- Paperback: 254 pages
- Publisher: Front Street Press (February 1, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1590785940
- ISBN-13: 978-1590785942
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #380,252 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Frontier Wolf Paperback – February 1, 2008
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About the Author
Rosemary Sutcliff's books have been published throughout the world. She has received a Hans Christian Andersen Highly Commended Author Award for her body of work and was named a Commander of the British Empire in the year of her death.
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In Frontier Wolf she tells of Britain in the waning days of Rome's power. Young Alexios Flavius Aquila has been promoted through the ranks of the army only because his uncle happens to be Governor of the Roman province of North Britannia. Consequently, he finds himself with more power than he is competent to handle and, in the heat of a battle on the Danube River, he makes a decision that ends up costing the life of about half his men. Sent back to Britain in disgrace he is -- again, because his uncle is the Governor -- not discharged from the army as might be expected, but instead sent to command a fort at the far northern reaches of Roman territory in Britain, near the Antonine Wall in present-day Scotland.
The Frontier Wolves, as this group of soldiers are known, are a mongrel mix of Romans and natives who are fiercely close and loyal but pride themselves on not being quite like the "regular" army. As their leader, Alexios must try to learn their half-barbaric ways, earn their loyalty, and at the same time live down his former disgrace and regain some measure of self-respect.
Sutcliff's books were originally intended for a young adult audience, and there is evidence of that in her writings. Her main characters are always young men (females are almost entirely absent from her books), she focuses on themes of loyalty, honor and integrity, and every book has a climactic scene (or sometimes more than one) where the main character faces a critical decision that is a painful, almost no-win test of his integrity, inner strength, and ability to do what is "right" (although "right" by Roman Britain standards may not always feel right to the modern reader).
However, do not let the "young adult" tag turn you off - Sutcliff's style is sophisticated enough to appeal to any adult with an interest in her Roman Britain settings. Her writing is sometimes simple and straightforward, and sometimes almost poetic in its imagery, especially as she describes the landscape of Britain. Her books are very fast reads, not only because they are relatively short but because her writing just sings.
This story concerns a young man, Alexios, who is in his early twenties. He is given the responsibility of commanding a unit in Germany, but when the German hordes threaten his fort, he decides to leave. It turns out to be a terrible mistake. As punishment, he is sent north to what is now Scotland to command a unit known as the "Frontier Wolves". Again, his fort is overrun by the local tribes, and he has to choose whether to stay or go.
As usual, Ms. Sutcliff's wonderful prose lifts this novel beyond the ordinary, even though a great deal of the novel (like her others) has to do with the day-to-day ordinariness of everyday life. 5 stars.
Reading most of the book I had thought this was going to be a personal favorite and I still think I will enjoy rereading it at a later date, however what could have been perfect was ruined by the ending. The conclusion became too idealistic. Most of the characters acting too honorable and too GOOD. Though honor was a prevailing theme in this book, no one is perfect. I particularly did not like the meeting with the Emperor. It may have just been Sutcliff's love of history and her desire for the Emperor to be a magnificent figure but I found the characters to suddenly be less realistic and assuming of the good intentions of others.
Though her books are often classified as young adult that should no way put off the adult reader. Sutcliff's writing is more mature and elegant then some authors from the traditional 'adult novels' and overall this is still a very good read.