The Lantern Bearers

The Lantern Bearers

by Rosemary Sutcliff

The Romans have abandoned Britain, leaving it open to the twin threats of civil war and Saxon invasion. When his home and all he loves are destroyed, Aquila endures years of torment before deciding to put some meaning back into his life.

What People Think about "The Lantern Bearers"

Rosemary Sutcliff's books so often bring a strange, tearful, lovely lump to my throat, and a strange, gut-wrenching mist to my eyes that tugs at my heart strings so beautifully. But Sutcliff writes magnificently, sadly, achingly, and so often I felt a dull sense of sadness with Aquila and the rest at the thought of how it must have been for the Romans to leave, abandon, Britain and let them fend off the Saxons alone. so many characters that warmed my heart and made me love them like old friends.

No sooner has he returned than the Saxons invade, killing his father and servants, carrying off his sister Flavia, and leaving Aquila himself tied up for the beasts to devour. After three years, Aquila is brought back to Britain to serve his Norse warlord master. He schemes to escape, avenge his father, and rescue Flavia if she still lives.

I'm more discomfitted than I can explain immediately by the replacement of her slight, bromance-y young Romans with the solemn, aggrieved Turin Turambar-like figure (with some key differences) who is the protagonist of the story. The Lantern Bearers is significantly darker than The Silver Branch, which in its turn was much darker than The Eagle of the Ninth -- indeed, a third of the way through the youngest Aquila's fate, you can only think wistfully back to Marcus and Esca scrabbling through marshlands pretending to be oculists in wistful remembrance of how jolly it must all have been.

The Lantern Bearers is the gripping story of one young man's journey from light through sudden, lasting, overwhelming darkness, loss, and tragedy. It's the story of how, piece by piece and layer by layer, he begins finally to find life and light and healing once again. It's a story of how every time the world seems to end, taking all life and meaning with it as it's overcome by darkness, life and light still go on shining. And in my estimation, I've realized that The Lantern Bearers is her best book in many ways, and I can see why many fans count it as their top favorite, by far. Even the title of The Lantern Bearers attests to its deep, shining, thoughtful beauty and themes. In several places throughout The Lantern Bearers, the events of the story represent--even in a physical, literal sense--what it means to hold up a light in the midst of overwhelming darkness. The characters of The Lantern Bearers, though bitter and flawed, are much of what makes the book so wonderful and deep and beautiful--especially the protagonist, Aquila, because of his compelling story and journey. We watch Aquila and the rest go through pain, but at the end of it all, we also see them find life and healing after the tragedy. And we watch them walk the road set before them, doing everything they can to fight for the light and "hold back the dark." Aquila's journey is a fascinating, raw, and powerful one, and because Aquila himself is a fascinating character with a fascinating life story, it grips me every time I read it, as I described at the beginning of this review. When reading The Lantern Bearers for the third time, in even in the single freely happy chapter at the very start of the book, I was already near tears anticipating what was coming, and the destruction of Aquila's joy and all that he loved, and how that loss changed him. As it does every time since I first read his story at age 15, my heart broke to once again watch Aquila become a deeply bitter, angry, and vengeful young man, tormented by hate and rage and unforgiveness. And this year, on my third, most recent read of The Lantern Bearers, I finally came to realize that I dearly love and even like Aquila. It broke my heart to watch him in his angriest, most bitter moment, before he begins to let go of some of the hate--but that was actually the moment I realized I love him, because I want more for him than the empty life he had at that point. Because what's even sadder than the effect of Aquila's life experience on himself--as a solitary lone wolf who stays far away from human closeness--is the effect his bitterness has on the people closest to him, once he's forced to form lasting bonds he avoided for so long. This is a story centered around Aquila and his family relationships.

Set in Britain at the time on Rome's withdrawal. Aquila is a decurion who deserts, unable to leave his family, hiding as the boats leaving Britain pull away.

*Note: I listened to the audio version of this book so this Cleanliness Report is not as thoroughly detailed as other reports are. I also have hundreds of detailed reports that I offer too. These reports give a complete break-down of everything in the book, so you'll know just how clean it is or isn't.

I loved the Minnow, and Tess, and Flavia. Tess and Flavia will have a place in my heart, maybe a sad one but a place nonetheless.

Set in the fifth century AD, amid the chaos that followed upon the departure of the Roman legions from Britain, it tells the story of the impact of the Saxon invasion on one Romano-British family, and in particular on one of its members, Aquila, descendant of Marcus, the hero of The Eagle Of The Ninth.

The feeling in The Silver Branch of being near the end of things is strong and central, here, and there are personal notes of melancholy, too: Aquila's inability to care for people after Flavia, his difficulties with his son, and the eventual strange meeting between himself and Flavia's son.

This is really a YA book, but the writing and sentiments are very adult. Heading back to his family home, he barely has any time with his beloved sister and father when the Saxons invade and take everything. So Aquila took his fathers service upon him. The quality of Rosemary Sutcliffs writing lifts what could be a good story to being something of pure delight, littered throughout with quotes that I would read and read again, just to enjoy one more time.

Rosemary 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 wrote incessantly throughout her life, and was still writing on the morning of her death.