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I first came across Manda Scott when I read one of her crime novels, Stronger Than Death, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I looked for other books she had written and found Boudica: Dreaming the Eagle, the first in her series about the life and times of Boudica or Boadicea as she was know when I was at school.
Firstly, this book is very hard to categorise and doesn't fit entirely into the genre of Science Fiction/Fantasy but could also be described as a historical novel. Historically, there is no doubt that Boudica existed although details of her life are pretty sketchy and what is know was written by the Romans. Manda Scott has built on limited information about the tribes of ancient Britain and of Boudica and has created a wonderful and totally believable story.
The story centres on Breaca a young girl of the Eceni tribe, who will become the Boudica, 'Bringer of Victory', and lead her people in revolt against the invading Romans, and of the two men she loves; Caradoc, a warrior from Gaul and Ban, her half-brother and a Dreamer. Here I should explain that within this culture, Dreamers are mystics and spiritual leaders of the tribe.
Caradoc is washed up near the Eceni settlement, following a shipwreck and rescued by Breaca. When Breaca and her family return with Caradoc to his parents' lands they are betrayed and Ban is sold into slavery. He believes that Breaca has been killed and he blames Caradoc for this and vows vengeance on him. Years later Ban is now with the Roman cavalry and forms part of the invading army of the Emperor Claudius and meanwhile Breaca has become a warrier of Mona, elite fighters of the Celtic tribes but neither knows the other is on the opposing side as the battle for possession of Britain begins.
That synopsis is very simplistic and there is much, much more to this book. In 500 pages or so, Manda Scott has managed to create a very believable picture of life before and during Roman occupation of Celtic Britain. I would add that the first part of the book is quite heavy going as there is much to explain about the culture and history but persevere and suddenly one is drawn into the lives of our ancestors.
Someone once said that history is always written by the victors, which obviously gives a slanted view of events. Whether we know it or not, most of our information about this time is written by Romans, most notably Tacitus, and as such is biased towards Roman objectives. This is history from the opposing viewpoint.
Such is the power of Manda Scott's writing that I found myself feeling all the emotions that our Celtic forebears must have felt as they endured Roman occupation and Roman attempts to exterminate Celtic culture which, I suppose in today's terms would have been called genocide. This is a story that remains with the reader long after the book is finished. I couldn't wait to read the other books in the series, which are:
Book 2 Dreaming the Bull
Book 3 Dreaming the Hound
Book 4 Dreaming the Serpent Spear
If you love history and are prepared to accept that what is written might have been, you will thoroughly enjoy this book and its sequels.