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text 2016-03-23 14:05
The Big Idea: Alan Smale

(reblogged from Whatever)




The Roman Empire in the New World? That’s the idea of Sidewise Award winner Alan Smale’s The Clash of Eagles trilogy, of which Eagle in Exile is the second book. But in imagining an alternate history, how does one give honor to actual history, and avoid the easy traps of historical fiction? Smale offers up his thoughts.



I was still a recent import to the U.S. when the hoopla surrounding the Columbus quincentenary started up. My own one-man version of the British Invasion was going rather well at the time; what I’d originally thought would be an educational three-year stint in the New World was being overwritten by the strong urge to stick around. Nearly a quarter century later I’m still here, and I’m now an American myself.


From my outsider perspective it was gratifying to see how quickly the simplistic and myth-based story of Columbus I was used to got replaced with a more factual, thoughtful, and nuanced reconsideration of his voyages and impact. I was just beginning to get published as a writer of short fiction at the time, but even then ideas were swirling around my brain. Yet it took another decade and a half, much more writing experience, plus the unanticipated kick-start of reading Charles Mann’s 1491, for my conscious and unconscious minds to get their acts together.


In Clash of Eagles, the Roman Empire never fell. Now it’s the early thirteenth century and a legion under general Gaius Marcellinus is marching west from the Chesapeake Bay towards the great Mississippian city of Cahokia, a thriving community of some 20,000 people. (Cahokia really existed, of course. The Mississippians were mound-builders, and even today it’s fun to stand on top of what we now call Monks Mound, a giant earthwork 100 feet high and 1000 feet across at the base, look out over the surrounding more gently-mounded landscape, and imagine how glorious Cahokia must have been in its heyday…)


And that was the Big Idea behind Clash of Eagles: Ancient Rome invades North America when the Mississippian Culture is at its height. Subtext: Invoke a different European invasion of the North American continent, in a different way and at a different time but with fairly similar motives – plunder and personal glory – and explore what happens.


Read the rest of the article here.

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review 2015-11-03 15:25
Eagle in Exile: The Clash of Eagles Trilogy Book II - Alan Smale

In the years after the destruction of his legion, Praetor Gaius Marcellinus comes to realize that Rome will send another army to Nova Hesperia and that the tribes must unite to have any chance of independent survival. His advice is anathema to the fiercely proud warrior culture of the Cahokians, intent on revenge against the Iroqua.


So begins another long struggle for Marcellinus. He is the ultimate outsider, trusted by few and only occasionally by them. The beginning of the book is slow, and I admit that I struggled a bit, but it is well worth the wait. Smale has a tremendous imagination and I could not begin to foresee the turns that the plot would take. I am now wishing I had the third book to read!


My only other criticism is that I would have liked to know more about the characters as people, rather than as assets in a battle. When Marcellinus at one point talked about Hurit being charmingly engaging, it surprised me, made me like her, and made me understand her usefulness to Tahtay.


I received an advance review copy from NetGalley.

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review 2015-06-08 03:33
Clash of Eagles - Alan Smale

Thanks to Netgalley.com and to Random House Publications -- Del Ray Spectra, I was approved to read this pre-released version of Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale. Now, anyone who knows me knows I'm a history nerd (hence the whole going to college for a history degree) and I love history; but, it's been a while since I've read a historical fiction book.

So, I decided to read an alternative history book.

Everyone knows the tale of the Roman Empire. Powerful empire that stretched across the European and Asian continents and ruled for a good amount of years before falling to the Turks.

But, in Clash of Eagles, Smale asks the question "What if the Romans never fell?"

And that simple question got my attention.

Smale however expanded on that question more. "What if the Romans never fell...and were the ones to land upon North America's banks?"

What if the Romans were the ones that we the first contact with the Native Americans? What if the future lands of Canada, America, and Mexico weren't cultivated and conquered by the European powers we all know; but, by the Romans?

So many questions, so little time.

Rough plot ramble. You, the reader, follow along with Gaius Publius Marcellinus (Usually just Marcellinus throughout the text) as he and the Fighting 33rd Hesperian Legion attempt to walk from the Atlantic boarder to the Pacific in the search of gold for his leader back home in Rome. It's a grueling, arduous trek. He's conquered numerous tribes and have come up empty handed with only rumors to give him motivation to continue.

Only to struck down and he finds himself alone and captured by the enemy.

And that's all I'm going to spoil, you'll need to read the book in order to find out what happens.

Now, this novel....is what I would call a niche read. Not everyone is going to like it. It's a heavy historical and military novel. There are hints of romance. There are hints of humor; but, the biggest bulk of this novel is either fighting or Marcellinus warring with himself.

Not to say that this isn't an interesting and wonderful book to read. Not at all. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and it was a wonderful read; but, I also know that out of my group of friends I'm probably the only one that would.

So, if you're a history buff like myself then pick up this book, especially if you love Roman, Native American, or Alternative history.

Overall, I give this book a 8 out of 10. This wasn't a book that I rant and rave about; but, you wouldn't hear complaints from me. It was a nice book to curl up with and read with some music in the background. I loved how Smale made the Native American tribe come to life. Their culture was obviously well researched and artfully written. I honestly feel like I learned more about Native American tribes in this story more so than I learned in my 13 years of public schooling.

Now, this book was set to be published on March 17, 2015 so it should be on shelves now and is available on Amazon.

Thanks again to Netgalley and Random House Publication to giving me a chance to read this book for free in exchange for my honest review!

