These are dark days indeed for Aquila, a young Roman officer who returns to his family villa to find all that he loves destroyed by the invaders. He escapes slavery only to learn that his sister has married a Saxon, and the knowledge fills him with bitterness.
It takes many years of hardship and strenuous fighting under the Roman-British leader Ambrosius before Aquila finds a measure of contentment, learned partly from the kind and gentle Brother Ninnias, partly from the loving loyalty of his wife Ness, and partly from an encounter with his sister's son, who is fighting with the enemy.
This exciting chronicle, full of stirring incident and bitter conflict, brings to vivid life the turbulent period before the Dark Ages.
©1986 Rosemary Sutcliff; (P)2000 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
I was a little wary when I used one of my credits to select this book because some of the descriptions characterized it as a book for young adults - most of the books that I have listened that are described that way have been lame - but this one was very different. I thought both the story and the narration were excellent and I would strongly recommend this one. One of the best endings to a book that I have read in a long time. I plan on reading more of her books.
This is one of my favorite Rosemary Sutcliff novels about Ancient Britain and a group of "lantern bearers" who try to keep the flame of civilization lit as the Dark Ages loom with the fall of the Roman Empire. The main character, Aquila, is a complex man with a strong sense of duty and decency who faces difficult choices and mixed loyalties. I was introduced to Rosemary Sutcliff's novels in a children's literature class in college, but after listening to all of her books offered by Audible and reading a few in print I realized her writing is more suitable for older teens, young adults and adults. She takes what little is known for sure about Ancient Britain and weaves it into a realistic story line, creating characters that tell us who they are through their actions without wasting words or using unnecessary explanatory narrative. Her style is very lyrical and Johanna Ward has the perfect voice for narrating her books. Sometimes I hit the rewind just to hear a particularly lovely descriptive passage again.
This is one of the best audiobook readings I've ever heard. Johanna Ward's voice is perfectly suited to the story. I was wary at first to hear a female voice narrating from such a masculine, gruff perspective as Aquila's, but it really works. She conveys the complexities of his character through her voice without going out of her way to sound "masculine," and strikes a good balance between dramatic interpretation of the text and the more neutral style of delivery which lets the text speak for itself. She's always clear and pleasant to listen to; soothing and interesting at the same time.
This book's full of them, but I especially love the touching, almost underplayed scene near the end where Aquila's son--with whom he has a strained relationship--stands by his side to support him in a difficult moment.
Sadly no, but I would be interested to listen to one merely on the recommendation of her voice.
Aquila, the protagonist, undoubtedly is one of the most memorable protagonists in any book I've ever read. It's so relatable to watch him react to the sorrows, struggles and loss of his dreams, and to slowly over the years try to find ways to live with them and overcome them. He doesn't get an easy out or a tidy happy ending, but he finds peace in the long, difficult, complicated way that is more realistic, and thus gives us hope when we read of it.
Read the book. Listen to it. Keep it. Treasure it. Share it. This is one of the finest stories in the English language, up with the best of Kipling, Dickens, Tolkien, Stevenson, and Austen. And the best thing is that author Rosemary Sutcliff wrote dozens of other books of similar quality. It is a worthwhile life goal to read them all!
Sutcliffe is a wonderful author and this is no exception. Narrator is clear and the recording good but it would have been better with a male voice narrating this story.
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