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Keith Currie

Frontier Wolf by Rosemary Sutcliff

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Edited by Keith Currie, Sunday, 23 May 2021, 19:32

This is one of my favourite novels by Rosemary Sutcliff, (along with Blood Feud and Sword at Sunset). Interestingly it is not as well known as the three Eagle novels, even though it does belong to the sequence as the hero, the young Roman officer Alexios, belongs to the Aquila family.

Like many of Sutcliff's novels this is an account of error and the opportunity of redemption and as usual it is very well done. Alexios, in disgrace, is given command of a motley crew of the dregs of the Roman army, the Frontier Scouts, whose base lies well beyond Hadrian's Wall. He must win the respect of his men as well as attempt to keep the peace with the neighbouring Caledonian tribes. The heart of the novel is the thrilling account of the retreat back to the Wall when wholesale rebellion breaks out.

Sutcliff dedicates the book to Wallace Breem among others and there is an undeniable influence from Breem's fiction evident: Eagle in the Snow for setting and time period, but even more from The Leopard and the Cliff, Breem's Afghan novel, for the theme of desperate retreat and the maintenance of loyalty under the extremes of revolt and personal danger. There also is a real feeling for the difficulties of knowing the right thing to do and doing it.

Unjustly neglected, I recommend this exciting and thoughtful novel.

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Ian Murray

the eagle of the ninth

Hi Keith.

Just saw your blog now and your comments re: Rosemary Sutcliff.

The two things that got me into Roman history when I was young was firstly, the 1977 BBC dramatisation of 'The Eagle Of The Ninth.' Needless to say I read the book after I saw the TV drama.

Soon after that I saw another TV drama entitled, 'Red Shift' - it was three separate stories and the first one was about a group of Roman soldiers in Britain who - if memory serves me - desert from the army.

So, from small acorns grew a life long interest. Actually, both dramas are available now on DVD.

I too, read the Wallace Breem novel, 'Eagle In The Snow,' and found it very poignant at the end.

But, getting back to Rosemary Sutcliffe. I would imagine there are certainly a few classical academics who may owe their vocations to reading her when young. She was an inspiration. 


Ian Murray.