An exhausting but often stirring 30-year saga, blow by blow, of the impending, the actual, the resisted, the enforced conquest of ancient Britain by imperial Rome. The principal characters are the royalty of the various Briton tribes, including such half-familiar figures as Cunobelin (Cymbeline) and Boudicca (Boadicea). The central figure: the noblest Briton of them all, Caradoc, who, having alienated rival tribes by his spiky ambition, is unable to unite the Britons to face Rome. Worse yet, his career as a guerrilla is ended by the treachery of Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes, whom he had foolishly jilted years before. He is sent to Rome, guest of the Emperor Claudius, to be civilized and corrupted, but the doomed fight for freedom goes on. . . and on--Gedge is not exactly selective. The dialogue, if not openly anachronistic, has little period flavor and the psychology tends to the simplistic, draped in purple: ""He knew very well that she was not the woman for him. . .but the mindless rivers of desire flowed on within him, in a place where he could not reach."" But Gedge (Child of the Morning, 1977) has a real talent for keeping an enormous cast from stepping on each other's toes, for setting melodramatic, almost operatic scenes so that they don't seem too artificial. Solid, light historical fare--and lots of it.