I thought this was fantastic - the only reason it doesn't have five stars is because I'm judging it against The Eagle of the Ninth, which I just... like more for some reason. I adore the ties between this and The Eagle - I imagine Marcus would've been proud to see the use his eagle was put to. Justin's relationship with his father felt very real to me, too. Neither of them are really in the wrong, they're just *really awkward*. Bless. As ever, Sutcliff writes beautifully, and does a brilliant job of creating people with utterly different mindsets who somehow work together. The historical details are gorgeous too - the Christian soldier testing out Justin and Flavius with the fish drawing stood out in particular. It's not heavy handed, it's not 'Oh, look at how much I know about this period!', it's just utterly, utterly immersive.In most books with nigh-impossible tasks to be achieved, you can be pretty sure the heroes will win through somehow, but with Sutcliff you can never be sure (The Shining Company, for example). People tend to fail, not because they're bad people, or because they did something stupid, but because the odds are ridiculously against them. But they still try, and that is my kind of hero.Abigail Hartman
I cannot quite tell if this ties with "The Eagle of the Ninth" or comes in as a close second, but either way, it is a wonderful story. As with "The Eagle of the Ninth," Sutcliff has an amazing knack for showing emotion in the little things of the story, and for sweeping the reader off to yesteryear. Justin and Flavius are spectacular, and the smattering of lesser characters are each unique - Evicatos of the Spear, Aunt Honoria, Centurian Anthonius, Cullen the Fool, Paulinus, and, larger than life, Carausius.Katy
This is the first sequel to Eagle of the Ninth, which I read a couple of months back for a Children's Classics reading group. I bought the box set, but didn't jump straight in to the next volume, unlike most of the other books we've read, but there's a group member who is extremely passionate about these books, and the Arthurian retelling that seems to follow them. Having just had a fairly disappointing read of The Sword in the Stone, he said that RS's Arthur story was the best he'd ever read, and it just so happens to be on the pile I took out from the library weeks ago, which I keep renewing. So I decided I should bump that to the top of my tbr pile, and then read something which said it followed on in some way from The Lantern Bearers. So time for a RS marathon! I found this one faster paced and more engrossing than Eagle, and would definitely recommend it, although you do need to read Eagle first. And I'm really looking forward to the next one, which was the one that won awards for her. It was a fast read, but not as lightweight as that would usually imply - it actually felt like an intelligent book. It picks up a century or two after Eagle, as the Roman Empire is faltering, and two descendents of the original hero happen to be stationed together with the legions in Richborough. They quickly become firm friends, and I thought her portrayal of their friendship was really touching, but their carefree days hunting together quickly come to an end when they discover someone plotting against the emperor. Very few authors seem to manage to combine action and adventure with real emotion. I really enjoyed this.David
Plotting and characterization aren't as strong here as the other 2 in this very good trilogy, though it has the same great locale and historical detail. It would be tons of fun to teach this series to modern Amuhrican tweens. Sutcliff's values are old-fashioned and very "British": duty and loyalty to a charismatic leader far outweigh individual heroics. Think Aeneid vs. Iliad, though both are, ahem, manly.Linda
I give this four stars instead of five just because I don't love it quite as much as Eagle of the Ninth. It's very well written, has an interesting cast of characters and the plot moves along quickly: darkness is falling on Roman Britain and treachery is in the air. Two of Marcus' descendants work to keep the light shining for a little longer, knowing that the world they have grown up in is about to disappear,Simon
Quite a long way behind The Eagle of the Ninth. It takes a while to get going and you never get to know or care about the main characters too deeply. Criticism is in comparison to its prequel. It's still a fine book. Interesting band of characters with different backgrounds. Shows both the extent of the Roman Empire and how it eventually crumbled. The first book was generally sympathetic to the tribes north of the wall; this one sees everything Saxon as heathen and brutish. One of the decent Romans is an early Christian. Though the empire became a Christian empire within a generation or two of this, the observations on this character's beliefs are a little unbelievable in themselves.Isis
This is fabulous. I think I preferred it to The Eagle Of The Ninth (which I know is the opposite of most opinions), but that's because I saw the movie The Eagle before reading the book, and I thought the changes to the plot of the quest made for a stronger story (although in most other respects I preferred the book), so the book itself suffered by comparison. I preferred the plot: saving their country is more potent than saving a symbol. (Although I love how the symbol shows up here!) Finally, I preferred the structure of this book, as Justin and Flavius are both present nearly from the beginning (as opposed to in Eagle the first many chapters are of Marcus alone), which I think builds a stronger relationship. Because in many ways this is all about the relationship. I mean yes, it's a political adventure set against the actual events of the time, but what makes this a novel and not a history is that these events bind the cousins together as they transition from young soldiers into leaders and men. Also, Aunt Honoria ROCKS.Nikki
Not sure why I didn't like this as much, when I was younger. Maybe I'd just wanted more time with Marcus and Esca, and felt a little cheated by Flavius and Justin. Not so much, now: it was like meeting up with an old, old friend, to read this book again. It's a quick read, like the first book, and maybe the reread of this one was even more of a pleasure, because I was truly discovering something new in it this time.I love the way Rosemary Sutcliff bases her books so strongly on real things -- on an attempt at reconstructing the real history behind something like the Eagle found in Silchester. I wish we knew what the real story is -- but maybe it isn't nearly so interesting as the story Sutcliff has told.In any case, I have got to love Flavius and Justin, and Cullen, and to feel a little of their same loyalty for Carausius. I'm glad they go together at the end.Nigel
