2 out of 4 stars
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After reading a good review of Apollo’s Raven here at OnlineBookClub, I was excited to read this novel set in Roman Britain. I had not read historical fantasy before, and thought the genre would be interesting. I am still interested in this type of novel after finishing Apollo’s Raven, but the novel left me disappointed.
Catrin is the youngest daughter of Amren, the king of the Cantiaci, a tribe of Ancient Britons. Marcellus is the son of a Roman senator, sent to Britain with his father by the emperor to judge the political situation in preparation for an invasion. The two young people are directed by their fathers to get closer to each other in order to gather information. Amid political and mystical intrigue involving Catrin’s banished half-brother and Amren’s spiritual advisor, a tale unfolds of star-crossed love . Of course, the setting is a millennia and half before Shakespeare!
There aren’t many novels about Ancient Britain. The author balances the perspectives of the two sides, Roman and Celt, quite well. I liked how she was thoughtful about what ability each character has in Latin or Celtic, and why, and how she used that in the plot. She also shows the reader a bit of a cross section of Cantiaci society -- the novel is mostly focused on the royal court, but warriors and craftspeople also show up. The geography of Cantiaci territory is depicted well.
However, I found it difficult to get through this novel, because the characters seemed flat, and they really didn’t develop much over the course of the plot. Their emotions were also described in an overly-wrought and ultimately shallow way. Altogether it was hard to care about these characters. This made the novel hard reading at points. There’s also a lot of worldbuilding involved in historical fantasy, and I do not think the author revealed how her magic system worked with much skill at all. In fact, there was a lot of restatement of information, and it became confusing and boring. Readers may struggle, like I did, to keep straight what is old and new information about this world.
There were no typos to speak of in the novel. There were, however, graphic descriptions of violence and wounds, and somewhat explicit sex scenes. The novel is not appropriate for young teens. I would rate Apollo’s Raven 2 out of 4 stars. Which is a shame, because I really did want to like it.
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