Clash of Eagles
by Alan Smale (March 2015)
Recommended for fans of:
* Alternate history
* Military fiction
* Roman history OR Native American history
In a world where the Roman Empire never fell, a legion under the command of general Gaius Marcellinus invades the newly-discovered North American continent. But Marcellinus and his troops have woefully underestimated the fighting prowess of the Native American inhabitants. When Gaius is caught behind enemy lines and spared, he must reevaluate his allegiances and find a new place in this strange land.
My result: Recommended
Full Book Review
Clash of Eagles is satisfying but predictable at first, and quickly veers in a more interesting and surprising direction. As the story deepens, so do the characters, and it becomes more emotionally engaging as well. Clash of Eagles has a bit of a slow start, but I never considered walking away. The further I read, the more I enjoyed it.
I came to this story for the Roman legions; I ended up loving it for the complex web of interconnected native cultures. The Cahokians and Iroquois are the true stars of Clash of Eagles, and it’s left me wanting to know more.
Clash of Eagles inspires a hunger for real history AND a desire to know what happens next in this what-if world. For an alternative history, what more can you ask? Therefore: recommended.
Clash of Eagles does have some weak points that keep it from being a five star read. Characterization is shallow, and although that improves as the book progresses, it’s mostly restricted to the main character. The native cultures are rich and compelling, but its citizens aren’t given the same depth of characterization as Gaius. I feel like they’re given enough attention to be living, breathing characters, not stereotypes, but I would have appreciated getting to know a non-Roman viewpoint.
As a series starter, Clash of Eagles is satisfying on its own, but has a world deep and rich enough to want to know more. With a Roman Empire eager to expand, it’s logical there will be more in the series. For now, the alternate history of the Roman Empire to this point is more of an alluring tease. The Cahokians are interesting enough to make me continue the series, whether I get my fill of Romans or not.
The narrator, Kevin Orton does a good job. Clash of Eagles contains a lot of battle scenes and military action, but the action was always crisp and easy to follow. Orton’s audio performance never made things too melodramatic or emotional during battle, and his pacing is well matched to the story.
But Orton’s performance never falls flat either. Inflection and subtle variation keep things interesting. When the scene demands emotion, it’s subtle and understated, which matches the main character perfectly. For my only nitpick, the overly long pause between each word of full Roman names seemed unnatural and irritating, but this complaint only applies in the first section. Overall, the audio performance adds a lot to the enjoyment. If you’re an audio book reader, I highly recommend the audio of Clash of Eagles.
If you like Clash of Eagles
You might also enjoy:
- The Years of Rice and Salt – In this alternate history tale, the exploration of the New World comes from the Far East, as China and India become the dominant powers after Europe is wiped out by the Black Death.
- The IX – For more science fiction and less history, try this tale of the long lost Ninth Legion, transported to the far side of the galaxy to fight for their lives.
- Legionary – Since Clash of Eagles spends more time on the New World than on the Roman Empire side of its alternative history, it might be helpful to know more of the pressures driving Rome during the late Empire period. Legionary is a solid historical fiction story to fill in the blanks, with enough battles for military fiction fans as well.