Until the next page turn,


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review 2015-03-11 19:35
Clash of Eagles - Alan Smale

I love alternate histories and this was a fascinating one. In the thirteenth century, a Roman legion crosses the Atlantic to North America in search of gold. The portrayal of Roman expansionism is not unexpected, but the portrayal of native Americans is surprising and intriguing. The story is told from the point of view of Marcellinus, the Roman Praetor, who is an exceptionally resourceful and adaptable individual. He meets the challenge of a new continent with supreme confidence and minimal knowledge about the new continent and native people. His lack of knowledge often leads to unintended consequences. There are clashes of armies, cultures, egos, agendas and more. It is difficult to say more without spoilers, but I am looking forward to the next book.


I received a free advanced review copy of this book.

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review 2015-02-17 22:11
Clash of Eagles - Alan Smale

WHAT IF . . . The Roman Empire had never fallen?


Better yet – what if the Roman Empire not only continued to exist but conquered Europe and then decided to invade the American Continent?


Sounds interesting, right?


Well, in Clash of Eagles that is exactly what Alan Smale sets out to explore.


In this “what if” world, Rome has continued to grow. In the east, it is confronted by the Chinese Empire. In the west, it has followed rumors of gold across the wide sea to a new world inhabited by savages.


Leading the Roman expedition of conquest is Praetor Gaius Marcellinus, who lands in what is obviously the Chesapeake Bay region before discovering that the cities of gold lie far away across the mountains. With the whole success of the expedition (not to mention his career) on the line, Gauis sets his army into motion with native guides determined to transverse the wild, forested lands, cross the distant Allegheny Mountains and reach the flood plains of a huge river where the natives say the people build mountains filled with gold.


As the march drags on and on, the Romans begin to be worn down; sweltering heat, overgrown virgin forests, the lack of roads, and war-like natives sucking all hope from their weary limbs. Once the column enters the land of the Iroquois things become even worse, as these fierce fighters constantly stalk the Roman column, slinking within the shadowy undergrowth just out of sight, waiting to silently ambush and kill scouts, hunters and any Roman unlucky enough to be separated from the group. But Gauis Marcellinus will not be deterred by the harshness of the conditions, because the lure of golden cities along the Mississippi River calls to him and he is determined to claim them for Rome’s new western empire!


Clash of Eagles is one of those alternative history novels that takes the familiar, mixes in a few surprises, and creates a plausible world filled with amazing variety. What I mean by that is here we have authentic Roman soldiers existing in a very traditional North American continent, but into this familiar scene, Mr. Smale mixes in new technologies, different historical events, and the imaginary clash of two cultures that had no (or limited) contact with one another in real life, yet he presents it in such a way that it never sounds outlandish at all!


A good book is only as good as its main character though, and Mr. Smale gives readers a fine one in Gauis Marcellinus. He is definitely a Roman, a fighting man, and a conqueror, but as the story evolves, he begins to show other parts of his personality. He shows honor, humility, love, and forgiveness. And through Gauis’ evolution, the whole tale of the clash of different cultures comes alive.


But this is a novel that promises combat between Roman legionaries and tomahawk wielding Native Americans, right? And I’m sure some of you are wondering if Clash delivers on that tantalizing vision. Well, don’t be concerned, because it does. There is battles galore within these pages. Each one blood soaked affairs, filled with enough strategy and bloodletting to keep the adrenaline pumping and the nerves twitching. But be warned, these are a thinking mans fights, not so fixated on minute details of every duel that the battles read like a “How to Fight Like a Roman Legionnaire” manual. And just to liven things up even more, Mr. Smale adds in some Native American weapons and fighting techniques that not only surprise Gauis and his Romans but the reader as well!


Even with all that gushing, however, I have to admit that Clash of Eagles did have a few problems that detracted from my enjoyment.


First, this is a one horse story, in that Gauis Marcellinus is the only character that really develops. While I fully enjoyed his viewpoint, I just believe that someone else’s viewpoint (perhaps a Native American?) would have lent a great deal to the narrative as a whole.


Two, the technological achievements of the Native Americans were never really explained. I thought they were great additions to the story, very creative on Mr. Smale’s part, but there didn’t seem to be any basis for them. What I mean, is that usually technology progresses steadily from Point A to Point B, leaving behind signs of its progress. But in Clash, the Native Americans just have some really cool technology without any lead up to it.


Three, I love alternative history for the . . . cool history! So while I didn’t want Clash of Eagles to be a history book, I still would have like Mr. Smale to have spent a little more time telling me how the Roman Empire’s timeline diverged from ours, why it survived, and some other “What If” factual context such as that. I mean, the absence of this didn’t ruin the story at all, but I personally think its inclusion would have made the novel even better.


Four, even though the Romans were in no way shown as technologically superior in every way to the Native Americans, the later parts of the story spent too much time portraying Gauis as the white man bringing modern technology to the red-skinned natives. It probably wasn’t as bad as I just made it sound, but our favorite Praetor does a lot of teaching things to the natives. Not bad in and of itself, just overdone a little bit in my opinion.


No matter my complaints, I felt Clash of Eagles was a well written, engaging alternative history story that mixed an exciting “What If” scenario with a brilliantly described Native American background. By the end, I not only found myself entertained but craving to know more about the Native American culture that was portrayed so vividly. And that is why I’ll be following this series going forward.


Del Rey Publishing and Netgalley provided this book to me for free in return for an honest review. The review above was not paid for or influenced in any way by any person, entity or organization, but is my own personal opinions.

Source: bookwraiths.com/2015/02/17/clash-of-eagles-clash-of-eagles-1-by-alan-smale
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