CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 35. . . .May 13, 2011.
Barbara Galler-Smith & Josh Langston.
Calgary, AB: EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2011.
335 pp., pbk., $14.95.
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
He rolled away in panic, coming up hard against a stone wall, and stared at the figure lying on the ground–a woman–his first sleeping companion in over eight hundred years.
She had the tattoo markings of a druid. Fair hair framed a face marked by creases whose origins he could only guess, though something about the set of her lips, even in sleep, told him the lines weren’t born in mirth.
When she shifted and groaned, he tensed, willing himself to become a part of the dark chamber. When she did not awaken, he calmed. What was she doing here? A stranger to godsleep, he thought, else she’d be awake by now. Grateful for the time given him, he pressed his forehead to the likeness of the Holy One’s breasts carved into the north wall and hurried through a prayer of thanks. He had little time to remove the woman from his sanctuary. He grabbed the remains of a cast-off robe, and draped her with it, then donned his own tunic, shoes, and cloak retrieved from the oilskin pouch that protected them from the passage of time and the nibbles of mice.
Although Captives is the second book in the series begun in Druids, fortunately the reader can pick up the thread quickly without having read the first volume (although readers may still be tempted to go back to Captives if they haven’t read it). Set in the era of Gaius Julius Caesar, the plot follows the adventures of two young druids, Mallec and Rhonwen, who finally meet in this volume while being held as slaves.
Mallec is a druid struggling to maintain the peace in his home clan against the machinations of one who opposes almost everything he stands for, the resurrected Driad Dierdre and her unruly son, Caradowc, whose ambition is to become chief of their community. Betrayed, Mallec finds himself enslaved and destined for the markets of the Mediterranean. Meanwhile, the Driad Rhonwen and her uncle, the Druid Orlan, already in chains, discover the dark side of the Roman world and the tortured life of slaves in that era.
Through a chain of sometimes brutal events, Mallec and Rhonwen finally come together while meeting one of history’s most famous ( or infamous depending on the reader’s point of view) characters, Julius Caesar, and make him their enemy. The final chapters have the pair returning to their own European Celtic homeland to face down the evil Dierdre once more.
The story is an excellent depiction of the times, of life in a Celtic community during the time of the druids, and of life in the supposedly more civilized world gradually falling under the control of the growing power of Rome. There are touches of druidic magic in the tale, but, in general, the take is a realistic approach to the main elements of the plot. Like the first book, the inclusion of actual historical characters in the story is a nice touch.
The book is 335 pages long broken into thirty chapters and opens with a page of reviews for the first volume, Druids, a dedication page, and a prologue, and closes with four pages listing other titles from this publisher. Captives is well written and should appeal to readers of historical fiction as well as those who are fans of a good adventure tale or, given the distance in time from our own world, fantasy.
Ronald Hore, involved with writer’s groups for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.
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