[from my Goodreads review in 2011]
I don’t know how I missed reading this trilogy until now. I like them all a lot, but this one, the concluding one, in particular. Brilliant to set the beginning of the novel with the departure of the last Romans from Britain. The senses of inevitability and betrayal are so real, you get the feeling it must have happened just this way, and you’ll love the last lighting of the Pharos and the legends that grow and follow it. The heart breaks for Aquila and his multiple losses and the bludgeoning effect they have on him and his emotions, and Sutcliff’s description of the grinding, unending battles that follow to drive out the Saxons give a real feel for what life must have been like in that time.
I also love it that Aquila and Ambrosius are fully aware that they are struggling to hold back the dark, civilization holding the line against the barbarian horde. At the same time the years that Aquila spends with the Saxons make the Saxons more human and less monster. They were hungry. Of course they were going to move somewhere they could feed their families, no matter who stood in their way. It’s also physics, nature abhors a vacuum, the Romans pulled out and the Saxons moved in.
I feel like I just stepped out of a time machine. Glad to be back.