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The Lantern Bearers Review by Heather Jackowitz

Rosemary Sutcliff
Blackstone Audiobooks
PO Box 969
Ashland, Oregon 97520

The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff is award-winning historical fiction set in Roman Britain during the 400s, when the final Roman legions are called back to defend Rome from the invading barbarians. Aquila, a young Roman officer, chooses to remain behind to help protect his people from the invading Saxons. Shortly after his desertion, Aquila's home is burned by the Saxons, his father killed, and his sister carried off; and he is left for dead. Falling into the hands of another marauding band of Saxons, Aquila is taken to Jutland (Denmark) and becomes a thrall to a Saxon chieftain. When the Saxons return to raid Britain in the spring, Aquila is able to escape and eventually joins up with the Roman-British leader Ambrosius and his band of loyal followers, among whom is Artos, whom Sutcliff believes to be the historical King Arthur. The title of the story comes from a quote by one of Aquila's fellow Britons: "We are the Lantern Bearers, my friend; for us to keep something burning, to carry what light we can forward into the darkness and the wind."

Aquila's journey through despair and bitterness ultimately ends in reconciliation and forgiveness. I tried to share The Lantern Bearers with my daughter earlier when she was about eleven, but she could not relate to Aquila's angst and found the story quite depressing. But when she listened to it this time, at age fourteen, she loved it--in part, I think, because she has now experienced some deeper feelings that allow her to relate to Aquila more. Because of these mature themes, most booksellers recommend this book for a slightly older audience than The Eagle of the Ninth, the first book in a loosely connected trilogy that also includes The Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers.

Johanna Ward, the Blackstone Audiobooks reader for this novel, is perfect for Rosemary Sutcliff's beautiful writing. Sutcliff's narrative is quite poetic, and it is well worth hearing The Lantern Bearers read aloud. Johanna Ward has a lovely voice and pronounces all the Celtic and Saxon names flawlessly. She also does a fabulous job of creating different voices for the different characters, male and female.

Blackstone Audiobooks is coming out with more and more books on MP3. For those who are as technologically backward as I am, an MP3 looks just like a compact disc but can hold much more. You need to make sure that your player can play MP3s, as not all CD players do. I had to listen to The Lantern Bearers in the car or on my home computer because our boom boxes only play CDs. My children have portable MP3 players--the equivalent of my old Walkman (which should tell you I'm in my thirties)--and they listen to books and music at night in bed. The benefits of MP3s are less material and lower cost; entire books come on one (The Lantern Bearers) or two (Moby Dick) MP3s rather than eight or twenty CDs, respectively.

Blackstone Audiobooks carries a whole line of great literature for homeschoolers and offers a 50% discount from their special homeschool catalog. They offer this generous discount out of camaraderie, as they are fellow homeschoolers! These special prices are not offered online; contact Blackstone Audiobooks to get the homeschool catalog and then order by phone or mail.

Product review by Heather Jackowitz, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2007