Read Frontier Wolf by Rosemary Sutcliff Free Online
Book Title: Frontier Wolf|
The author of the book: Rosemary Sutcliff
City - Country: No data
Loaded: 1897 times
Reader ratings: 6.7
Edition: Puffin Books
Date of issue: June 28th 1984
ISBN 13: 9780140314724
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 810 KB
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Alexios Flavius Aquila is an excellent swordsman but an immature military leader. 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.
The young man quickly discovers that discharge might have been the more comfortable option. He’s 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. The soldiers here are some of the toughest and fiercest in the Empire. They call themselves the Frontier Wolves, after the wolf-pelt cloaks they wear in the tradition of Hercules’ Nemean Lion-skin.
Outside the fort walls dwell numerous Celtic tribes. The Votadini are tentatively friendly with the Romans, while others, especially the Picts, are notoriously hostile. In these far northern climes, the Druids still hold power, and they have no forgiven Rome for driving them out of southern Britain. Imperial forces here must also stay alert for conspiracies between the Scots and their sea-raiding cousins from unconquerable Hibernia (Ireland).
Alexios discovers some comforts in this bleak landscape. He’s treated well by the Votadini chieftain and becomes best friends with the old man’s two sons, steady Cunorix and irrepressible Connla. But the peace is fragile. If the Druids don’t break it, Alexios’ Roman superiors might…
Violence: Several battle scenes, a single combat, and one execution by stabbing—none gratuitously gory, but most involving the deaths of characters we’ve come to care about. Casualties include women, children, horses, and a kitty cat.
Sex: It is implied that a young Celtic widow might have been raped by a marauding tribe. This is never confirmed, and a younger reader probably wouldn’t pick up on the hint.
Language: One soldier swears by Christ, while his compatriots usually swear by Mithras. Sometimes they mix things up by swearing by Ahimran or Satan.
Substance Abuse: The Votadini hold a great feast wherein the vast majority of warriors get impressively sloshed.
Politics and Religion: Brief internal monologue from Alexios about why he thinks the Mithras cult is better suited to army life than Christianity. A Druid is portrayed as a sinister character, although he is shown as a political evil rather than a spiritual one, and it makes perfect sense for our POV character to see the man as a villain.
Nightmare Fuel: The Votadini play a primitive ballgame with the severed head of a calf. The foul thing leaves a faint bloody residue all over the playing ground, and one of its eyeballs falls out during the game.
Frontier Wolf was published in 1980, twenty-three years after The Eagle of the Ninth. 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. Chronologically, this installment fits between The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers.
I bring up the publication order and time gap because they might explain the significantly darker content and tone of this book compared to its predecessors.
Even while reading the comparatively cheery Eagle, I wondered why these books were classified as children’s. The vocabulary and sentence structure can be quite advanced. The tone is bleak. The main characters are in their late teens or early twenties. Sutcliff assumes that her readers have a basic knowledge of Roman and British history—a fairly safe assumption at the time, but not in these dumb times—and 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. (view spoiler)[This time the most tragic deaths are witnessed, and our hero, through no will of his own, has a hand in them (hide spoiler)].
Granted, the series so far is so sexless it makes the Chronicles of Narnia look like today’s hormone-marinated YA by comparison, but “lack of romance” does not automatically equal “kids’ book”, especially when the rest of the book would be a hard read for youngsters regardless.
This is a dark and sorrowful story, not dark for the sake of darkness like so many today (*cough* An Ember in the Ashes *cough*), but accurately reflecting a dark period in history, a time when Roman apathy and the anger of various “barbarians” would bring about the Empire’s end, taking antiquity itself with it, in about a hundred-and-fifty years.
It’s also the personal tragedy of a young man trapped between horrible choices, always wanting to do the right thing, and having to settle for doing as little damage as possible. I shed a few tears for Alexios.
The most searing installment yet in a series I’m so glad to have found. Recommended.
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Read information about the authorRosemary 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 contracted Still's Disease when she was very young and was confined to a wheelchair for most of her life. Due to her chronic sickness, she spent the majority of her time with her mother, a tireless storyteller, from whom she learned many of the Celtic and Saxon legends that she would later expand into works of historical fiction. Her early schooling being continually interrupted by moving house and her disabling condition, Sutcliff didn't learn to read until she was nine, and left school at fourteen to enter the Bideford Art School, which she attended for three years, graduating from the General Art Course. She then worked as a painter of miniatures.
Rosemary Sutcliff began her career as a writer in 1950 with The Chronicles of Robin Hood. She found her voice when she wrote The Eagle of the Ninth in 1954. In 1959, she won the Carnegie Medal for The Lantern Bearers and was runner-up in 1972 with Tristan and Iseult. In 1974 she was highly commended for the Hans Christian Andersen Award. Her The Mark of the Horse Lord won the first Phoenix Award in 1985.
Sutcliff lived for many years in Walberton near Arundel, Sussex. In 1975 she was appointed OBE for services to Children's Literature and promoted to CBE in 1992. She wrote incessantly throughout her life, and was still writing on the morning of her death. She never married.
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