Long ago, my Dad recommended the novel Sword at Sunset to me. Before I ever got around to it, I found out that it was part of a series of novels Rosemary Sutcliff wrote about Roman and post-Roman Britain. So, I’ve now (much later) gotten to reading the start of the series.

It takes place near the middle of the 2nd Century AD, and is a simple, but well-written period piece. We first meet the main character, Marcus, as a freshly-minted Centurion, with his first command, coming up to garrison Hadrian’s Wall, which is under construction. We get some nice bits of legionary life, the local Britons, and some early action as rebellion flares up.

Marcus is seriously wounded, and invalided out of the 2nd Legion, and another few chapters is spent detailing recuperation at his uncle’s villa, while Marcus is left at lose ends as his entire projected career is wrecked. Both of these parts carry the reader through quite effortlessly, but are still just setup for the central story.

Ten years previously, the Ninth Legion marched north from Roman-held land to punish raiding tribesmen, …and vanished without a trace, including Marcus’ father, who had a command in that Legion. This is mentioned early, but doesn’t become a central part of the book until some way through, at which point it (and it’s eagle standard) become the central MacGuffin of the story. The rest of the story is as well-done as the previous, and is more of a typical adventure in outline.

It maintains an even, brisk pace throughout, and is definitely a recommended read.