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.Gary Land
This volume is the second of Sutcliff's Roman Britain novels for young adults. I did not find this book quite as tension-filled as The Eagle of the Ninth, but no less interesting. Sutcliff provides a rich historical setting and develops her characters well and writes in a style that seems quite "adult," despite her target audience. I highly recommend this volume to anyone who appreciates well-written historical novels.Miriam Joy
It's very noticeable, after reading a few of Rosemary Sutcliff's books in close succession, how her protagonists are never the 'strong' ones. In Song For A Dark Queen, it's narrated by the queen's harper, not one of her warriors or a member of her family or the queen herself. And within the context of the narrative, that makes perfect sense, but it's a slightly unexpected choice. In The Eagle Of The Ninth, the protagonist is lame in one leg because of an injury, and therefore struggles with chronic pain despite the fact it is almost healed. And here, the protagonist is an anxious, sickly surgeon (he wasn't healthy enough to be a soldier) with a stutter that gets worse when he's nervous.It makes a change. It really does. And it also makes sense, reading the author bio of Sutcliff at the end of the novel which highlights the fact she was in a wheelchair for most of her life, affected by Still's disease.I've spent most of my life hale and healthy, until recently. Unfortunately, long-term health issues got a lot worse and I've been kind of limited in what I could do the last year or so. I'm also anxious and prone to panic attacks and nervous breakdowns. A lot of the time, these limitations massively affect my mood. But they also impact my reading taste, because why would I want to read about strong, athletic characters saving the world / their family when I could read about disabled or injured characters doing the same thing by overcoming their difficulties and playing their strengths? I imagine it was a similar attitude that prompted Sutcliff to make those decisions about her characters, and I'm sincerely grateful for it. It's refreshing to read a historical novel where the sickly or injured character isn't confined to their room while dashing young soldiers go around filling the plot criteria, perhaps out of pity or love for their fallen comrade. It's refreshing to read about somebody waking up with chronic pain in their leg and pushing through it to achieve something that most people thought was impossible, or struggling to communicate because of their nervousness but working through it to build friendships and alliances.Sometimes Sutcliff's style isn't the easiest, and I always feel slightly lost for the first couple of chapters of her books as I try and adjust to the setting which is often very intense and a little bit difficult to understand (and I'm far older than the target audience of these books). This one was no exception, though that might have been because I haven't read anything in a few weeks due to a heavy workload from school, and I wasn't in the swing of it. But the story, especially how it linked so cleverly and carefully with the earlier book, The Eagle Of The Ninth, made it worth it. And I've already mentioned what I like so much about her protagonists. So not the easiest read I've ever picked up from the children's shelves in the library and there's definitely no reason that it should be limited to that age group -- the writing and language is sophisticated, the characters are young but grown up, rather than being adolescents or children, and I'm sure it would appeal just as much to others my age (18) as to the ten-year-olds who frequent the children's section.In future, I won't let myself be embarrassed when I check out those books.Don Goforth
A good continuation of Eagle of the Ninth, though the setting and characters are new. The story is well written and the history is interesting.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,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.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.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.David Manns
Set a century or so after The Eagle of The Ninth, Rosemary Sutcliff's second novel set in Roman Britain deals with the events surrounding the so-called Emporer of Britain, Carausius. Two cousins, Flavius (a descendant of Marcus Aquila from the first book) and Justin are posted to serve under Carausius as he attempts to build Britain into a strong province, able to withstand attacks by the Saxons and to act as an outpost of civilisation should Roma fall.Alas Carausius falls prey to a jealous usurper, despite Flavius and Justin's attempt to warn him, and the cousins are despatched to serve on Hadrian's Wall. About to be betrayed they desert and make their way south to Flavius' home near Calleva. Here they help smuggle people out from under the rule of the usurper, Allectus, to Gaul, before events conspire to embroil them in the battle to retake the Province for Rome. Sutcliff's handling of the history is masterful, but it's her storytelling that makes this book a rivetting read. The battle at Calleva towards the end of the book is wonderfully described. Flavius and Justin are well drawn, rich characters who grow into battle hardened men by the book's end.Although nominally called 'children's fiction' this is actually a great historical novel, as are all of Sutcliff's works, and can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It certainly towers over the likes of Harry Potter and his ilk. Rich in detail, exciting and moving I'd recommend this to anyone.Georgia
I'm not a fan of history, period. However, this is book that I'm reading in one of my courses in school, and I must admit that this is turning out to be a good novel. Admittedly, this is a hard book to get into for the first 30 or so pages. However! Once you get past those first thirty pages, you get thrown into action. You will be sure to find yourself on the edge of your seat, and eager to turn the page!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.Katie Robinson
Two cousins try to save the Emperor of Britain. They fail. And now Britain is in a civil war and they must lead Britain to victory.I didn't know about this aspect of history, it was interesting to learn about. Justin was a different character to follow, he wasn't always my favorite though.Katie
I've read this before. It was good, but I didn't feel that it had the amazing plot line as did "The Eagle of the Ninth". Finding out who was related to who was a little confusing--so if you thinks that was clear, maybe you could tell me. I found it a little depressing (if I thought correctly) that Marcus and Cottia died when they were young.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.Basicallyrun
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.