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The City Of Invention

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

The Departure Of The Legions From Britain

The Lantern Bearers - Rosemary Sutcliff

The third in the sequence of loosely-related books that began with The Eagle Of The Ninth, The Lantern Bearers, which won the Carnegie Medal in 1959, is a more sophisticated, more adult book than its predecessors.

Set in the fifth century AD, amid the chaos that followed upon the departure of the Roman legions from Britain, it tells the story of the impact of the Saxon invasion on one Romano-British family, and in particular on one of its members, Aquila, descendant of Marcus, the hero of The Eagle Of The Ninth.

As always, Sutcliff's writing is dense and richly detailed, particularly her keenly-observed and evocative descriptions of nature. Nevertheless, descriptive passages are never simply indulged in for their own sake but only as an essential part of the narrative.

Out of such fragments of history and legend as have come down to us from this obscure period, the author has created a powerful and emotional story of divided loyalties, conflicting aspirations and hope nourished against all the odds.

It's a remarkable flight of imaginative reconstruction and a wonderful piece of story-telling. I feel quite certain that the images with which it ends will remain with me for a very long time.