Well, the annoying thing about this book was the spoilers contained in the blurb, two on the back cover and another one on the page inside the front cover, giving away two major turning points in the book and effectively telling us something that doesn't happen until the last act, though it is the point the book has been building up to. It doesn't spoil the book by any means but it does nail down the direction of the book for you before you've even picked it up. The first spoiled turning point doesn't occur until about 100 pages in, for God's sake. Anyway, The Silver branch, sequel to Eagle Of The Ninth, set a generation later, recounts the adventures of Justin and Flavius, young Roman officers posted to Britain where Carausias has proclaimed himself Emperor. Once a river-pilot, he rose to command the Roman fleet and absconded with it to Britain and overthrew the Governor. Now he's a valuable ally of the much-weakened Roman Empire against encroaching barbarians and sea-wolves and plans to strengthen Britain to the point where it can withstand the impending fall of Rome.Justin and Flavius, good-hearted and good-natured youths, chance on a treacherous meeting while hunting on the coast. Reporting what they witnised, however, leads to an unexpected outcome. What follows is a tale of loyalty and betrayal, a stirring adventure that builds to a fiery climax under the battered and tarnished Eagle of the lost Ninth Legion.Absolutely marvelous stuff. Sutcliff was the mistress of historical adventures, concealing a sophisticated understanding of the ancient world and its history under a deceptively simple and straightforward style of storytelling. The story twists and turns and runs its own course, and it helps if the sodding copywriter hasn't given any of the various twists and turns away.Brian
The Silver Branch is the second book in the sequence that begins with The Eagle Of The Ninth. It's the story of two cousins in the Roman army who get caught up in the intrigue surrounding the assassination of Carausius, self-styled emperor of Britain in the last decade of the third century. Strong characters, a compelling plot and intelligent use of period detail superbly summon up the word of Roman-Britain, whether in the chaotic bustle of the long straggling series of towns that thrive beside Hadrian's Wall or in the prosperous dignity of Romano-British cities in the south.All of the themes familiar to readers of Rosemary Sutcliff's work are represented here: courage and friendship, civilization and barbarity, honour and duty, the ties of family and of landscape. But above all, this is an adventure story in the old-fashioned sense: two young men overcoming apparently unsurmountable odds for the sake of a cause that they believe in. A tremendous read.Ellis L.
I have fond memories of reading Sutcliff back when I was in my early teens. Nostalgia doesn't always serve me well, though, so I wasn't sure what I was going to find when I read this book. But it was easily got on my Kindle, and I was looking for a change of pace. I was not disappointed.I'll let others describe the book; here I'll describe my reaction to it. I enjoyed it. It's not great literature, but it's solid literature and Sutcliff had a good eye and ear for historical matters. One doesn't learn history in any formal way, but one does imbibe it, rather as a tourist imbibes something of a culture even on a bus tour. I don't know why I associate Sutcliff's work with Young Adult; perhaps it's because that's when I read her. She doesn't specifically write about teens, and she certainly doesn't dumb down her writing. Maybe it's because her books have such a strong element of adventure in them. Whatever the reason, I heartily recommend her books to any teenager of today. They will be a strong alternative to the dreck that usually bears the YA tag.Rik
Really enjoyed this book. Some similarities between this and the first, such as unusual friendship between the Roman occupiers and the locals, made it a little less fresh, but then I did read them one after the other. Again it felt authentic, and does , as the forward says, have real historical context. Makes me want to find out more about this period in history.Mary
This book focuses on two young descendents of Marcus and Cottia. The main protagonist is Justin, who is just starting out as a Medicus to a legion in Northern Britain. There, he meets his cousin Flavius. The two young men soon find that there is a plot against the emperor, led by his closest adviser. When they attempt to warn the emperor, they find that their own lives are in danger. Will they be able to save the emperor's life - and their own?As in "The Eagle of the Ninth", Sutcliff excels in creating sympathetic and believable characters. I was rooting for the gentle, stammering Justin all the way through this book. And Aunt Honoria is absolutely awesome! If you loved "The Eagle", you will certainly want to read this book.Joyce
Didn't enjoy as much as The Eagle of the Ninth--the characters and plot just didn't grab me the same way and I don't foresee any of the scenes lingering in my memory the way The Eagle of the Ninth does--but I'm glad I read it and will read the next book in the trilogy, The Lantern Bearers.Kati
3.5 stars. A good adventure book for the whole family, both kids and adults, a follow-up to "The Eagle of the Nine" by the same author. I liked the characters a lot, all of them, but especially Flavius and Justinus, the main characters. Though for me, the book was... missing something. Maybe because it wasn't about them being a part of various historical events, it was about the historical events featuring them, the story was more important than the characters. There were few scenes that I would've called "intimate" - we learned a lot about Flavius and Justinus without really getting to know them, if that makes any sense. But it was a good story and I'm sorry that I didn't get around to it when I was a kid. I think I would've adored it...