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Dreaming the Bull by Manda Scott

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Rowan
Bibliophile
Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
Location: New Orleans
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Dreaming the Bull by Manda Scott

Postby Rowan » Sat September 6th, 2008, 3:32 pm

Hailed as Boudica, the Bringer of Victory, Breaca now lead's her people's resistance against the occupying legions of Rome. Opposing her is Julius Valerius, an auxiliary cavalry officer whose increasing brutality in the service of his god and emperor cannot shield him from the ghosts of his past. Caught between them are two children, pawns in a game of unthinkable savagery, while in distant Rome, the emperor Claudius holds the balance of lives in his hands.

In this, the second book of the series that began with Dreaming the Eagle, we follow the life of Breaca's younger brother Ban who was captured and sold into slavery at the end of the first book. He is told that his family are all dead and so begins his life as a slave to Rome. After some time, he is allowed to become a citizen of Rome, taking the name Julius Valerius.

I have to admit, I had torn feelings regarding Ban's actions, which is what I'm sure Scott aims for. My off-the-cuff emotional response was intense dislike, but the logical side of me reminds me that believing his family dead, one can hardly blame him for joining 'the enemy'.

This is an excellent follow-up to the first book and I will certainly be diving into the third book soon.

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diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

Postby diamondlil » Sat September 6th, 2008, 8:56 pm

Here's my review of this book:

Among the tribes, none would believe that their most hated enemy, the bloodthirsty cavalry commander astride a pied war-horse - could be one of their own....or that he might hold their fate in his hands. But as the fires of the war between the tribes and the occupying armies of Rome rage on, dozens of lives will be drawn in to the conflict....Caradoc, the Eceni warrior who will come face-to-face with the emperor himself...Cunomar, son of a warrior queen, who will learn about war - and sacrifice - at his parents' side...Agrippina, the mesmerizing empress whose guile equals that of her husband...Claudius, the omnipotent yet terrified ruler mired in a war he must win at all costs. And then there is Valerius. Caught between worlds, he has the hardest task of all - coming to terms with this heritage and on a perilous journey back to a fateful confrontation with the most feared woman in Brittania...Boudica.

A novel that travels from the wilderness of the British Isles to the teeming streets of ancient Rome, from the remote barracks of frontier legions to the shores of Gaul, Dreaming the Bull is a historical sage of extraordinary power, rich with passion and courage and heroism pitched against overwhelming odds. Written with uncompromising mastery, this is fiction that captures the heart, challenges the mind, and offers us and utterly enthralling experience of history in the flesh and blood of its making.



This is the second book in the Boudica series by Manda Scott, following on from Dreaming the Eagle. In some ways it seems a bit strange that this series of four books is called the Boudica series, because the focus of this book really did seem to be Julius Valerius and Caradoc, with Boudica being more of a cameo player, but then again I suspect that a book labelled as being about Boudica will bring a ready made audience!

This book opens a number of years after the end of Dreaming the Bull. The Romans are still in Britain, and Boudica and her warrior husband Caradoc still maintain their almost guerilla like warfare against the Romans. Whilst the warriors are generally confident there is one Roman soldier they fear - Julius Valerius - a man who seems to be something more than a man, a man who seems to be without fears of his own. What they can't know, is that Julius Valerius is struggling to come to terms with his own identity, both his current one, and the one from his past that he has carefully locked away. As with many secrets from the past, they are not as locked away as they need to be, and as Julius continues with his warfare the ghosts begin to visit him, and to bring back memories of his true identity.

When Caradoc and some of his family are captured and taken to Rome, the narrative leaves Scotland and Boudica behind, and instead we are taken to the world of Imperial Rome. Caradoc and his people must firstly survive the punishment that the Emperor wants to give them for being the biggest problem that he had in the whole empire, and then survive living in the built up world of Rome where they are free to live in the city, but if they make any attempt to leave they will be killed. It is only after several years, and with the help of an old enemy that there may be any hope at all of getting home, but that will be an exhilarating adventure in and of itself.

Whilst this is not the kind of book that you are instantly drawn into and captivated by, to the point of exclusion of all else, ultimately it is a rewarding read, and the ending is definitely interesting enough to make you want to read the next book in the series sooner rather than later!

