Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dreaming the Eagle by Manda Scott

With a novelist's grace and a historian's power, critically acclaimed author Manda Scott brings her immense storytelling gifts to an epic work of historical fiction. Dreaming the Eagle breathes life into history, creating a vibrant portrait of the early years of the Celtic queen, Boudica. With haunting images and unforgettable characters, Scott draws us into a completely different world...a world of myth and heroism, beauty and brutality...where a young woman journeys to greatness at the crossroads of history...

She is Breaca nic Graine, born to the Eceni, a tribe of dreamers and hunters, storytellers and artisans. While fierce in battle, they are a peaceful people, men and women of pride and mystery, in whose lives the real and the fantastical exist side by side. But theirs is not a peaceful world; it is a world of bloody conflict, where neighboring tribes war among themselves while a greater enemy gathers strength across the ocean.. Against this seething backdrop, Breaca will come of age and prove her brilliance in battle, catapulting her to the forefront of her tribesmen, who will rename the copper-haired warrior: Boudica:"She Who Brings Victory."

Many will share in Breaca's extraordinary destiny... Eburovic, the beloved father who always knew that his impetuous firstborn was destined for greatness... Caradoc, the legendary warrior whose love for Breaca is rivaled only by his hatred of Rome... Corvus, the Roman soldier who will become a powerful - and unlikely - ally. Soon as violence and treachery threaten a fragile peace, as an emperor named Caligula rises to power in a distant land, Breaca will once again be called to battle. And this time, the future of a people will rest in her hands as she faces a near-impossible task: to rally the splintered Celtic tribes against the encroaching might of Rome.

Filled with breathtaking sights and sounds - from the beauty of an ancient tribal ritual to the blood lust of a gladiator's arena, from the deafening roar of battle to the quiet passion of lovers - and brimming with raw adventure and vivid historical detail, this magnificent novel has it all: mystery, passion, hatred, lust, war, romance, miracles. It is a work of masterful storytelling by one of the most exciting and original new voices in historical fiction.

Wow...that is an extensive inside cover flap copy, and to be honest I am not going to regurgitate any of the story because this covers it mostly adequately.

The book is broken into four parts. I found the first part quite slow going, where the author was setting up all the meaning of the dreaming, the way that the tribes interacted with each other, and with their animals, and the basis of the warrior training that Breaca received. Once the story moved into the 2nd part and beyond, the story picked up pace and it was easier to get sucked into the story.

There are a couple of things that I think that were misleading in the blurb above. The first is from the final paragraph, where it talks about the "quiet passion of lovers". If you go into this book expecting to read a balance between the history, and the romantic attachments of the main characters then you will be disappointed. The romantic outcome is telegraphed from very early in the book. By the time I was getting towards the end of the book I was actually expecting that this part of the story would be carried into the next book, instead of the inevitable happening in this book.

It is also interesting that there is no direct mention of Breaca's brother Ban in the blurb either, because in many ways his story is the counter balance to Breaca's own. He is a major character, and there were significant chunks of the narrative where the focus was on Ban, and not on Breaca.

There were many, many characters, and at times I really had to struggle to keep track of some of them, and to be honest I think the author did too. There was one fairly major protagonist who was dealt with, but there was absolutely no reaction whatsoever from any of the other characters, which given his role in things was very, very surprising at least to me.

This is no light and fluffy account of what have may have happened - it is in turns gruesome and harsh, mystical and reverent and very believable.

For me there is an inevitable comparison to be made to the Jules Watson books I have read, The White Mare and The Dawn Stag. The settings are not identical but I would think it is fair to say that the tone and intentions of the books are very similar, even though there are several distinctions between them. I think that Jules Watson's books are better able to sustain an emotional involvement on the part of the reader, but there is less reliance of the fantasy elements in this book. It is not that the fantastical, mythical parts of the story aren't there, but I do think there is less reliance on them to move the plot forward.

The hook at the end of the story for the next book is definitely well and truly there, and I for one have been caught on it! The next book has already been picked up from the library!

Rating 4/5

1 comment:

  1. I have this on my list of books to read and am looking forward to getting around to it eventually!



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