Adventure in ancient Scotland that’s a potent mix of historical fiction, druid-tinged fantasy, and romance.
With nods to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, newcomer Watson presents an ancient Scotland peopled by strong-minded women and powered by ancient, goddess-based magic. Redheaded Rhiann is the last of the royal line of the Epidii tribe, the tribe’s “Ban Cre,” charged with producing an heir; she’s a healer, trained in her art in the all-female environs of the Sacred Isle; and she’s an unwilling rival for her tribe’s power-hungry chief druid. She’s also one of the few local leaders who can see that the Roman army is a force that must be reckoned with; most other tribal headmen are counting on the geographic isolation of Scotland (here called “Alba”) to protect it from General Agricola’s advancing red-clad menace. Rhiann has enough vision to realize that unless the tribes of Alba band together, Agricola will pick them off one by one. Luckily, her husband, one Eremon of Erin (Ireland), who was chosen to be her partner in an arranged marriage, is in accord. Together, the two prepare to convince the other kings of the wisdom of partnership. Meanwhile, there’s the difficult business of offspring: Rhiann had a bad experience with raiders and can’t stand a man’s touch. And Eremon has troubles of his own: he’s hiding the fact that he and his 20 loyal followers were banished from Erin by his treacherous uncle. There are plenty of plotlines, but Watson keeps them nicely dovetailed and tightly laced with romantic tension, treachery, and cliffhangers aplenty. She’s done her homework, boning up on Tacitus for historical detail and verisimilitude, but there’s imagination here, too, and the work’s all the better for it.