2 out of 4 stars
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Many years ago, in the land of Ancient Britania, a malicious son is banished from his village by his father, King Amren of the Cantiaci. Furious, the powerful Blood-Wolf named Marrock seeks help from the Cantiaci people’s rival, the Catuvellauni, for revenge on his father. This neighboring tribe considers his offer even after having made a recent truce with King Amren. Enter a senator from Rome, his son Marcellus, and a horde of soldiers on the hunt for Roman wealth, and the resulting political tension is heightened to mountainous peaks.
Catrin is the youngest daughter of King Amren, a warrior princess with the Raven as her spirit animal. She’s in the midst of discovering her newfound magical abilities as a powerful Druidess when the Romans first show up spewing threats. Soon after, she also learns of a curse put on her by her half-brother’s mother. To top it off, forbidden feelings for a certain senator’s son causes her to question her place in her family and her village. Will Catrin be able to strike a balance in her decisions that will appease her family, her people, her lover, and her own happiness?
Apollo’s Raven by Linnea Tanner is a historical fiction/epic fantasy novel that instantly captured my attention. Unfortunately, it ultimately failed to meet my expectations. I wanted to love this book but was sidetracked from its impressive blend of history, mythology, magic and political intrigue by poorly written characters.
The relationships throughout the book felt forced and the characters weren’t believable. I was especially disappointed by the romance between Marcellus and Catrin. After the first heated look cast upon her by Marcellus, Catrin was smitten. So smitten that the connection she instantly felt toward the Roman — an enemy of her people — caused her to make unintelligent decisions before even having had a conversation with the man. Even after supposedly getting to know each other, I never once understood why they were so in love, and I don’t know that they knew the reason either. Marcellous often doubted their connection and wondered if the powerful young girl cast a spell on him. Ultimately, their relationship was unconvincing.
I liked seeing the cultural differences between the Romans and the Cantiaci people. The Romans had a patriarchal society in which the men were in complete control of their families - wife, children, and slaves. Women didn’t get much of a say. On the other hand, the Cantiaci treated women with respect, allowing them to own property, be a ruler, a warrior, a Druidess, or a mother. Unfortunately, while Catrin was portrayed as a fierce warrior princess, rarely did I find examples of these qualities. She seemed rather passive and showed little growth throughout the book. There were a few other women who demonstrated these strong characteristics but were also difficult to connect to.
One last thing to mention was the ending. Even though this is book one of a series, I would have appreciated some form of closure. Instead, the book concluded abruptly on a confusing note, without answering any remaining questions I had.
Taking everything into account, I’ve decided to rate Apollo’s Raven 2 out of 4 stars. Because I only detected a few minor errors, I’m happy to report that it seemed to be professionally edited. However, while the political intrigue kept me somewhat invested, awkward dialogue and a lack of character development took away from my overall enjoyment of the story.
I’d recommend this book to those interested in themes such as shape-shifting, time traveling, and magic fused together with a touch of history, politics, and romance - on the condition that you’re also able to overlook poorly drawn characters. As a final warning, there are some adult scenes as well as some brief, gruesomely violent portions that may not be for everyone.
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