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Fictional Saga / Military / Romance
1st Century Roman Britain
Book #2 in the Celts and Romans series
I suppose all of us have seen those rather devastating pictures of the German tanks mowing down the Polish cavalry at the beginning of the Second World War. Superior technology and superior discipline met passion and courage and left a trail of carnage behind. In Ms Jardine’s book, it is the Brigantes – a British tribe – that represent the Polish cavalry, facing up to what must have been the most impressive military force of their time, the Roman Legions.
When the legionaries clash with the brave British warriors, they, just like those German tanks, cut a swathe through the proud Brigantian fighters, leaving very many dead and just as many badly wounded. One of the wounded is Brennus, a young man who figures on the fringes of Ms Jardine’s previous novel, The Beltane Choice (which, BTW, I can most warmly recommend).
Brennus returns to life permanently damaged and disfigured. The former champion of his tribe is reduced to a man who has little purpose in life – apart from wanting to make the Romans pay. To mark his new inferior status, Brennus renames himself Bran, a man with no past and little interest in his future. Fortunately for Bran – and the reader – some of his grim outlook on life is affected by the young female firebrand Ineda, a Brigante just like him, as devoted to making the Romans pay as he is.
Where Bran is introspection and bitterness, Ineda is passion and hope, an unquenchable force who refuses to believe the Romans can’t be beaten. Bran is somewhat more sanguine – and besides, what use is he in a battle? – but Ineda’s enthusiasm is very contagious, and Bran starts to see that he can fill a purpose in the ongoing fighting between his people and the hated invaders, despite being crippled.
Ms Jardine also gives us a budding romance between the damaged Bran, who, in his own opinion, has little to offer Ineda – and the inexperienced Ineda, too young to understand Bran’s reticence. She is hurt, he is hurt, and things don’t at all develop as they should, causing as much frustration for Bran as for Ineda. But when, at last, things start to improve, calamity strikes – again.
So as to balance her story, Ms Jardine has also given voice to one of the Roman oppressors. Tribune Valerius has his own baggage, his own issues, and while he is not necessarily a compassionate man, neither is he cruel or heartless. Valerius is a nice addition, in my opinion, highlighting just how complicated the politics of the day were.
The historical background is obviously well-researched, brought to vivid life in descriptions of everything from clothes to utensils and beliefs. Add to this the fact that Ms Jardine is an accomplished writer and you have a delightful and most satisfying read!
© Anna Belfrage
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