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The Eagle: Camulod Chronicles    by Jack Whyte order for
by Jack Whyte
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

Jack Whyte has come a very long way through many generations from the crumbling Roman empire to the man known as Riothamus – Arthur. In this ninth (concluding) book in the Camulod Chronicles, we finally get the full story of Arthur's life, and what makes it interesting is that while our hero is obvious, in the context of the series, he is but one of many players on the stage of early Britain. This is what Whyte is saying: that it's not about specific individuals, but – as true of history in general – a series of events over hundreds of years led to the establishment of Britain as a country, putting itself back together as a sovereign nation after its abandonment by Rome.

Continuing on from The Lance Thrower, our narrator is Clothar, known as Lance by his friends because of his skilled ability to throw lances with precision at the enemy – a feat no other man, not even Arthur, can master. In the first part of the book, Arthur forms his knights, all with their own specifically designed swords in the form of Excalibur. The knights are addressed by the term seur, from a Frankish term meaning one of noble or high stature. Whyte is impressive in his interweaving of parts of the Arthurian legend into a realistic setting in fifth century Britain.

In the second part of The Eagle, it is learned that the girl Arthur considered his soul mate in The Lance Thrower is in fact his sister and that an act of naïve incest was committed. At the same time, Clothar has his own problems as he falls in love with a woman who is to be married. After a long night together, they must accept their fates and go their separate ways. In the final part of the book, Clothar takes Arthur's élite cavalry to Gaul to train thousands more men - both to establish the authority of Arthur and his cavalry, and to prepare for invading forces. Word has begun to spread of peoples from the distant east known as Huns, led by a man known as Attila.

While the fate of Gaul with respect to invading Huns is never fully revealed, the book ends, naturally, with Arthur's death from a wound in battle, while his son Mordred is next in line to rule. The book ends without any great summation of the mighty ruler known as Arthur - who united Britain and made it a nation to be reckoned with - but tapers out like a long burning candle. Whyte's point here is that the saga of Camulod is over, its characters now all dead, but they have done much to change Britain from the abandoned land left after the fall of Rome. Their part is complete, and it will be up to others, to continue making a great nation.

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