Among the tribes, none would believe that their most hated enemy, the bloodthirsty cavalry commander astride a pied war-horse - could be one of their own....or that he might hold their fate in his hands. But as the fires of the war between the tribes and the occupying armies of Rome rage on, dozens of lives will be drawn in to the conflict....Caradoc, the Eceni warrior who will come face-to-face with the emperor himself...Cunomar, son of a warrior queen, who will learn about war - and sacrifice - at his parents' side...Agrippina, the mesmerizing empress whose guile equals that of her husband...Claudius, the omnipotent yet terrified ruler mired in a war he must win at all costs. And then there is Valerius. Caught between worlds, he has the hardest task of all - coming to terms with this heritage and on a perilous journey back to a fateful confrontation with the most feared woman in Brittania...Boudica.
A novel that travels from the wilderness of the British Isles to the teeming streets of ancient Rome, from the remote barracks of frontier legions to the shores of Gaul, Dreaming the Bull is a historical sage of extraordinary power, rich with passion and courage and heroism pitched against overwhelming odds. Written with uncompromising mastery, this is fiction that captures the heart, challenges the mind, and offers us and utterly enthralling experience of history in the flesh and blood of its making.
This is the second book in the Boudica series by Manda Scott, following on from Dreaming the Eagle. In some ways it seems a bit strange that this series of four books is called the Boudica series, because the focus of this book really did seem to be Julius Valerius and Caradoc, with Boudica being more of a cameo player, but then again I suspect that a book labelled as being about Boudica will bring a ready made audience!
This book opens a number of years after the end of Dreaming the Bull. The Romans are still in Britain, and Boudica and her warrior husband Caradoc still maintain their almost guerilla like warfare against the Romans. Whilst the warriors are generally confident there is one Roman soldier they fear - Julius Valerius - a man who seems to be something more than a man, a man who seems to be without fears of his own. What they can't know, is that Julius Valerius is struggling to come to terms with his own identity, both his current one, and the one from his past that he has carefully locked away. As with many secrets from the past, they are not as locked away as they need to be, and as Julius continues with his warfare the ghosts begin to visit him, and to bring back memories of his true identity.
When Caradoc and some of his family are captured and taken to Rome, the narrative leaves Scotland and Boudica behind, and instead we are taken to the world of Imperial Rome. Caradoc and his people must firstly survive the punishment that the Emperor wants to give them for being the biggest problem that he had in the whole empire, and then survive living in the built up world of Rome where they are free to live in the city, but if they make any attempt to leave they will be killed. It is only after several years, and with the help of an old enemy that there may be any hope at all of getting home, but that will be an exhilarating adventure in and of itself.
Whilst this is not the kind of book that you are instantly drawn into and captivated by, to the point of exclusion of all else, ultimately it is a rewarding read, and the ending is definitely interesting enough to make you want to read the next book in the series sooner rather than later!
The books in this series in order are:
Dreaming the Eagle
Dreaming the Bull
Dreaming the Hound
Dreaming the Serpent Spear