Monday, April 17, 2006
A Dream of Eagles: The Skystone Review
Before heading out on my little vacation, I knew I wanted to relax and do a lot of reading, so I went to Chapters and took a peak at what they had. What caught my eye was the cover to a short series entitled A Dream of Eagles. The series is a historical fiction that chronicles that fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Britain, and ultimately culminates in the coronation of King Arthur spread across five volumes. I grabbed the first book, The Skystone, and the first few pages I read seemed interesting enough, and the book was certainly lengthy enough at 620+ pages, so I purchased it.
After going through it in about a week, I must say that The Skystone is one of the most engaging books I have ever read. It is such an excellent mix of action, family, values, history, and political intrigue that it was hard to put down. The book is told from the perspective of Publius Varrus, a member of the Roman Legions at the start of the story and a primus pilus (his rank) under Legate Caius Britannicus, Varrus' general.
Now, it should be noted that The Skystone is a lot of back story and establishment, setting up the world's events, both historical and fiction. For example, both Varrus and Britannicus are fictional, as are their families and personal dealings, however many of the characters they interact with and events they are involved with are indeed real and historical.
The Skystone begins with a very interesting writing style, where the author has Publius telling his tale as an old man, an he goes into the main story and fleshes it out with a sub-story and details that further with a sub-sub-story. While highly detailed and complicated, the plot and character motives are extremely simple to follow and all the plot tangents add a great deal more depth to the overall whole as this style is carried out through the whole book.
The Legionnaire part is brief, chronicling an invasion by Picts and Scots who nearly take all of Britain, and Britannicus and his soldiers' battle to return to Roman controlled land. From there, Publius goes on to detail much of his life after he's discharged from the Legions, and his growing friendship with Britannicus. Publius returns home to take up the trade of his deceased grandfather, that of a blacksmith, and it is here we learn that his grandfather discovered a stone that seems to have fallen from the sky, which he was able to smelt and forge into a sword and dagger respectively; the sword ending up in the hands of one of the Roman emperors and the dagger to Publius himself. At this point, both Publius and Britannicus take a keen interest in trying to locate more of these mysterious stones, all before the Empire collapses in upon itself.
Relationships play a heavy role with the characters and their development and interaction with one another. The Skystone has many romantic and even erotic aspects to it, but all within reason and perspective of the character experiencing them. The Skystone also focuses a great deal on family and militaristic values as many of the characters go on to establish families, and the "colony" that will apparently become Camelot is formed.
I really don't want to give much more detail away as A Dream of Eagles: The Skystone is such an excellent read, I could only do it justice by recommending you go out and pick up a copy yourself. Heck, I picked up the second novel this past Saturday, and I'm nearly half-way through it; its that good.
Another note of interest is that the novel is a Canadian one, having won several awards and recognitions in Canada for its international success (I believe the overall titles of the books are different in the US, for example). With such a strong start to the series, I look forward to going through all of A Dream of Eagles.