The book was provided for review from the author via Booktasters for an honest review
This book features the following topics/genres – Historical / Fiction / War /
Publisher’s release date: November 17, 2013
Check out my animated book cover art for this book here!
“The Iceni Highness Boudicca roars from eternity,”
I heard about Queen Boudicca some time ago, and I’ve always been intrigued by her as a historical figure. This is not the first historical fiction book I’ve read, but it is the first time I’ve ventured into Britain during the Roman occupation with not one but two Celtic Queens at the forefront. This book is based on real people but not on actual events which is OK. Fiction is about possibilities. What could have happened if these two powerful women had actually met? I was extremely intrigued by the answer to this question.
The first part of the book is a little slow going as the author establishes the background behind why these two famous (or in the case of Boudicca, infamous) leaders would even consider meeting each other. It is an introduction of sorts to the narrator of this story, Queen Cartimandua, who was Queen of the Brigantes people, loyalists to Rome. As Queen Boudicca was an enemy of Rome, this unfortunate situation places these women at opposite sides of a bloody and brutal war of which there can be only one victor.
And so the story proper begins.
The first few chapters quickly touch on the Druids who were supporting the Iceni Queen, Boudicca and it’s quite an exciting part of the book because it gives you insight into the relationship between the Druids and warriors loyal to both Cartimandua and Boudicca. What unfolds during their first meeting allows the reader to better understand the politics of war and how two women as mighty as Boudicca and Cartimandua could become pawns in a game, not of their making.
We are then taken to Cartimandua’s stronghold, where she becomes quickly aware of the game that others are playing with her and Queen Boudicca. The story begins to pick up the pace from here on in, and it was rather exciting to think of these two great women finally meeting. What would they have to say to each other? Would they even get far enough to talk to each other without war-mongering men on either side of the divide screaming for retaliation?
“Cartimandua was coming for the traitors of the Brigante, and she was bringing death with her”…
The author has taken his time to create and build the immediate surroundings of the two Queens. We can gather a sense of where these women are and who the most influential men are that surround them. We are also able to see beyond pleasantries and royalty and to the brutality of war. I appreciate how the author has carefully sculpted these women in such a way that respects their historical lineage. It also compliments them both as women of action and war and capable of just as much brutality as their male counterparts. It’s not often you read books about female warrior Queens slaying men where they stand without hesitation and with a smile upon their lips. I loved this aspect of the book immensely, it was a real treat to read, but it may not be for everyone. Some of the scenes depicted are quite graphic.
I also sensed that the author favoured Queen Cartimandua considerably more than Queen Boudicca and we are reminded of this on many occasions, perhaps too many. The story flips back and forth between Queen Cartimandua’s story-telling session on an old jetty and the events as she remembered them. While I do not think this was a problem for the flow of the story, it is noticeable that the author decided to do this rather than using traditional story-telling from a first-person perspective throughout the book.
The event of the meeting itself is brief and reading through the book, it did feel a bit like everything else that had occurred up to this point was surplus to the encounter of the two queens. It was a masterful way to gain the reader’s interest and excitement. The anticipation of their meeting did build steadily over the course of the book, and I found myself wanting to get to that chapter even more as the book progressed.
I did enjoy this book and I felt the author was careful with his depiction of the queens and their very brief interaction. But I did find some of the chapters, particularly those on the jetty, a little superfluous to the rest of the story.