Empire of the Eagle

~ 2nd Novel in the Central Asia Series by Andre Norton

Written with Susan Shwartz



Synopsis ~

Write-up from the front flap of the 1993 dustjacket ~

The young Roman soldier Quintus shares the dream of every man in the Imperial army: to grow old and honorable in its service, to earn his wooden sword and land at life's end. But Quintus is also driven by a stronger need-he longs to reclaim his family's honor that was torn asunder, caught in the bloody arena of Rome’s politics.
But dreams can turn to dust on the tides of battle, and when his commander Crassus and his legions are defeated at Carrhae (with the might of Rome in disgrace and the golden Eagles - Rome’s most honored symbol of power-captured), Quintus is left with little hope, either for his family’s salvation...or a lengthy survival. As the struggling remnants of the Roman army are sold as slaves, Quintus (and the Eagles) are destined to go East—forever east as token pawns, tribute to the distant Han Emperor in the far-off Land of Gold. Quintus will do as a Roman must - his honor gone, he will follow the Eagle...and strive to somehow recapture the honor that Rome has lost.
And so, onto the East, out of the logic and honor that is Rome...and into the mists of legend. To see visions of wonder unknown to any Roman.
And learn that the Eagle has a power and magic all its own.


Write-up from the back of the paperback edition ~

Remember You Are Roman - The tribune Quintus was once a man of honor. But when Rome's might is crushed at the battle of Carrhae, Quintus can only watch with honor and hope gone as Rome's Eagles--the golden standards which every Roman believes houses the very essence of the gods--are dragged through the mud by the barbarian hordes. The Eagles will go East as bloody testimony to Rome's humiliation.

But even in Hell, there sometimes lies a path of redemption. Quintus will follow the Eagles and strive to somehow recapture the honor that Rome has lost. He will abandon the logic that is Rome...and travel into the mists of myth and legend, where he will see visions of magic unknown to any Roman.

And where he will learn to use barbarian magic to win back Rome's gods...


Write-ups from fans ~

A defeated Roman Legion retreats (they wouldn't call it "fleeing") from the Battle of Carrhae into the swamps surrounding it, but they are captured by the Parthians and given to their allies, the Ch'ins, as a gift.  So, the Legion must march eastward to Asia.  They are considered prisoners and kept weaponless until bandits attack the caravan, then the young officer persuades the Ch'in leaders to allow his men arms to defend themselves and the caravan.  The bandits keep attacking and drive the Legion and the Ch'in into a ruined city, where they rescue a noble lady and her escort.  The noble lady brings magic into the mix. ~ SL


Like Imperial Lady, this book was inspired by an actual event--the defeat and capture of a Roman legion by a mixed force of Arabs and Chinese. The Chinese commander was so impressed by the Romans' fighting prowess that he decided to take them and their golden Eagle (the Legion standard) back to China as a gift for the Han Emperor. They were never heard from again. So much for history. The story has now entered the realm of fantasy (maybe even the Twilight Zone). The story is told by Quintus, a young Roman soldier intent upon restoring his family honor. They have to fight off deadly sandstorms and soul-sucking demons and starvation and thirst and a traitor in their ranks. Along the way, Quintus meets two ancient characters from Hindu mythology. The female believes that Quintus is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior prince. They are survivors of the fall of Mu (a lost land like Atlantis). They join the eastward caravan and at times use their arcane powers to aid the group. The golden Eagle also has some power as Quintus eventually discovers. After many, many hardships, they cross a salt flat that the two mystics say is the remnant of an ancient inland sea that once held Mu. They find a mountain, which was once an island, and there they find other survivors who are under siege by the forces of evil who caused the destruction of Mu. Things get exciting.
At 416 pages it is not a fast read. It would also be nice to have a glossary of several words and phrases sprinkled throughout the book. ~ PG


