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The Warrior's Princess

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Barbara Erskine

Jess, a young teacher in London, is attacked by someone she fears knows her well. Fleeing to her sister-s house in the Welsh borders to recuperate, she is disturbed by the cries of a mysterious child.Two thousand years before, the same valley is the … see full wiki

Tags: Books, Historical Fiction, Welsh Fiction, Welsh History
Author: Barbara Erskine
Publisher: Harper Collins Omes
1 review about The Warrior's Princess

Finally--Something a Little Different

  • Aug 28, 2008
  • by
Author Barbara Erskine must be listening to her fan base. Her last few novels, although set in different locales, followed the same tired formulaic plot line where a modern day heroine urged on by a spectacularly historic backdrop channels into a restless soul from the past and is pursued by dual male contemporaries with a mixture of lascivious and murderous intentions to yield a 500+ page yawn of a good versus evil supernatural saga. However, instead of the usual mindless pursuit where the reader can determine halfway through the novel its three snores and a beer can climax, "The Warrior's Princess" fascinates with a well-controlled weaving of the past and present storylines to create a compelling neatly crafted story about Eigon, the daughter of the defeated warrior king, Caratacus, of the Roman Britain's Catuvellauni tribe featured in her earlier novel "Daughters of Fire (Unabridged)". As a master storyteller, Erskine explores her rape at the hands of Roman soldiers and her subsequent life in the Rome of Emperior Claudius and Nero.

The plot of "The Warrior's Princess" does not deviate too far from the characteristic Erskine storyline. Jess, a young teacher living in 21st century London awakes the morning after a party celebrating the end-of-school to find herself bruised, her clothing torn and disheveled, her mind wiped clean of whatever violence had transpired. When she realizes that she has been horrifically raped, yet cannot remember which of the men from the night before returned with her to her apartment, she decides that her life may be in jeopardy. Frightened with her only recourse escape to her sister's home in remote Wales, Jess's heightened emotional upheaval attracts the vibes of a lonely distraught child searching the Welsh hills for her mother and sister. The reader quickly discovers that the young girl is a manifestation from the Britain of Roman times, abandoned by her mother for her own safety on the day of the great battle between her tribe and the conquering Roman legion. To her sudden discomfort, Jess relives her own attack as she finds herself witnessing the rape of Eigon and her mother by Roman soldiers. Filled with pity for the outrage endured by the young girl, Jess desires only to discover what her outcome was in a historical sense. Spurred on by her own need for escape, Jess decides to journey to Rome as once Eigon and her captured family did to explore the sensations Eigon is sending her through the funnel of time.

Like other Erskine works, the premise behind the story remains predictable. Admirers of Erskine know that inevitably she will employ her standard technique of introducing a woman who is psychically linked to a troubled soul from the past. As the major character has enemies, so does her doppelganger in the present. In fact, Erskine notably does well in fashioning a believable modern story filled with contemporary angst resulting from male/female relationship problems usually with city types that exhibit a somewhat jaded sensibility regarding the inevitability of relationship break-ups. Jess, obviously has her problems with men--in this story Erskine flips four different men in and out of her life to parallel the goings-on in the early A.D. era revolving around, Eigon, her warrior princess. As Erskine readers have come to expect, this familiar bit of male flipping reeks of a bit of a feminism that may seem dated. Most of Erskine's female characters remain strong even through adversity and physical pain. Her main men, however, tumble rather quickly, succumbing either to their overwhelming desire for the woman in question, their pressing need for dominance or an ever-weakening already sick psyche. The majority of "Warrior's Princess's" men, sadly, remain of this ilk that lends itself to an "oh-no" `been-there-done-that' feel for the reader.

Somehow, in this current offering, Erskine redeems herself in the way she intertwines the two concurrent past and present tales. Eigon's portion of the story sparkles with life from the vantage point of the country stranger to the teeming of the ultimate Eternal City. Erskine molds a formidable cast of ancient characters that do not disappoint along with a plot line that centers upon the early Christian community and their deers-in-the-headlights struggle during Nero's persecution. Also commendable and this offering's major salvation as compared to her other recent titles is Erskine's trick of adding new personalities at the tail end of this novel that help bring the entire story to a satisfying conclusion on both a supernatural and human level.

Erskine's well-known paranormal themes are tweaked to perfection in this one--kudos go especially to her creation of Marcia Maximilla, an intriguing seer from the past and Meryn, present day druid, a character first presented in "Daughters of Fire (Unabridged)," both of which I would like to revisit in a future tale that reveals more of their respective backgrounds.

Bottom line? Although Barbara Erskine's "The Warrior's Princess" again plays with themes of channeling the past and weaving a present story with emotional similarities to those haunted characters of another time, it is indeed a step above her last few offerings. Therefore, don't be dissuaded by her reliance on retelling tales that reviewers like myself have deemed past formulaic disappointments and do give her another chance to provide her reading public with a classic story of the caliber of "House of Echoes" and "Midnight Is a Lonely Place." In "The Warrior's Princess" Erskine finally gets her tale of possession, good and evil and pursuit over time right. Her interjection of a bustling ancient Rome during Nero's persecution of the early Christians adds the necessary ingredient into her usual domain of Britannia and its Celtic tribes and supercharges this one to an over average rating. Hopefully Ms Erskine's next novel will revisit the compelling creation of Marcia Maximilla and her flirtation with the present day druid Meryn from "Daughters of Fire (Unabridged)" and explore perhaps a romance between the past and present rather than another recycling of hatred passed down through the ages. Recommended.
Diana Faillace Von Behren

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