THE DRUID KING
A distinguished science fiction author (Bug Jack Barron, etc.) turns to historical fiction with this sweeping but unremarkable tale of the myth-infused adventures of Vercingetorix, the greatest and last leader of the Gauls against the Romans under Julius Caesar. As a young man, Vercingetorix is forced into hiding after the execution of his father, who tries to usurp the leadership of the Gauls. Trained by the Druids in the arts of war and magic—his teachers are the Arch Druid Guttuatr and the dazzling swordswoman Rhia, who has pledged to live as a virgin warrior—Vercingetorix is visited by premonitions and dreams of his grand but tragic fate. When his learning is complete, he is manipulated into an alliance with a certain Gaius Julius Caesar, a master of war and intrigue, a leader with great ability and few scruples. Reasoning cleverly with the young man, Caesar also reintroduces him to his childhood love, the beautiful Marah. Vercingetorix is to become a client king through whom the Romans will rule Gaul, but when he realizes that his father's death was part of the plot, he turns ferociously against the Romans. The conclusion is a series of grand battle scenes interwoven with mystic visions. The author's sympathies are clearly with the Gauls, but he is balanced in his portrait of Roman and Gallic factionalism, and reconstructs a Celtic society without the worshipful attitude that marks many fictional treatments of those creative and valiant folk. It's a solid, intelligent effort—but readers familiar with Spinrad's iconoclastic science fiction novels will find it disappointingly conventional, despite the mystical trappings. Agent, Russell Galen. (Aug. 11)
Forecast:The seed for this novel was the original version of the screenplay Spinrad wrote for the 2001 film Druids (originally titled Vercingetorix). The book won't flop as hard as the movie, but chances are it will be a harder sell than Spinrad's sci-fi.