A Year of Ravens

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A collaborative effort of seven authors, A Year of Ravens tells the tale of the Iceni Queen, Boudica and her rebellion against Rome.  While the cause and effects of the war are admirably presented, it is the characters that drive this emotion packed, soul searching, heartstring tugging story(or rather stories).  From the beginning the readers are treated to a seamless transition from author to author and the way each of them puts their own marks on the growth of each character.  Time and time again I was drawn into a character’s mindset and felt the pain, the remorse, the confusion, and even the occasional joy being experienced.  One, of the many examples I could choose, of a character’s journey through the book is the fictional wife of the Roman Procurator.  Valeria as introduced in the first chapter is a cold as ice Roman matron whose only ambition is to promote her rather timid husband’s career.  What she experiences in subsequent events is so beautifully written as to elicit some tearing up even to this old curmudgeon.  Also on display are the realities of war and the cruelties inflicted by men(and women) madly entrenched in the rightness of their cause.  Whether it’s shield wall action or the rampant, wanton destruction of a town or village, the battle scenes are bloodlust filled events punctuated with the sounds of sword on sword and the screams of the dying.

By way of summation, let me say, from the very beginning with the Intro by Ben Kane to the very, very end with an afterword from each author, this book is a testament to the creative genius of seven wordsmiths.  5 stars

 

Hero of Rome by Douglas Jackson

When I mentioned on social networks that I was reading Hero of Rome by Douglas Jackson I was informed that I was going to love this book.  Well between the time I started it and finished it I had begun writing my own novel(my first)…the main reason it took me so long to finish Hero.  Normally I would have read a book this intriguing in a much shorter time frame but I needed to take time to get my efforts off the ground.  The biggest problem I have encountered while having both balls in the air is this; Douglas Jackson is masterful.  If I can be one-quarter as descriptive…if I can be one-tenth the character developer that he is, I will be a happy author.  He has written a book that draws you right into the hearts and minds of his characters, most especially the main character, Gaius Valerius Verrens.

The place is Britain prior to and then during Boudicca’s revolt.  Valerius is a Tribune assigned to Colonia, the town where the temple to Claudius was built.  He is due to return to Rome to begin his climb up the political ladder but finds himself instead in an impossible situation having to defend the town against a force of really ticked off British tribes that is at least ten times larger than what he has at his disposal.  The first part of the book deals with the politics and policies used by Rome to bring Britain into “civilization”.  Naturally some Roman officials are overly dismissive of these barbarians in their charge and that is the fuel that ignites the tinderbox that Boudicca fans into a full fledged bloody revolt.  The last part of the book, the revolt itself, is an edge of the seat, page turning brilliant example of great historical fiction writing.  When I finished I knew I would be reading the rest of the books in this series which I am told by my social network friends are even better than the first.  Oh my!