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Eagle and Empire
The Clash of Eagles Trilogy, Book III
by Alan Smale
Del Rey, $30.00, 504pp
Published: May 2017

In this epic alternate-history story, the author considers a different future for an as-yet-unknown Native American people who lived in a great city on the banks of the Mississippi.  Do a web search for Cahokian mounds before you begin this story. In the real world, the people who built the enormous mounds in Illinois disappeared so long ago that there is no trace, either physical or in oral traditions, left of them. We enter the story in the 13th century…

Gaius Marcellinus is a Roman Praetor whose Legion was completely destroyed by the Cahokians in the first book, Clash of Eagles, click here for the review.  In the second book, Eagle in Exile, click here for the review, he embraced the culture of Cahokia and fell in love.  And Roma came back to Hesperia.

Now that Gaius is functioning as a liaison between Roma and Cahokia, he is torn in his loyalities.  He knows that Hadrianus is in Hesperia himself because Caesar knows Chinngis Khan is also on the shores of the new world.  Gaius’ raison d’etre is to provide Caesar with as much intelligence as he can to prepare for the coming war.  And he is forbidden to tell his Chahokians what is coming for them. He also worries about what might happen if he should prove to have no worth to Caesar – or, more specifically, what would happen to his Cahokian family.  He does the best he can in hiding their relationship but it means that he cannot live with, or love, Sintikala or Kimimela.

In this final story to a truly remarkable trilogy, Gaius has a chance to prove to Caesar the worth of a united – and free – Hesperia.  But to do so, he has to help find a way to defeat the Mongol horde.  Since Roma has been fighting a losing battle on the Asian continent, it seems a daunting task to organize, arm and train the disparate tribes of Hesperia, transport them across huge distances and maintain a supply line.  But if he doesn’t, everything he loves will be gone; both Hesperian and Roman.

He is sent south and west to make contact with other Hesperian tribes and assess the Mongol threat.  But he has to contend with deceit from both Caesar and the Cahokian war chief – in the manner of leaders everywhere.  Without any real authority or rank, it always seems to fall to him to be the mediator or liaison.  There are some wonderful descriptions of other Hesperian cultures and of the Mongol incursion.  Ironically, Gaius gets captured by the Mongols affording him a singular opportunity to gather intelligence…if he can escape.  Armed with a deeper understanding of the Mongols, combined with the varied resources of Hesperia, Gaius believes that he just might have enough to give Caesar to defeat the Mongols.  If Roma fails, all of Hesperia will be destroyed or enslaved and their cultures would be gone forever.  But if Roma succeeds, what then would be the fate of Hesperia?  Is there a way for Gaius and his Cahokians to have a true peace with Roma and be treated as equals – or would they just have a different master?

This was just a great alternate-history story.  It had awesome worldbuilding, worthy and interesting characters, and a great plot.  I enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would.  There are also some interesting appendices that add some nice history and context to the times.  Altogether, a very satisfying journey.  ~~  Catherine Book

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