Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In a world in which the Roman Empire never fell, North America has been discovered. A Roman legion is sent to find gold and take over the land. Gaius Marcellinus leads this legion and realizes that the barbarians are far more capable at warfare than Rome ever imagined. After a massive battle, Gaius is captured and spared by the Cahokian Native Americans. Gaius's whole world is changed from that moment as he struggles to find a life for himself among the Cahokians.
Clash of Eagles was an attempt for me to branch out into historical fiction which is a genre I don't tend to read. I did enjoy learning a bit about the Cahokian Native Americans because I truly don't remember learning about them before. I am moderately knowledgeable about Rome's history so it was good to see a good amount of familiar Roman warfare.
The alternate history part was also interesting as Briton and Scandanavia are Roman provinces. Early in the book, a few mentions are made about the continuing struggles of integrating people from various recently added Roman provinces. It was also interesting seeing the author utilizing some unsupported technological achievements to make the Native Americans a far more terrifying opponent to face.
I thought the biggest thing Clash of Eagles suffers from is it's generic and stereotypical characters. There isn't one character that feels truly distinctive in the entire book. All the Cahokian characters and Gaius Marcellinus seem like various background characters from books and movies. I personally expect to have at least one character to cheer for, care about, and just plain enjoy but I didn't find such a character in Clash of Eagles. This took much of the interest out of the battles for me because I wasn't concerned with the welfare of any of the characters.
Another part of the book that didn't fit well was it's romance. Gaius becomes enthralled with one of the main Cahokia women, but it really doesn't make any sense. The author doesn't provide any explanation into why Gaius is interested in her short of the fact that she's a strong woman. The reader is in Gaius's mind and able to read his thoughts so it really seemed like some additional reason for his interest should have been provided. His interest just didn't seem realistic. I could have accepted this if not for the fact that at various times in the book Gaius is shown gazing upon voluptuous barley dressed Cahokian women and trying to control himself. I could have believed that he respected and admired this strong woman, but not his romantic interest. I did enjoy the general laughter and joking from the Native Americans about Gaius's earlier romantic partner.
Overall Clash of Eagles was an average book that is likely to be appreciated by fans of historical fiction and alternate historical fiction.
2.5 out of 5
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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