Monday, October 22, 2007

Dreaming the Hound by Manda Scott

AD 57: Caradoc is lost for ever, betrayed to Rome and exiled in Gaul, leaving Boudica bereft, to lead the tribes of the west in an increasingly bloody resistance against Roman occupation.

Only if she can drive Rome from the land will she find the peace she needs and to do that she must once again raise the tribes of the east. But her people, the Eceni, languish in the shadow of the Legions, led by a man who proclaims himself king and yet allows slavers to trade freely in his lands.

Across the sea, Boudica's half-brother has been named traitor by both sides. He, too, seeks peace, on a journey that takes him from the dreaming tombs of the ancestors to the cave of a god he no longer serves.

Only if these two meet can their people - and all of Britannia - be saved. But the new Governor has been ordered to subdue the tribes or die in the attempt, and he has twenty thousand legionnaires ready to stop anyone, however determined, from bringing Britain to the edge of revolt...

Breaca, also known as the Boudica, has been living a kind of half life. She maintains her warfare against the hated Roman occupiers, but she keeps herself somewhat distant from her friends and her family. Her children do all they can to win her attention and love but can't seem to quite capture her attention, and her son in particular is beginning to resent her for it. She has been in the east for a number of years, but fate has something different in mind for her, and so she begins a journey back to her homeland in the west, back to face her destiny as one of the royal family of the Eceni tribe. When she returns to the Eceni it is with the intention of raising a war host against the Romans, but she finds that the current 'king' of the Eceni is a client king of the Romans. 'Tagos himself walks a fine line - he needs to tow the Roman line, but only in order to ensure as much as possible that his people aren't destroyed. Breaca agrees to be 'Tagos queen, which will allow her to continue her quest without drawing too much attention to herself, for if the Romans' realise that Breaca is the Boudica both she and her people would be completely destroyed in no time at all.

As Breaca tries to covertly arm and train an army, she begins to know her children a bit better, particularly her daughter Graine who is an exceptional dreamer. Her relationship with her son, Cunomar, is still somewhat distant, and becomes more so when his friend is captured by the Romans and sentenced to death. He runs to one of the other tribes, but when he returns, Breaca recognises that her son has become a man and a warrior and they can begin to work together.

When 'Tagos dies, he leaves behind a very unusual will, one which draws Breaca into a fight for life for both herself and her family, with potentially devastating results.

One of the things that I said in my review of Dreaming the Bull was that Boudica really wasn't the focus of the book. That definitely was not the case in this book - she was front and centre, along with her children and Julius Valerius. I have to confess that the journey of Julius Valerius is the one that I find most interesting in this series. He has undergone such transformations throughout the three books in this series, from a tribesman to a slave to a Roman centurion, and in this book he seems to find who he really is meant to be. Valerius has been isolated in Hibernia, branded a traitor by Rome, and hated by the tribes for everything he did. Luckily, there is one man, Luain mac Calma, the dreamer of Mona, who still believes in him, and prompted in many ways by him, Valerius begins yet another transformation. Whereas when he was a centurion, Valerius did everything he could to forget his former identity, this transformation seems to recognise both parts of who he has been and finally Valerius can gain some peace and can open himself up to those around him.

In reality, this book is one of the middle books in a series of four, so in many ways this book was really moving all the main characters into their places so that everything is in readiness for the grand finale that is to come in the next book. Where some authors might struggle with that, this was not one of those books that you consciously think of as a middle book and therefore not as strong as the opening and closing books. In fact, of the three Boudica novels I have read so far, this was the strongest in my opinion!

I am very much looking forward to reading the fourth book in the series.

Rating 4.5/5

The books in this series are:

Dreaming the Eagle
Dreaming the Bull
Dreaming the Hound
Dreaming the Serpent-Spear

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