Rosemary Sutcliff (1920‒92) wrote three of her four great historical novels for children set during the last years of the Roman occupation of Britain – The Eagle of the NinthThe Silver Branch and The Lantern Bearers (winner of the Carnegie Medal) – between 1954 and 1959, and the fourth, Frontier Wolf, which comes third in the chronological story, in 1980. The four books are only loosely interconnected, but together they give a vivid picture of the ebbing away of imperial power from Britain as Rome’s values were undermined and her defences gradually weakened by Saxon invasions.

Though most of Sutcliff’s books were written primarily for children, the flesh-and-blood reality of her characters, her convincing plots and her brilliant reimagining of everyday life in a remote and mysterious Britain have always attracted adult readers too. Slightly Foxed is now reissuing all four of the Roman novels, with their original illustrations, in a limited, numbered edition.