Monday, September 01, 2003

EAGLE IN THE SNOW by Wallace Breem

My summer reading for fiction has been geared toward pure entertainment. Maybe it’s me, but I just don’t feel like reading Dostoyevsky or Gogol when the sun is shining (I save them for the colder, drearier months). Although I did slip some Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor into the mix, my novel intake has been strictly escapist.

One of my favorite novels this summer has been Wallace Breem’s historical epic, Eagle in the Snow. Originally published in 1970, the novel has been republished in hardcover by Rugged Land press, and has been given a short introduction by Steven Pressfield, writer of the equally excellent historical novel, Gates of Fire, which dealt with the famed 300 Spartans and their heroic defeat at Thermopylae against the mighty Persians. Breem’s story is set during the waning years of the Roman Empire, and focuses on the valiant effort of General Paulinus Maximus to keep the barbarian hoards from spreading into the Rhine from the east. The action is swift and violent, the characters finely detailed and believable. And as with Pressfield’s novel, Breem understands that even the most fascinating historical aside will mean absolutely nothing if it isn’t grounded in character and emotional incident. A great page-turning read if there ever was one.

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