The Eagle and the Raven by Pauline Gedge

(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

She was the flame-haired Boudicca, Queen of the Britons, whose passion and pride lit up the mysterious world of the ancient Celts.  From the valleys and mountains of still barbaric Britain to the classic grandeur and corruption of Claudius’s Rome, here is the unforgettable drama of a warrior queen torn between love and destiny.

When I read this book I was, of course, expecting it to be about Boudicca.  The blurb and the cover made me expect it to be an epic saga about the warrior queen who led the doomed rebellion against Rome.  Yet out of the 892 pages of my edition of The Eagle and the Raven, I would say that less than 200 of them are actually about Boudicca.  Most of the novel is about Caradoc (usually called Caratacus), the man who led a failed rebellion before she did.  Boudicca’s actual rebellion doesn’t start until the last 100 pages, which requires some creative pace-changing on Pauline Gedge’s part to get through all of the rebellion in such a short amount of page space.

I truly would not recommend this novel.  It’s one of Gedge’s early novels, but it does not match the quality of Child of the Morning at all.  She does not do as well with ancient Britain as she does with ancient Egypt, so I can certainly see why she returned to ancient Egypt after she finished this novel.  The Eagle and the Raven is long and meandering, without any hint of the tension that is present in all of her other novels.  I truly had to struggle to finish this novel, something that I don’t do often, no matter how boring the novel is.

The main characters in The Eagle and the Raven are very well-developed.  Caradoc is believable and grows through the novel and despite her brief appearance, Boudicca develops in an incredibly short amount of time.  However, secondary characters are somewhat neglected, especially Aricia, who had the potential to be a really amazing villain but ended up coming off as your cliché evil seductress.  Venutius just came across as an idiotic, brow-beaten man, but there were obvious attempts to give him depth, which failed spectacularly in my eyes.

My overall impression?  I’m sticking to Pauline Gedge’s Egyptian novels.

I give this book 1.5/5 stars.

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