Reviews ~

Kirkus Reviews ~ Issue: Sept. 15th, 1993
Historical fantasy from the coauthors of Imperial Lady (1989) in which the jumping-off point is the defeat of a Roman army under Crassus at Carrhae in 43 B.C., and the consequent humiliating loss of their Imperial stand, or Eagle. The defeated Romans, led by the young tribune Quintus, the old centurion Rus, and the vacillating aristocrat Lucilius, are marched away into the east. But Quintus carries with him an ancient statuette of the god Krishna; the spirit within the statuette gives Quintus a vision in which the avatars Draupadi and Ganesha ask for his help. In return, the avatars will help the Romans to regain their lost Eagle. Quintus accepts and, after saving the entire company from the treacherous attack, forms an alliance with his nominal captor, Ssu-ma Chao. Through a great journey and many hardships they learn that Draupadi and Ganesha are beset by evil-sorcerer Black Naacals, whose triumph would mean the end of the world. But to confront the Black Naacals, the Romans must brave the demon-infested desert and seek the valley of Paradise. Too much padding, especially toward the end, but plenty of authentic historical detail, good characters, and restrained fantasy elements. Altogether, a superior piece of work. 


Booklist Review ~ Nov. 15, 1993

With vivid imagery and careful world building, Norton and Shwartz successfully create an epic tale of heroism and myth. The story opens with the defeat and capture of a legion of Roman soldiers at the hands of the Parthians, an ancient Asian society. Although the Romans’ lives are spared, their honor is destroyed by the loss of their standard, the eagle, and their sale into slavery to the Ch’in emperor. But the gods are watching over this band, particularly over their tribune, Quintus, who is guided by a talisman of Krishna, a sensuous sybil called Draupadi, and the emerging memories of his past life. As the legion is transported by their captors along the Silk Road, they battle desert storms and black magic to reclaim freedom and honor. A fast-paced mix of history and fantasy for adventure seekers. —Candace Smith


Review by Publishers Weekly ~ Nov. 01, 1993

An exotic blend of Roman, Hindu and more distant lore informs this second collaboration (after Imperial Lady) between Grand Master Norton and Shwartz. After the crushing defeat at Carrhae of the Roman proconsul Crassus in 43 B.C., the victorious Parthians lead a captive remnant of one legion, along with its eagle standard, to the distant eastern Lands of Gold. As dispirited captives, a contingent of Ch'in and merchants struggle through the desert, a friendship develops between the tribune Quintus and Ch'in leader Ssu-ma Chao, who allows the Romans to win back their self-respect by rearming them to fight bandits. After one particularly dangerous stretch, Quintus encounters a strange old man, Ganesha, and the beautiful Draupadi who, much to Quintus's perturbation, claims that he is the reincarnation of her long-gone hero husband. As Ganesha and Draupadi join the larger group on its journey to ever greater dangers, Quintus learns they are being pursued by Black Naacals, immortal members of a sorcerous order. The doubting Quintus must master ancient powers to save his followers and others threatened by the ancient evil. Norton (The Crystal Gryphon) and Shwartz (The Grail of Hearts) weave a curious and convincing tale melding otherworldliness and dire reality.


Various reviews ~ For more info and other listings see Articles Over the Years

1994 by Scott Winnett in Locus #396, January
1994 by Wendy Bradley in Interzone #80, February


Bibliography of English Editions ~

  • (1993) Published by TOR, HC, 0-312-85169-3, 978-0-312-85169-9, LCCN 93026551, $22.95, 416pg ~ cover by Peter Goodfellow {Gray Paper Boards}
  • (1995) Published by TOR, PB, 0-812-51393-2, 978-0-812-51393-6, LCCN 93-26551, $5.99, 416pg ~ cover by Peter Goodfellow
  • (2017) Published by Worldbuilders Press, DM, no ISBN, $3.99, 306pg ~ cover by Matt Forsyth
  • (2018) Published by Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency, PB, 978-1-680-68013-3, $12.99, 340pg ~ cover by Matt Forsyth


Non-English Editions ~

  • (1994) Published in Warsaw, Poland; by Amber, 83-708-2702-0, 384pg ~ translated by Jerzy Marcinkowski ~ cover by Mark Harrison ~ Polish title Imperium Orła [Eagle Empire]

 View the Original contract

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