Of all the woman warriors in myth and legend, few are more storied than Boudicca, the fierce red-headed queen who led the most celebrated Celtic rebellion in history. But, here, for the first time, Jan Surasky imagines Boudicca's enthralling story of bravery and triumph from the Celtic perspective.
In her extremely researched, vividly told novel, Boudicca bursts to life as never before. After a politically matched marriage to a much older king her world turns dark. Romans invade and at the king's death attack the palace, breaking a pact that would have saved the tribe from doom, publicly humiliate Boudicca and assault her two young daughters. Betrayed and outraged she leads thousands of warriors into an epic battle to avenge her daughters and rid her beloved island of Roman tyranny.
Beautifully written, grand in scope and intimate in detail, Rage Against the Dying Light resonates with the queen's indomitable spirit placing her alongside no lesser woman warrior than Joan of Arc herself.
[A] gripping, thoroughly engaging and deftly written novel from first page to last...solidly entertaining.
Surasky's genuine passion for her subject and affinity for her heroine emanates from every page…poetically weaving a truly compelling story—one that vividly captures not only the spirit of Boudicca but that of the Celtic people as well; flesh and bone, heart and soul.
Jan Surasky has crafted a remarkable story of Boudicca's life. When the book ended, I wanted more…Surasky allowed Boudicca to leap from the pages of Rage Against the Dying Light in a masterful way.
A fine Boudicca novel…vivid and fast-paced…Jan Surasky gives readers generous and informative looks at the great uprising of Celtic tribes against Roman rule and the leader of that uprising, the fiery-spirited Iceni queen Boudicca.
...vivid and tangible...Surasky blends what little we know with imaginative speculation...Her style shines...
Captures well the feelings of the Celts, the songs of the bards and poets, and the legacy of a queen who had the mantle of liberator thrust upon her.
…the research done is astounding. Ms. Surasky has done a creditable job of showing us life in first century Briton, the tribal divisions, the food, the cultures and also those in Rome…this is just a splendid story.
Extensively researched work...the Celtic lands of the first-century are very pleasingly accessible with captivating, detailed, even haunting settings, richly developed characters, and well-told social mores that define a civilization.
Catrinellia bustled about the long, low table, bossing servants in the Coritani palace's great hall. Her regal bearing, so steadily in evidence as a Celtic queen, had momentarily been intercepted by a strong desire to personally oversee preparations for tonight's banquet. To this end, she fussed at the servants, instructing one to exchange a silver serving platter with carefully sculpted inlaid fish swimming after each other around the rim for a larger, more elaborate, gold one with warriors and chariots, spears at the ready, engaging in battle; another, to bring out a larger serving bowl, one with chunks of amber embedded in the sides and exquisitely chiseled animal heads with coral-studded eyes peering out from under the rim; and, yet another, to set out more wine flagons.
The Silures would arrive this afternoon and Catrinellia knew the importance of a favorable meeting. As queen to the Coritani chieftain Votorix, she knew an alliance with the Silures would help to strengthen the security of the Coritani against the threat of their more warlike southern neighbors the Cautevellani. But, everyone knew how difficult it was to get two Celtic chieftains to agree, especially on politics. Catrinellia hoped that a great, welcoming feast, in the true Celtic tradition, would soften the Silures.
The Silures contingent was an important one. Cunobelinus himself was coming, chief of a tribe that, under his great-grandfather, had stood against the Roman army nearly a hundred years before. Caractacus, his oldest son and royal heir, would be there as well, along with Venutius, a royal ward from the Iberian Deceangli tribe, and the most elite nobles and most honored generals.
She lifted the skirts of her long olive-grey tunic slightly to whisk her tall, agile body more efficiently over the expanse of the high-ceilinged great hall's clay floors. She must check the pantry and the larder, and make certain that the hearth was readied and the spits prepared.
In the hallway outside the great hall, her daughter, the princess Boudicca, stood peering in at the flurry of preparations. To Boudicca, newly-turned sixteen, it was too soon to practice the formalities of queenly duties, at least on a regular basis. Her brother Mandorix, ten years her junior, who so often pestered her for a game of hide the boar's tooth, was at play in the palace courtyard. She turned and slipped unnoticed down the hallway and out the palace's great front iron gates.
The city of the Celtic Coritani tribe stood on a hill overlooking the fertile plains of the northern British countryside. Laid out in the typical Celtic manner, its palace was at one end, its merchants' and artisans' shops and homes lined the narrow streets at the other, and the homes of its nobility and military leaders were set off to the side.
The city looked out over a large expanse of fields and farmers' small, round, thatched clay huts. The fields, rich with grain, were interspersed with large and modest herds of cattle, pigs, and flocks of sheep. It also overlooked the Devon River, which ran down to the North Sea, and which brought succulent fish of all types to the Coritani table.
Boudicca passed through the large, open gate of the stone and timber walls which surrounded the city, with a slow, measured stride. But, as soon as she reached the steep hillside which gave rise to the city, and gazed down upon the meadow which stretched below it, she broke into the run which had given her so much childish pleasure. As she raced down the hillside toward the sacred grove at the far end of the meadow, Boudicca thought of Diviticus. He would be certain to be full of news after his journey to the Isle of Mona for the Druids' annual meeting. And, she would be the first to hear it, even before her father. Diviticus had been her friend since childhood, and always had time to share his Druid wisdom with her, even when Mama and Papa were too busy to satisfy her insatiable curiosity.
Her long, red tresses sparkled in the sun, flowing free about her shoulders, as she ran across the meadow through the newly risen spring violets. She would dress her hair for tonight's banquet in the formal Celtic manner, she thought, but for now, she savored the wind running through it. She arrived at the edge of the grove, and made her way through the stand of sacred oak trees to Diviticus' small, clay hut.
As she reached his hut, Diviticus emerged, ducking as he passed through the small doorway. Outside, the rays of the sun that passed through the trees bounced off his long, blond locks, making the grey that ran through them sparkle. He straightened his long robes as he brought himself up to his full height. The lines that ran through his face, reflecting years of study, lifted somewhat as he saw Boudicca running toward him.
"Diviticus, Diviticus," gasped Boudicca, out of breath as she reached his hut, "what did you bring me?"
"Now, Boudicca," he smiled, slightly, "do you think I went all the way to Mona just to bring you back a gift?"
"Diviticus," she repeated, ignoring his gentle teasing, and throwing her arms around him, "where did you hide it?"
"Well, I guess I will have to surrender it," he said, as he took her hand and drew her inside his hut. There, next to his traveling pack was a small, carved, wooden object. He lifted it gently and handed it to Boudicca.
"Oh, Diviticus," she said, quieting suddenly as she stared down at a small, oaken carving of the Celtic fertility goddess. “What a beautiful likeness of Sequanna."
"It was a pleasant way to pass the lonely nights by the campfire on my journey to Mona," he answered, smiling at her pleasure.
"Now I will have my own image of Sequanna to bedeck with flowers come Beltane," she said. The vision of her own flower-bedecked idol increased her anticipation of the spring rites festival she cherished the most among Celtic customs.
She knew the carving was Diviticus' way to gently remind her that someday she would be a Celtic queen. Then it would be necessary to secure Sequanna's favors for the blessings of royal heirs and a bountiful tribal harvest. But, for now, she wanted only to continue learning at Diviticus' knee and to roam the mossy, anemone-filled floor of the sacred grove. She wanted only to ponder life from her favorite tree stump healed over after a centuries-old stroke of lightning. And, to make friends with the hares that roamed the glade.
"Diviticus," she begged, "tell me about your journey to Mona."