As every Latin student knows, ancient Gaul was divided into three parts, all conquered by Caesar. Llywelyn tells of that conquest from the viewpoint of the defeated Gauls. Her story is told by the Druid Ainvar, whose"soul friend" Vercingetorix leads the Gauls in their doomed defense of freedom. Llywelyn is most successful in her evocation of Celtic culture and Druidic beliefs, based on harmony with nature. Once Caesar and Vercingetorix join battle, however, the story bogs down in endless marches, raids, and battles. The characters serve the needs of the plot admirably but are never fully fleshed out and compelling in their own right. Less successful than Llywelyn's earlier novels (e.g. Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas , LJ 3/1/86), this one is still likely to please those who enjoy meticulously crafted historical fiction.
my favorite book EVER. ainvar is such a captivating character as a young, cocky pre-teen, and his steady transformation from sudden orphan to chief of the druids is fascinating, because he still retains that mindset - he refuses to do what is expected of him, and both he and the tribe come out better for it. the ending is simply heartbreaking, even though you know it's coming. a fabulous mix of history and fiction.
It is like watching the Roman invasion of Gaul from the Gaul point of view. I couldn't put it down. If you are interested at all in druids or Vercingetorix. A must read!
According to the great Wiki: "A druid was a member of the priestly class in Britain, Ireland, and Gaul, and possibly other parts of Celtic western Europe, during the Iron Age. Very little is currently known about the ancient druids because they left no written accounts about themselves, and the only evidence of them is a few descriptions left by Greek and Roman authors, and stories created by later medieval Irish writers. While archaeological evidence has been uncovered pertaining to the religious practices of the Iron Age people, 'not one single artefact or image has been unearthed that can undoubtedly be connected with the ancient Druids.' Various recurring themes emerge in a number of the Greco-Roman accounts of the druids, including that they performed human sacrifice, believed in a form of reincarnation, and that they held a high position in Gaulish society. Next to nothing is known about their cultic practice, except for the ritual of oak and mistletoe as described by Pliny the Elder."
With this information in mind, little as it is, the author wrote a wonderfully compelling tale about the Roman invasion of the Gaul lands. This area encompassed today's France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. Llywelyn created Druid characters and Gaul personalities who war to repel the invading Romans. The tribes the author uses are listed among the Gaul tribes. Prince Vercingetorix was a real leader who united the tribes to war against the Romans. The story is embellished in a wonderful way by the author as he details the battles, the Druid influence and includes family and friendship connections. I truly enjoyed this read as I knew little about the Druids and the Gauls prior to reading this novel. Well done!
Great fictional tale of druid priest. Very enjoyable.