A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion by
Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, and Russell Whitfield
ARC, e-book, 440 pages
Knight Media, LLC
November 13, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction, Short Stories
Source: Received for review as part of HFVBT tour
Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.
A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.
A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.
An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.
A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.
A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.
An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.
A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.
A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?
Last year I read the two historical fiction collections that were released in this new style of anthology where each story interconnects with each other: Grand Central and A Day of Fire. I loved both of these collections for how each short story stood on its own and then how they tied together to comprise a greater novel as a whole. So when I heard that some of the authors from A Day of Fire were getting together to write a novel of Boudica’s rebellion, I knew I was definitely reading this one – and I am so glad that I did.
So I want to take a few minutes to say a couple things about each story before I cover the collection as a whole.
The Queen by Stephanie Dray
This first chapter starts off with some backstory provided by Queen Cartimandua. She is the queen of a rival tribe in Briton and she supports that Romans in their quest to bring Briton under control. Hers is also the first perspective that we see Boudica from and that is from a sort of inside/sort of outside view. Her style of rule serves as a foil for Boudica and serves to set up the perspective of the Romans toward the Britons and vice versa. I found myself really liking Cartimandua and wanting to know more about her life.
The Slave by Ruth Downie
Ria is a slave within Boudica’s tribe and she again stands to serve as a sort of inside/sort of outside perspective. Unlike Cartimandua she is a part of the Iceni tribe, but is just a slave.
The Tribune by Russell Whitfield
The first thing I can say of this chapter is, oh the language! It is quite foul language, however it serves to set you right within the mindset of a soldier’s life quickly. This is a chapter that serves to establish a view of idealism vs. reality within the Roman ranks. There were some well written battle scenes here that ease the reader into the battles to come.
The Druid by Vicky Alvear Shecter
This was a powerful chapter – very powerful. The chapter features as druid, Yorath, and a Roman soldier and the interplay between them is some of the more powerful of the book. I was sad throughout most of this chapter, for both parties involved.
The Son by S.J.A Turney
I think that Andecarus was my favorite character from the entire novel. He is similar to Cartimandua because he straddles the line between Roman and Briton, but his conscience is more torn. Cartimandua is doing what she believes is right for her people; but Andecarus is an Iceni who spent a significant portion of his life among the Romans and his loyalties will certainly come into question here.
The Warrior by Kate Quinn
Kate had the climactic scene in A Day of Fire and she has it again here too, and handles is magnificently might I add. Duro, right hand man to Queen Boudica leads the warriors into the battle against the Romans. But the best part of this chapter is that of the interplay between Duro and his newly acquired Roman slave. I found the reaction of his Roman slave toward her captor to be interesting because they are very human. The sides don’t exactly matter; it was refreshing to see the humanity here despite the circumstances.
The Daughters by E. Knight
This chapter serves to bring the story full circle and we see the results and aftermath of the rebellion. It is a gut-wrencher for sure. However as much as I felt for them, I didn’t love the chapter. While it was an appropriate choice of closing narrators – the daughters of Boudica, I think I would have liked their perspective a little bit earlier in the novel.
I think that the choices of narration characters were spot on. There were those that represented the Roman legions, supporters of Queen Boudica, Britons who are outside the rebellion, and then those who straddle the line of humanity. The chapters alternated almost every chapter between a Roman and Briton perspective which served to keep a balanced view of the rebellion. It was both a frustration and an excellent writing choice to not have Boudica narrate a chapter herself. It would have been easy to have her narrate the great battle scene – the pinnacle of her rebellion, but at the same time, it is more powerful to see the information from the outside because no matter how close to the queen they are, they will always be an outsider in some form. I loved the structure of this novel and the tale told of the little guy going up against the behemoth of Rome.
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:
Also from The H Team:
The H Team is a loose collection of historical fiction authors that unite to write short story collections. Some of the authors previously collaborated for the following book:
A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii
By Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, and Vicky Alvear Shecter
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