DRUID TIME by Jack Holland

DRUID TIME

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From Holland, author of two well-received 1981 books on Northern Ireland (Too Long A Sacrifice and The Prisoner's Wife), a forceful historical about a different kind of rebellion--the doomed attempt by a Celtic queen to free her people from Roman rule. ""It is Samhain Eve. . . The Druids teach that on this night the dead walk again, revisiting the earth."" It's the first century A.D., during the reign of Nero, and Gains Suetonius Paulinus, Governor of Britain, is sitting wearily in a ruined villa in Colchester, having just put down a bloody revolt by Boudica, Queen of the Iceni. Visited by his own memories (and by the shades of Celtic kings and Druid priests), Paulinus tells his story, which is essentially that of a man disgusted by the power he wields. Of humble origins, he rose up through the Army to become a hard-fighting general of the plain-spoken variety. After a brilliantly successful African campaign, he returned to Rome in glory, but found himself plunged into court intrigue when he became the lover of the beautiful Agrippina, wife (and murderer) of the Emperor Claudius, and mother of Nero. When Nero took power, Paulinus happily escaped to Britain to consolidate Roman rule there, only to find that his sworn enemy, the craven, scheming Catus Decianus (a spy for Nero) had abrogated a treaty with the warlike Iceni tribe, and kidnapped and raped Queen Boudica's daughters. The predictable result is a devastating war, which finally ends with the deaths of Boudica and nearly 70,000 Celtic warriors--and with Paulinus' murder of Decianus. In sum: the backstabbing skullduggery of the Roman court is an old story, and familiar to anyone who's read I, Claudius, but, still, Paulinus' bitter campaign against Boudica (the original Woman Warrior) through the smoky Celtic fens makes for powerful, horrifying historical fiction.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1986
Publisher: Dodd, Mead