Clash of Eagles (The Clash of Eagles)
by Alan Smale
Cover Artist: Larry Rostant
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Del Rey Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780804177221
Date: 17 March 2015 List Price $27.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
In a world where Rome does not fall, a new frontier awaits across the Atlantic Ocean. Gaius Publius Marcellinus has been tasked with marching his 33rd Legion into the west in search of the rumored riches of the interior. His journey will be more than he imagined.
The initial passage through the Iroquois lands is not easy, but goes as expected. Tales of large and prosperous cities are just a bit further inland. This is the true reason the Romans march, the search for gold.
The Legion continues to march, stretching their supply lines beyond sustainability. The early fights with Cahokia go well, but a special weapon awaits. With the Legion in need of the supplies from the city, Gaius must push on.
The Cahokia secret weapons and Falcon Warriors, are deployed and the Romans are massacred, all except Gaius. After the death of his army and hopes, Gaius' life truly begins. Gaius is hated and scorned, but protected by the chief. He slowly learns the language and ways of his new people. He was saved to teach Roman war to his new people. But it isn't just war that he teaches. Slowly the people of the mound are changed and introduced to Roman civilization.
But there is one constant, war, and it is coming on a scale never imagined in the New World. Gaius and his strategies will be put to the test. If they win, there is always the Roman Emporium that doesn't like to lose. If there are riches to be found, Rome and its legions will march.
This is the first of three novel's set in an alternate America. The novel is an expansion of the 2010 Sidewise winning Novella, "A Clash of Eagles". I struggled for a while with the Cahokia tech abilities. The tech was a huge leap that I am not sure had any basis in our timeline. The extreme tech seemed to be a bit of a deus ex machina. I tend to dislike that mechanism in stories. Over time I was able to accept the differences. It was after my acceptance that I was truly able to enjoy the story.
I enjoy a good historical Roman novel. Recently, I have been enjoying the Macro and Cato series by Simon Scarrow. Another alternate history novel with some similarities that I enjoyed was Three Princes by Ramona Wheeler which told of an alternate world where Egypt's power continues on and heirs of Caesar and Cleopatra still rule.
The story reminded me of Dances with Wolves. A soldier who learns to live and love in a new land, eventually seeing the majesty of his new people and joining their tribe fully. I can see this story unfolding in a movie. The epic scope of characters in the land and air. The scenes would be quite dramatic and could only be appreciated on a the big screen.