Dreaming the Serpent Spear by MC Scott (Boudica #4)

So, we have arrived at the final climatic novel of Scott's series. Having started with a touch too much fantasy in the opener the previous two efforts have been high quality and gripping. The pace, characterisation and emotive response doesn't let up in this final novel as we follow Breaca to her inexorable destiny at the hands of the Augusta II.

The novel opens rapidly where the third left off. Cygfa and Graine are coming to terms with their brutal mistreatment at the hands of a cohort of Roman legionaries. Breaca is painfully learning to wield a sword again whilst Valerius seeks to prove himself to the Iceni host whilst the simmering anger of Cunomar lingers painfully at his side, the younger man desperate to prove himself his mother's heir should she fall in battle. From this point we follow Scott's retelling of what little history we know as Valerius destroys the IX legion in a manner emulating the infamous Varian defeat in A.D. 9. Cunomar develops his own band of elite troops, the Bears, blooding them in fierce combat. All the while Breaca is struggling to heal, both physically and mentally, reaching her fateful decision during the final sack of the Claudian Temple in Camulodunum whilst her son and brother debate who must lead the war host.

After injecting a cameo from Graine as she defeats the Corvus-led invasion of Mona using the power of the Dreamers and the subsequent self-sacrifice by Dubornos after the rites in the lands of the Coritani, we find Hawk appointed the true bearer of Breaca's father's sword and the swelling host of the British warriors sacking London before the final fateful battle.

When readers of Scott's magnificent series find themselves reluctant to read this final novel they will realise that the character empathy engendered by this sterling author has given us an emotional link to Breaca and the Iceni. We know with terrible finality that Breaca will die because history commands it but we do not wish it to happen. As the pages march inexorably on the heart grows heavier knowing the Dreamers and the Iceni are doomed to failure and the Boudica cannot lead her people to victory. Still, Scott delivers it in a manner that is both exhilarating in Breaca's courageous fight at the climatic battle and her subsequent benediction on the surviving Valerius, Cygfa and Graine who take the power of the Dreamers into a hidden world to rest and nurture before being reborn once the Roman Empire falls.

My review of the opening novel in this quartet found it lacking and fantastical. That view remains. However, from the second novel through to the end Scott delivers a series that packs an massive emotional punch, crisp subplots, vibrant language and a colourful sense of humanity that ensures the pages keep turning faster and faster. It will appeal to readers wanting to gain a sense of the violence and raw battles that define the period, it will appeal to readers trying to gain a sense of the Celtic druids and the otherworlds they walked. But, above all, it will appeal to the reader who wants to pick up a series and wish it never stopped.

A masterpiece.

9/10 Will appeal to the reader who wants to pick up a series and wish it never stopped.

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