Frontier Wolf

Frontier Wolf

by Rosemary Sutcliff

As punishment for his poor judgment, a young, inexperienced Roman army officer is sent to Northern England to assume the command of a motley group known as the Frontier Wolves.

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A disastrous decision nearly gets him discharged from the Roman army, but his high-ranking uncle begrudgingly pulls some strings, and well-meaning-but-inept Alexios is transferred instead. Hes been sent to mind the fort on the very edge of Caledonia (present-day Scotland), the most northern and remote part of the Roman Empire. Alexios discovers some comforts in this bleak landscape. If the Druids dont break it, Alexios Roman superiors might Content Advisory Violence: Several battle scenes, a single combat, and one execution by stabbingnone gratuitously gory, but most involving the deaths of characters weve come to care about. in her foreword, Sutcliff states that she had always wanted this story to be part of the Dolphin Ring sequence, but no evidence of Roman occupation that far north had been unearthed until the late seventies. Sutcliff assumes that her readers have a basic knowledge of Roman and British historya fairly safe assumption at the time, but not in these dumb timesand she never talks down to the reader or hits them on the head with the moral of the story. In Frontier Wolf, the violence, while still not gratuitous, is a lot more upsetting than that of Eagle or Silver Branch.

But instead of being court-martialed, he's given the assignment of leading the Frontier Wolves, a band of undisciplined Rome-aligned tribesmen at a fort on the fringes of the Roman frontier in northern Britain. Sutcliff vividly describes life of both the Romans and the tribes living on the 4th-century British frontier. At first, I thought the early chapters about how Aquila settled into his new life among the Wolves and the local tribes was slow. Sutcliff also portrayed the Romans, the Wolves, and the local tribesmen as real people, not stereotypes.

Frontier Wolf revisits Sutcliff's pet themes about cultural assimilation and hybridization, but I think less problematically here than in some of her earlier books. It strangely manages to be a slow book--Sutcliff always takes her time with narrative and setting, and very little "action" takes place for the majority of it--yet incredibly tense, especially the last part--I can think of only one way the tension might have been kept higher, but I can see why Sutcliff didn't take that route. In some ways this book does better because it essentially has none, aside from Alexios' mother, and if they're not there they can't bother me. And while Justin in The Silver Branch longs for his father's approval and eventually gains resolution, Alexios does not care for his mother's approval, and in the end he does not earn back her respect because she is simply gone from the narrative.

I really liked Alexios as a protagonist - he was different from some of Sutcliffs other legionnaire characters; he had failed his duty, brought disgrace to his family, and had only gained his previous positions because of his relations. He is such a jerk that as a Reader, I wanted to read his demise, and the quickness of his death, while believable, was a little disappointing. Believability: As always, Rosemary Sutcliff did a lot of research, and she notes in her Authors Note what she made up and what she didnt. Writing Style: As in all of her stories, Frontier Wolf is filled with beautiful and loving descriptions of the Highlands - written in a way that only someone who has been there can write it. Its realistic, and some might say that its a little bit abrupt, but it fits the story completely. Like all of Sutcliffs books, this will appeal to both guys and girls.

The ringbearer this time is one Alexios Flavius Aquila, sent -- on account of a disastrous military mistake -- to the north of Britain to command the Frontier Wolves, a bunch of disreputable scouts that no one else wants, and furthermore, if they don't like Alexios, he probably isn't going to be surviving it. The plot is the story of a year or so of Alexios' life with the Frontier Wolves, the camaraderie and friendships he forges with his own men as well as the local British tribespeople, and his growth as a commander. At least in my opinion.) The characters are wonderful (I think I like Alexios better than I liked Marcus, in some ways, and let's not even go into my feelings for Hilarion; my feelings about other characters would be too spoilery to detail here), the setting is epic, Sutcliff's usual lush and vivid descriptions are here in full force, and the whole thing is incredibly tightly plotted. And at that point I just couldn't put the book down, because the plot ramps up and does not stop and you just have to keep reading until the characters are safe.

Rosemary said in her author's note that she wrote this story from the idea she got while watching a western, and I can definitely see that influence in "Frontier Wolf". Military adventure are my favorite types of books, with true camaraderie portrayed, especially in the way that only Rosemary can do. My favorite supporting character was Hilarion, he was the easy going comrade and the end of this book between him and Alexios (not to give away anything) was just amazing, and true to Rosemary's reoccurring themes of brotherly love. If I was in the Roman army, I would have been a Frontier Wolf ;) Perhaps my favorite part of this book was actually Rosemary's author's note, for she described so many things that were close to me as an author myself and I could definitely feel the fact that she enjoyed writing this book so much from the ease and flow with which it read.

"Frontier Wolf" is part of a series by Rosemary Sutcliff about a family that lives in Britain from Roman times to the Middle Ages. Alexios's life now depends on the loyalty of his men . and his men's lives depend on his loyalty to them.

It looks like Frontier Wolf has been reprinted -- which is very good, as I never knew it existed when I was younger.

In historical novels, it's good to have a sense of what normal is before adventure takes over.

Rosemary Sutcliff writes historical drama with such an eye for detail, when you stop reading and come back to real life, theres a brief sense of disorientation. Centurion Clovis forgot the Sir. They faced each other across the table, and after a moment Alexios said deliberately, Centurion, I am in command here. Centurion Clovis, who had grey hairs in his beard, looked back at this puppy, who with nothing to recommend him save that he was a first-class swordsman (and you could say the same of any gladiator who outlasted three fights in the arena), just because he had an influential uncle, had been promoted over the heads of men like himself, before he had time to learn his job, and said, I should like to place it officially on record that I disagree with your decision, Sir. This takes place in the last years of Roman rule in Britain, and Aquilas new soldiers are a mixture of native tribesmen and Romans. Alexios found that he was shaking a little, and hoped desperately that it did not show, as he looked from one to another of the men about him. And the men in their turn looked back, taking in the fact that their new Commander stood in their midst with one cheek cut and an eye rapidly filling up and turning black. His seconds in command (Lucius and Hilarion), the young trumpeter Rufus, the Quartermaster Kaeso and the Chieftains son Cunorix all take their places in your heart. Between the darkly sodden wreck of last years bracken and the soft, grey drift of the sky, the catkins were lengthening on the hazel bushes, making a kind of faint sunlight of their own, and in one especially sheltered place, as the two young men brushed past, the first pollen scattered from the whippy sprays so that they rode through a sudden golden mist.

Rosemary Sutcliff was a British novelist, best known as a writer of highly acclaimed historical fiction. Although primarily a children's author, the quality and depth of her writing also appeals to adults, she herself once commenting that she wrote "for children of all ages from nine to ninety." Born in West Clandon, Surrey, Sutcliff spent her early youth in Malta and other naval bases where her father was stationed as a naval officer. She wrote incessantly throughout her life, and was still writing on the morning of her death.