What if the Roman Empire survived long enough to invade North America?
Alan Smale answers this question with his gripping trilogy, which debuted in 2015 with Clash of Eagles. Set in 1218 A.D., the first book explored an alternate history in which Rome is flourishing and the emperor has sent Praetor Gaius Marcellinus and the 33rd Legion to invade North America.
Smale continued Marcellinus’ journey in his second book, Eagle in Exile, which was released last year. And tomorrow, the trilogy concludes with the release of Eagle and Empire. Smale’s final installment introduces a chilling new enemy, and it sounds absolutely thrilling:
Roman Praetor Gaius Marcellinus came to North America as a conqueror, but after meeting with defeat at the hands of the city-state of Cahokia, he has had to forge a new destiny in this strange land. In the decade since his arrival, he has managed to broker an unstable peace between the invading Romans and a loose affiliation of Native American tribes known as the League.
But invaders from the west will shatter that peace and plunge the continent into war: The Mongol Horde has arrived and they are taking no prisoners.
As the Mongol cavalry advances across the Great Plains leaving destruction in its path, Marcellinus and his Cahokian friends must summon allies both great and small in preparation for a final showdown. Alliances will shift, foes will rise and friends will fall.
You can read an exclusive excerpt of Eagle and Empire below, courtesy of Smale’s publisher Del Rey Books.
Gritting his teeth, Marcellinus slid off his horse and strode into the mess of soldiers and warriors. He seized two men wrestling over a gladius, shoved one back, and kicked the other, hardly caring which was which. “Stop!” Walking between them, he came upon two more men trading blows with sword and ax. “Break it up!”
Ah, there was Wahchintonka, similarly marching into the fray as though he were made of steel. Although his voice was lost in the furor, the seasoned war lieutenant was clearly bellowing, commanding Cahokians back, dragging combatants apart wherever he could. A few Roman centurions were doing likewise, yelling orders and trying to pull men back from the brawl. Again came the bray of trumpets as the cornicens signaled the legionaries to disengage. The men took little notice.
Marcellinus exhaled long and hard and strode deeper into the chaos, grabbing, pushing, shoving. Echoes of running the Iroqua gauntlet came suddenly back into his mind: the deafening hubbub, the whirl of limbs around him, the spitting.
Now as then, he held his head high and pushed on. Around him were braves he knew, or at least recognized, from the plazas and markets and fields. He could well die today at the hands of a man or woman he had known for half a dozen years.
In between Roman helmets Marcellinus caught a glimpse of Matoshka, of all people, also shouting and trying to order Cahokians back. The half-crippled elder was not so foolish as to place himself within reach of a Roman gladius, but when this hoary old bear shouted at a Cahokian, that brave took heed.
Matoshka and Wahchintonka were trying to stop Cahokians fighting with Romans, while Marcellinus’s First Cahokian assaulted the enemy’s gate. The irony was acute.
A dozen Cahokians had backed an equal number of Roman soldiers up against the wall of their own fortress. Marcellinus knew he could never get there in time, and he did not. Cahokian blades slid up under Roman steel, dug deep into Roman bodies. The legionaries crashed onto their knees. Cahokian pugios sawed away at Roman scalps.
Guided by a sixth sense, Marcellinus glanced up at the skies.
Two Thunderbirds roared low over his head, the new lighter seven-person birds developed over the winter by Chenoa of the Wakinyan clan. The Thunderbirds disgorged their loads at the same time. Two wet black streams cascaded down over the mob. Mud; the Thunderbirds were strafing the combatants with the thick Mizipi mud they used for training. Ciqala must have taken Marcellinus’s message after all. Chenoa herself piloted the lead Wakinyan, her body stocky and strong, her movements decisive.
The mud had spared Marcellinus but doused the combatants at the center of the fighting, Romans and Hesperians alike. Men slipped and went down. Some took advantage of the distraction to cut throats and slide spears into other men’s guts, but the ferocious energy of the battle was wavering.
“Centurion! And Wahchintonka! To me!”
The Roman of the 27th thus hailed glowered at Marcellinus, gladius in one hand and vine stick of office in the other, held up before him like a shield. Marcellinus reached out his weaponless right hand and in Latin said, “We must join to stop the fighting. Come.”
Excerpted from Eagle and Empire by Alan Smale. Copyright © 2017 by Alan Smale. Excerpted by permission of Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.