Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Lantern Bearers by Sutcliff, Week 20 of 52 in 52

Dangerous times are beginning in Britain as the last of the Roman legions is pulled out. Aquila, a young Roman officer, must choose his loyalties between Rome and Britain. A last minute decision finds him alone on British soil as his legion pulls out. He returns to his family only to fight futilely as everything that he loves is destroyed by the Saxons. For three years, he serves as a slave with his only the thought of finding his sister giving him reason to live on. Their reunion was not at all as imagined. His sister has married a Saxon and chooses to stay with her new people instead of escaping with Aquila, who is filled with bitterness by her choice. It is only after years of fighting under Ambrosius against Vortigern and the Saxons that Aquila is able to gradually let go of his bitterness and create a new life for himself through the help of others.

The Lantern Bearers by Sutcliff has all of the elements of a great story: a struggling hero juxtaposed with a stirring fight for freedom and survival of a land against savage invaders and internal conflict. I had originally planned to preview the book simply for a bit of historical fiction for Jessie but have decided instead to make it one of her literature selections for the year. Jessie will love the book simply because of the glimpses of Artos, Ambrosius' nephew, (aka the real King Arthur). As far as content, I would recommend the book for 6th grade and up as younger readers will have a hard time understanding the internal struggles of Aquila. It would also make a great intro into a study of King Arthur by presenting a more historically accurate figure than the King Arthur of legend with his 14th century manners and customs.

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