4 out of 4 stars
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Apollo’s Raven: Book One In The Curse Of The Clansmen And Kings Series by Linnea Tanner is a combination of historical romance and magical fantasy. It takes place on the coast of Britannia in 24AD. The main character Catrin is a diminutive beautiful blond-haired Celtic warrior princess. She is the third daughter of King Amren and Queen Rhiannon. Her two older sisters Vala and Mor are tall and dark haired like the queen, while Catrin resembles her father. Their older brother Marrock has been banished from the kingdom for unspeakable crimes. His mother Rhan , King Amren’s first wife, was convicted of treason and beheaded by Amren while young Marrock watched. Marrock has sworn to get revenge for his mother. He plans to kill his father and take over the kingdom.
As the story begins, Roman ships have landed on Britannia’s shore. Have they come for peace talks or to make war on the Celts? Roman senator Lucius Antonius has brought his handsome son Marcellus along with his legion of men. To assure the safety of King Amren at the meeting with the Romans, they agree to exchange prisoners. Marcellus will stay with the Celts, while Vala will go with the Romans. Princess Catrin is tasked with guarding Marcellus and is instructed to use her womanly ways to get information from him. Marcellus’ father tells him to spy on his captors too. Being so close together, Catrin and Marcellus soon fall in love. Will they spy as their fathers’ have ordered, or will they betray their people and unite together?
The romantic elements of this story were my favorite parts. Marcellus and Catrin’s love was portrayed realistically and believably. They were sweet and honest, amid the plans of their scheming parents and the violence and brutality with the probability of war. There were several beautiful romantic scenes, but the sex was not too graphic and mild enough for most readers. Their forbidden love was compared to Mark Antony and Cleopatra in the book and reminded me of the Shakespearean characters Romeo and Juliet.
I enjoyed the magic and fantasy in the story too. Catrin has the mystical power of the Druids and uses nature’s power to fight her enemies. Through her raven’s eyes she can see what the Romans are planning. She sees the secret plots of the priestess Agrona and her brother Marrock. The scenes of flying with the raven and seeing through its eyes as it swooped over the cliff and down the shoreline were breathtaking. Shape shifting into a giant wolf, Marrock used his power to kill the innocent. The story is a power struggle of good and evil, contrasting Catrin’s good white bird magic with her brother’s evil black wolf magic.
Linnea Tanner certainly did her homework with a detailed account of the life and behavior of the Celts and the Romans. She describes the Celts with their limed hair and inked bodies, as a fierce people, fighting and drinking for fun and sport. The Romans are more serious with short hair and clean-shaven bodies. Both the Celts and Romans believed in magic. It was interesting that both the Celts and Romans worshipped many gods and goddesses, although they gave them different names. Throughout the book and even in the title, the Roman sun god Apollo is mentioned. The Celts prayed to their sun god that they named Bel. The rights and importance of women were in sharp contrast between the Celts and the Romans. The Romans thought that women were not important and should have no say in politics. Women were highly valued in the Celtic culture. In the book King Amren puts his queen in charge while he is gone, and the people honor and obey her. Lucius the Roman senator was insulted when the queen even dared to speak back to him.
There were very few things about the story that I can criticize. The parts where Catrin was in the spirit world with the Wall of Lives were a little confusing to me and seemed to go on too long. But I found the idea, that Catrin could pull on the thread of a person’s life and change the future, very interesting and original. Another thing that I found annoying was that Catrin’s parents would not believe her about Agrona. I wanted to yell at them to trust their daughter. But I guess that is what the author intended. Their disbelief caused more conflict and progressed the story.
The book was very well edited, and I did not find the errors mentioned in other reviews. They must have already been corrected in my copy of the book. This book was thrilling and extremely entertaining. With sweet love, epic battles, and frightening magic, Apollo’s Raven has it all. It has earned 4 out of 4 stars, and I highly recommend it.
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