Dreaming the Eagle by MC Scott (Boudica #1)

Compared to McCullough, this offering from Scott wasn't impressive, but perhaps understandably so. `Boudica' from Manda Scott tends to follow a well-trodden formula in its plot technique. It is a methodology repeated in many current offerings in this rapidly expanding sub genre of historical fiction which, admittedly, has the benefit of enabling the reader to discern more easily the excellent from the mediocre.

The opening chapters of the first of this trilogy inevitably present us with the childhoods of Ban and Breaca and move onwards through the latter's development into an Eceni warrior, multiple battles, soul searching and growth.

We are pointed towards the Eceni (another interpretation of the spelling of the British tribe I haven't come across - along with the one `c' Boudica) as being a peoples emerging from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, the usual (and accurate) place of tribal honour being given to the smith. From Breaca's killing of the Coritani warrior raider to her first crafting of a brooch, to her first sword we move from one important educational episode to the next with moral purpose to build reason behind the adult character to come. Fairly typical of historical fictional biography and it enables the author to firmly establish character. Yet, my biggest problem with this novel is the unreality of age and intellectual maturity. The main characters all seem to be in early adolescence yet are treated by the adults and act as though they are in their thirties or more, making tribe-affecting decisions and taking usually hard-earned experience actions with unsettling aplomb. It makes the entire novel less credible. Admittedly, we know nothing about Boudicea's (if you prefer the Victorian spelling) youth and thus the opener of this trilogy is pure fantasy, but it takes it to heights that are a little incredulous. So much so that by the time the entire entourage takes a little trip to Mona reality is entirely suspended.

The other problem was that the novel lacks that necessary requirement of any trilogy opener - the ability to provide a gripping story. I found it very easy to stop mid-paragraph, do something else and then come back and not feel I'd missed much. It did not inspire page turning. In fact, I confess I read 4 other novels between this one.

So, the book was well written, technique well-crafted, it possessed plot and yet… I found it hard to empathise with most of the characters and I wasn't gripped - the page turning quality never kicked in to the point that I hope the second novel is much improved over this offering.

7/10 I found it hard to empathise with most of the characters.

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