The sequel to Gillespie’s elaborate Roman epic featuring proud warrior Auriane (The Light Bearer, 1994) finds the now middle-aged woman on the verge of retirement while comfortably ensconced in her lover Marcus Julianus’s estate with two daughters.
It is a.d. 105, and Emperor Trajan rules over an uneasy conglomerate of nations in the Roman Empire. At the imperial border of Germany, where the ancient rivers Mosella and Rhenus meet, the Chattian chieftain's daughter Auriane has lived in romantic accord for seven years with Marcus Julianus, the revered, aristocratic Roman official and father of her nine-year-old daughter, Arria. Secretly, however, Auriane has been involved in a dangerous smuggling operation for her ragtag guerrilla tribe, the Chattians, and is torn between her love for Marcus and her desire to help her people in their ongoing insurrection against Rome. And her fearless, hot-headed 13-year-old daughter, Avenahar—whose father, a Roman slave, Auriane was involved with during a time she'd rather forget—is determined to become a warrior like her mother. When her father's fighting companion Witgern, leader of the Chattian Wolf Coats, seeks out Auriane to help them, Auriane refuses out of love for Marcus and her children, yet she is forced to flee anyway (with Avenahar quick at her side) once the Romans find out she is the fugitive smuggler. Gillespie is an engaging, credible narrator of these far-flung events, and delights especially in the details of Avenahar's womanhood ceremony, enacted deep in the ancestral Holy Wood in the presence of numerous elderwomen and sorceresses. When Avenahar bolts at the news of who her father really is, Auriane sets off to find her and with Marcus's help enlists the might of the Roman army, although our feminist warrior is fed up with this senseless violence and vows to spend her last years as a seer.
Gillespie provides yet another invincible female heroine in Auriane’s daughter Avenahar—look for her apotheosis in the next installment.