DREAMING THE EAGLE

Manda Scott, Author . Delacorte $23.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-385-33670-3

Scottish writer Scott has already turned out three crime novels, but this is her debut historical fiction, the first in an ambitious trilogy about the life of Boudica, the warrior queen of Britannia who fought the Romans in the first century A.D. Long on meticulous detail and religious spells, and short on suspense and battle action, this lengthy volume runs from A.D. 32 to 43 and covers Boudica's youth (when she was known as Breaca), during which she kills her first opponent in battle and begins a life of leadership and bloodshed. Many of the tribes in Britain were either ruled by women or held men and women as equals. Breaca's tribe, the Eceni, had both men and women as warriors, healers and elders. Violent feuds, territorial rivalries, shifting alliances and desire for plunder made Britain a bloody patchwork of warring tribal lands, but invasion by the Romans gave the tribes a common enemy. Breaca meets Caradoc, warrior son of a rival king, and the two develop both a romantic relationship and a battlefield camaraderie that will be sorely tested over the decade. They fight Caradoc's evil brother, Amminios, who is allied with the Romans and whose treachery makes him a formidable foe. Tribal life and Roman politics are well depicted, and there is no shortage of juicy love triangles in all kinds of exotic configurations. The plot, however, needs tightening; it bogs down in too many soap-opera subplots about shocking betrayals. And those looking for blood-soaked battlefield mayhem will be disappointed. Not until the Romans arrive, 400 pages into the book, does the real action begin. (June 10)

Reviewed on: 05/26/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
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