This title was one of many on display (and for purchase) as part of the Historical Novel Society of Australasia (HNSA) 2019 conference held in late October at the University of Western Sydney. I spoke briefly with Ilka and thought back over my own interest in Iron Age Britain.
I simply devoured this book! I felt as if I’d come home with the well paced mix of action and reflection reminding me of my very first novel manuscript draft from the mid 90s.
Ailia sang to me of self doubt and determination, with the her first person perspective revealing a naive energy that is gradually tempered over time. Her need for companionship draws her into problematic relationships with powerful men: a mentor, spiritual leader and warrior. Ilka’s characters are well rounded, and though I knew where the narrative was heading, I looked forward to her portrayal of Cartimandua, the ‘sleek pony’ queen of the Brigantes. Caradog, a British chieftain who leads a rebellion against the Romans, is acknowledged as ambitious, though his pride leaves no room for accepting defeat.
The different landscapes are effectively captured through more than description: personal interactions with nature are important within the belief system of Celtics. I enjoyed Ilka’s depiction of Rome, too, capturing the hustle and bustle of markets, alleyways and imperial opulence.
One of the dangers of a compelling read is that it is all over way too soon. Though out of step historically, I’m looking forward to reading the first book in the series: Skin.
*featured image and author interview at ‘A Songwoman in Iron-Age Britain: Rebellion, Romance and the most-wanted man in the Roman Empire’ Text Publishing
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