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Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Lantern Bearers - Rosemary Sutcliff

Aquila is a Decurian in the Roman calvary in Britain –not a Legionnaire, as the Legions have been gone from Britain for decades.     When his unit too is summoned back to Rome, marking the end of Roman presence in Britain, Aquila knows that he’s of Britain, and must stay.     Leaving the legion behind, he returns home.     The rest of Aquila’s story leads to spoilers, but I will say that he encounters Saxons, Celts and the remains of the Romanized British as they try to figure out who will rule England.

This story is set in the late 4th century, the waning days of the Roman empire’s presence in the British Isles.    Based on some of the reading I’d done around the historical basis of Arthurian legend, a number of  the larger characters were familiar to me – the Celtic King Vortigen, the Saxons Hengest and Horsa, and Ambrosius Aurelianus, one of the great Romano-British rulers.     Ambrosius is often linked to King Arthur, often as an uncle.

But this story is about the power vacuum that developed after the Romans left, and one man’s struggle to figure out where he fits in it.    It’s a compelling story, and Aquila’s journey is an interesting one.

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