Boudica: Dreaming the Hound by MC Scott

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Rating 9.0/10
This author does deliver in a big way in this novel.

It's volume three of Manda Scott's hugely successful fantasy about one of Britain's most famous warriors. Breaca, known as the Boudica, is back in Britain killing Romans and spending months agonising over her destiny at the head of the Eceni. In isolated tow is her younger brother, Ban, now known as Valerius, a deserter from the army and exile after the death of Claudius. Nero is on the throne and Britain is no longer safe.

Scott has our tortured, reluctant leader spend the first hundred pages hunting alone, struggling to deal with the choices facing her. Return with no honour to Mona or go east to the enslaved Eceni and the one-armed embittered Prasutagos. After facing multiple demons and spirits both without and within we end the first part of this latest novel with her in her own familial fellowship of her ex-lover Airmid her son and daughters, Cunomar, Graine and Cygfa and their protectors, Ardacos and Dubornos. With the ever faithful hound, Stone, at her side she returns to the Eceni to take a position at Tagos' side as his queen, all the while tormented by images of her family enslaved and trying to establish a parental relationship with Cunomar and Graine. Meanwhile Valerius is living a quiet life as a blacksmith, an unwilling adopter of the boy Bellos and being constantly pushed by the Mona dreamer, Luain mac Calma, to take active part in Eceni life again.

The action really starts around page 170 or so when the British client kings and families are summoned to the Roman governor for a lesson in subjugation. The resultant death of Eneit and then Tagos' death in an ambush of Philius hands control of the Eceni to Breaca. Both she and Cunomar begin their assemblage of a war host, whilst on Mona Valerius finds himself reborn as a dreamer to both Nemain and Mithras. Longinus Sapdze returns at the vanguard of the legions under the command of Suetonius Paulus to take the island and ends up in a trap sprung by Valerius, captured and on the end of a shifting allegiance. Our explosive climax ends with the historically infamous flogging of Breaca and rape of Graine and Cygfa before Valerius and Corvus rescue them setting in motion the events that will lead to the most famous insurrection in British history.

I criticized Manda Scott's opener of this series as a somewhat directionless fantasy. However, the massive improvement that commenced with her sequel is surpassed in this stunning third. Here, for the first time, Scott was going to be measured against historical fact and has not been found wanting. Emotive characterisation, a solid merging of ancient Celtic culture and mythology with Roman modernization, gripping plots, effusively described battle scenes and rending portraits of personal and familial pain make this everything Conn Iggulden is not.

If, like me, you weren't overly captured by the first novel, stay with it because this author does deliver in a big way in this novel.

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