s the bad.
The strengths are similar to the first. Characterizations of cultures and individuals are realistic, particularly the creation of a surrogate family for Roman protagonist Marcellinus with the warrior woman Sintikala and her daughter Kimimela.
As you would hope with the second volume, Smale opens his book up in every sense. Marcellinus gets involved in inter-tribal diplomacy and coups in Cahokia. The plot moves to places south and west of Cahokia (modern day St. Louis) including a buffalo hunt on the Great Plains.
And Romans familiar and unfamiliar make their appearance way sooner than expected. The main suspense of the novel is just how Marcellinus is going to keep all those oaths he made to his new Cahokian friends and his fellow Romans.
And, as you might in an alternate history of the 13th century, there is a force to be reckoned with out of the Asian steppes.
So, reservations aside, I’m still interested in how all this is going to work out and am eager for the story’s conclusion.
Another minor quibble I had is that this book could have used a map of Cahokia — which shouldn’t be that hard given Smale based his city on archaeological findings. However, I’ve only read the ARCs of these two books so am not completely sure what maps the actual books have.