4 out of 4 stars
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The year is 24 A.D. Shadows of Roman invasion are looming long over the island of Britannia. Catrin, a Celtic warrior princess, is the heir to ancient magic powers—and a tragic family curse. The curse is set in motion when her twisted half-brother Marrock returns to claim her father’s throne, a claim supported by the ambitious Roman senator Lucius Antonius. When the Celtic king demands the senator’s son, Marcellus, remain in the village as a hostage, Catrin is charged with finding out the truth behind the Romans’ support of Marrock’s claim. Before long, the Celtic maiden and the Roman nobleman fall deeply in love. Torn between her loyalty to her people and the man she loves, Catrin must summon the unfathomable magic within her if she is to change her fate.
The first in a series of the same name, Apollo’s Raven is a captivating book in which history marries fantasy for a powerful, provocative tale. Linnea Tanner sets her sweeping epic in a fantastical Britain of painted Celtic warriors and powerful Druids, bringing it all to life with a masterful blend of historical research and seamless storytelling. Right from the beginning, it hooks readers’ interest and holds it up until the end, whetting their appetites for the sequel.
To start with, the characterization is spot-on. Catrin is the essential Celtic warrior: courageous, loyal, and fierce. At the same time, she has a wonderful vulnerability that makes it easy to root for her. Her chemistry with Marcellus sizzles and sweetens all at once. As for Marcellus, he is relatable as a pawn in his father’s ambitions and through his own tortured past. As he and Catrin grow more and more intimate—physically and emotionally—their bond becomes an elixir for their wounded souls. Watching these two troubled young people find healing in each other is without a doubt the high point of the book. It will be rewarding indeed to see how their journey continues.
The secondary characters are well-developed also. Catrin’s mother and father, King Amren and Queen Rhiannon, each have their own unique backstory that plays a major role in shaping the situation in which their daughter now finds herself. Marcellus’ father, Lucius Antonius, is a descendant of Mark Anthony who will stop at nothing to reclaim his family’s good name. Although his methods are ruthless, he’s not entirely without sympathy. Squeamish readers probably will squirm at Catrin’s horrible half-brother Marrock, not only by his physical appearance but also his twisted deeds. Finally, the Druid sorceress Agrona adds intrigue to the story in a mystical and dark way that threatens to bring ruin to Catrin and everyone she loves.
As for Tanner’s writing, her storytelling skills and research skills are equally luminous. Fact and fantasy mix it up with neither overpowering the other; both elements come together to form a strong backbone for Tanner’s tale. As with most books, there are a few typos here and there, but for the most part, the editing is on point and the book is easy to read.
All in all, Apollo’s Raven is an enchanting historical fantasy tale with memorable characters and sets the series off to a promising start. I’m therefore happy to rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. If the high quality shown in this first book remains consistent, this will be a series to delight readers for some time to come.
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