Rating 4/5
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User avatar
Rowan
Bibliophile
Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
Location: New Orleans
Contact:

Postby Rowan » Sun September 7th, 2008, 12:30 am

"diamondlil" wrote:Whilst this is not the kind of book that you are instantly drawn into and captivated by, to the point of exclusion of all else,


This book may not be captivating to some, but it sure saved my sanity this last week while I was evacuated for Hurricane Gustav!!
:p

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sweetpotatoboy
Bibliophile
Location: London, UK

Postby sweetpotatoboy » Wed June 24th, 2009, 1:10 pm

I've just finished reading this one - the second book in the Boudica series. In some respects, I preferred it marginally to the first one.

I think she writes really well, sustaining an interesting and beautiful - though always highly readable - use of language throughout these lengthy books. Plotting-wise, I didn't have a problem with this particular book focusing on Bán/Valerius. He was a major protagonist from the start and I'm sure that Breaca will come to the fore again more in the future books.

As readable as these books are, I do have two quibbles. Firstly, I do think they are longer than they need be. Does the Boudica story really merit four 600-odd-page novels? Writing the story at this length has necessitated a somewhat too wide set of characters and convoluted plotting for comfort.

Also, the spiritual/supernatural elements really do take over too much for this series to be considered true historical fiction. I can accept that their spiritual world would have been a major part of the lives of the characters in question. But I would prefer it to have been written in such a way that you could understand the spiritual concerns of the protagonists without it appearing as if it were all actually real. For me, it does somewhat ruin the author's focus on writing a gritty historical fiction that steers close to attested events.

Carla
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Postby Carla » Wed June 24th, 2009, 3:58 pm

"sweetpotatoboy" wrote:Also, the spiritual/supernatural elements really do take over too much for this series to be considered true historical fiction. I can accept that their spiritual world would have been a major part of the lives of the characters in question. But I would prefer it to have been written in such a way that you could understand the spiritual concerns of the protagonists without it appearing as if it were all actually real. For me, it does somewhat ruin the author's focus on writing a gritty historical fiction that steers close to attested events.


That sums up pretty well what I felt about the supernatural/spiritual angle. I am fine with belief/superstition/religion (call it what you will), indeed one of the things I enjoy about historical fiction is trying to understand how a different society saw the world, but when the supernatural powers actually work it tips over into fantasy for me.
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
Website: http://www.carlanayland.org
Blog: http://carlanayland.blogspot.com

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sweetpotatoboy
Bibliophile
Location: London, UK

Postby sweetpotatoboy » Wed June 24th, 2009, 4:38 pm

"Carla" wrote:That sums up pretty well what I felt about the supernatural/spiritual angle. I am fine with belief/superstition/religion (call it what you will), indeed one of the things I enjoy about historical fiction is trying to understand how a different society saw the world, but when the supernatural powers actually work it tips over into fantasy for me.


Exactly. It's odd - in many ways, these read like fantasy novels (nothing wrong with that, I enjoy fantasy), reminding me most of the books by Caiseal Mor if you've read those. But in many ways, they're pretty gritty historical novels - making for an odd combination. It kind of works, but kind of doesn't. I keep comparing them in my mind with Jack Whyte's Camulod books, but those - despite being Arthurian stories with a character called Merlyn - really had no truck with fantastical elements.

Carla
Compulsive Reader
Contact:

Postby Carla » Wed June 24th, 2009, 5:45 pm

"sweetpotatoboy" wrote:Exactly. It's odd - in many ways, these read like fantasy novels (nothing wrong with that, I enjoy fantasy), reminding me most of the books by Caiseal Mor if you've read those. But in many ways, they're pretty gritty historical novels - making for an odd combination. It kind of works, but kind of doesn't. I keep comparing them in my mind with Jack Whyte's Camulod books, but those - despite being Arthurian stories with a character called Merlyn - really had no truck with fantastical elements.


That was what I liked most about Jack Whyte's novels. I confess the sheer length lost me round about Book 4, though. I started Fort at River's Bend (is that the next one?) and kind of ran out of steam. He seems to take an awful lot of pages for the amount of story (the Boudica novels have something of the same trait, as you mentioned, and I haven't read all of them yet for the same reason).
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria

Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009

Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords

Website: http://www.carlanayland.org

Blog: http://carlanayland.blogspot.com


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