4 out of 4 stars
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Apollo’s Raven by Linnea Tanner is the first book in the Curse of Clansman and Kings series. It is about Catrin, the youngest of three sisters, to King Amren and Queen Rhiannon of Cantiaci. The book is set in ancient Roman times and kings once picked by Rome are fighting over power. Catrin and her sister, Mor, are battle training with Belinus near the cliffs. While Mor and Belinus are otherwise occupied, Catrin slips into the mind of her raven and sees warships and armed soldiers gathering on the coastline with her half-brother Marrock leading them. Marrock was banished 7 years earlier after an incident involving Catrin that caused her harm. He is hoping to take back the throne of his father, King Amren. Marrock’s mother Rhan, a powerful druidess, cast a terrible curse before her death foretelling that Blood Wolf and the Raven would destroy King Amren.
King Amren doesn’t approve of Catrin doing magic with the raven and finally tells her about the curse set by his former wife, Rhan, and the prophecy that reads: The gods demand the scales be balanced for the life you take. If you deny my soul’s journey to the Otherworld by beheading me, I curse you to do the same as mine. I prophesize your future queen will beget a daughter who will rise a Raven and join your son, Blood Wolf, and a mighty empire to overtake your kingdom and to execute my curse.
When Catrin, Mor, and Belinus return from their excursion, the Roman soldiers and two diplomats, Senator Lucius Antonius and his youngest son, Marcellus are there waiting to speak with King Amren. After the king introduces his wife and daughters, the senator asks about his son. This infuriates King Amren, and he proclaims that Marrock is no son of his and that he was banished for treacherous acts. The senator states that Rome only recognizes the birthright of the king’s eldest male heir, not the queen or his daughters. King Amren asks why Rome would support Marrock and the senator discloses that Cunobelin, King of the Catuvelauni claims Marrock is the rightful heir.
Cunobelin, a prior bitter rival to King Amren, accuses him of blocking Roman merchants from traveling through Cantiaci to trade with the Catuvelauni. In lieu of Cunobelins support stating that Marrock is the rightful heir of Cantiaci to Emperor Tiberius, Marrock promises to open trade-ways and pay back money owed to Rome from treaties bartered 80 years ago. He also agrees to pay an additional tribute for favorable trading and peace with Rome. Cunobelin promised to forge an alliance through the marriage of his son to Vala, King Amren’s eldest daughter. This situation causes King Amren to go back with the senator to renegotiate with Cunobelin. To ease tensions on both sides and for protection, it is decided that Marcellus will stay and Vala will accompany the king to the negotiations. Senator Lucius Antonius arranges the secret negotiation and acts as the arbitrator.
When King Amren requests that his spiritual advisor, Agrona, sacrifice to the Gods for their favorable support in the outcome of the negotiations, the senator requests that the sacrifice is to a Roman God. He chooses Apollo by stating, “Apollo, almighty god of the sun and divination and my family’s patron god.”
Catrin is charged with showing Marcellus around while trying to glean information about Romes real reason for siding with Marrock, and Marcellus is to get information from Catrin about why Marrock was banished, by any means necessary. Neither feels good about deceiving the other, and they form a bond that will test family loyalty, country loyalty, and their own loyalty.
I usually finish a book in short order but this one didn’t hold my interests for any length of time. I had to read it in bursts. The reason is that the author was overly descriptive in all aspects, including the characters’ speech. I will say the author had a good grip on the intrigue, scheming and betrayal often found in political arenas and showed this nicely. The writing flowed smoothly even through the seemingly endless descriptions.
I enjoyed how Catrin’s character grew from a shy young woman to a rather fierce warrior through her different experiences, especially when those she loved were threatened. The battle between her and Agrona was the best part, and that is where Catrin really seemed to grow into her own. The books ending was ambiguous and I do not understand where the author will go in the second installment. I can’t say whether I will read any more of this series, as the main storyline was more political than anything else, but it was a decent story with the added romance and mystical elements.
I found no grammatical errors to speak of, other than one line of direct speech that was missing a quotation mark at the beginning of the line, but there was one at the end and so I feel comfortable rating this book 4 out of 4 stars. If you enjoy books with a historical setting and political overtones, I would recommend giving this one a try.
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