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Kudos to Rugged Land for bringing this fine historical novel back into print--and with an introduction by current popular favorite Steven Pressfield that will hopefully catch readers' attention. Wallace Breem tells the elegaiac story of Paulinus Maximus, Rome's General of the West, charged with stopping a mass of Germanic tribes from crossing the Rhine to Gaul and left to do so with just one legion (the XXth). Maximus--who most of us will know best from the version portrayed by Russell Crowe in Gladiator--carries on with honor, dignity, and determination despite the overwhelming odds and the certainty that the Rome he's fighting for is a lost cause in the long run, as is his personal paganism, the Christian horde he faces representing the future. Therein lies the real tragedy of the tale though. We're meant to care more deeply for Maximus' cause than we really can, knowing as we do that better days lie ahead for Europe. The Romans who follow him want to make him Emperor and we can understand the loyalty that stops him from accepting. But eventually the "Germans" make the same offer and it's harder to see why he prefers his own death and the destruction of Rome to the fusion that he might otherwise effect between the structures and institutions of Rome and the energy and ideas of the rising Christian tribes. When the end comes it's hard not to feel that the tragedy is that Maximus fights rather than that he loses.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Historical Fiction
Wallace Breem Links:

    -Wallace Breem (Wikipedia)
    -Wallace Breem—some biographical notes (Mike Cowlishaw)
    -BOOK SITE: The Eagle in the Snow by Wallace Breem (Rugged Land)
    -BOOK SITE: The Legate's Daughter by Wallace Breem (Rugged Land)
    -REVIEW: of Eagle in the Snow (Fred Mench,

Book-related and General Links:

    -ESSAY: Roman History through a Hundred Novels (James E. Hawking, Historical Novel Society)