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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Not Quite Rosemary Sutcliff

The Lion and the Lamb - John Henry Clay

Set in Britain in the fourth century AD, The Lion and The Lamb is the story of Paul, a young man from a wealthy and respected Romano-British family who runs away from home after killing his brother in a quarrel, joins the army as a lowly foot soldier, falls in love with a crippled Irish slave who redeems him, and returns to his family just in time to save his community from the Great Barbarian conspiracy in which an alliance of barbarian tribes simultaneously invade Roman Britain.

There is a good deal of socio-political background in this book and it feels very authentic. That is as you might expect from an author who is a lecturer in medieval history at Durham University and has been hailed as a latter-day Rosemary Sutcliff, albeit one clearly writing for adults.

It's always good to have a sense of the bigger picture in historical fiction and it was certainly interesting to see how the mechanics of civil, military and religious administration worked in the latter days of the empire. Unfortunately, what the novel gains in historical accuracy it loses in narrative technique. I found the characters a bit wooden and the plot terribly slow. I struggled to get to the end.