Northern Britain, AD430
A land in turmoil. A village ablaze. A king’s daughter abducted.
In the aftermath of a surprise attack Dun Buic lies in smoking ruins and many innocent villagers are dead. As the survivors try to make sense of the night’s events the giant warrior-druid, Bellicus, is tasked with hunting down the raiders and thwarting their dark purpose.
With years of training in the old ways, two war-dogs at his side, and unsurpassed skill with a longsword, Bellicus’s quest will take him on a perilous journey through lands still struggling to cope with the departure of the Roman legions.
Meanwhile, amongst her brutal captors the little princess Catia finds an unlikely ally, but even he may not be able to avert the terrible fate King Hengist has in store for her.
This, the first volume in a stunning new series from the bestselling author of Wolf’s Head, explores the rich folklore and culture of post-Roman Britain, where blood-sacrifice, superstition, and warfare were as much a part of everyday life as love, laughter and song.
As Saxon invaders and the new Christian religion seek to mold the country for their own ends one man will change the course of Britain’s history forever….
Song of the Centurion
Autumn, AD 430. After the Princess Catia’s disappearance, and Bellicus’s adventures trailing her Saxon abductors south to the fabled Hanging Stones, the giant warrior-druid is finally returning home.
Battle-scarred, and mourning the loss of a loved one, Bellicus has learned from bitter experience that the gods rarely make things easy. Even if he can evade Horsa’s vengeful pursuit and get back to the North safely, his troubles may be far from over…
In a land beset by the rivalries of petty warlords, Dun Breatann has stood solid and secure for untold generations. Trouble brews though as King Coroticus has cracked under the pressure of his daughter’s abduction and, as well as starting a war with the neighbouring kings, he has become jealous, suspicious, and often blind drunk. When the king’s rage finally boils over during a winter feast, Bellicus finds himself with two choices – accept exile, or complete another seemingly impossible undertaking.
So much for the returning hero…
Accompanied by his massive war-dog, Cai, and the ever-loyal former centurion, Duro – who has his own painful issues to contend with – Bellicus must somehow survive a journey east into enemy-held lands. There, he will need to use his gods-given talents to the full if they are to survive the winter frosts and carry out the mad king’s orders without being captured or killed by the men of Dalriada.
I read both of these books back to back (i’m a little late with The Druid), and so thought it best to review together. Its an interesting experience reviewing more than one book in a series because you can see more of the story growth, the character development and get a better feel for the story arc. Also with these books i was interested to see what Steven McKay could do that was away from his Robin Hood series.
Bellicus the druid is a clever and interesting character, and i like the way that the author avoids or explains away the tricks that would be considered supernatural, things that are all about knowledge and training and superstition. The first book a hunt for a little girl (a princess), to recover her from the bad guys (The Saxons), and bring her home… but for me the books (both of them) really come alive when Duro joins the plot, a retired Centurion, a man who thought that his fighting days were gone, who had retained his skills but not the body that allowed him to use them, i laughed along with his exploits as he was forced to shed the weight he gained as a baker in his retirement, and enjoyed the fact that he showed how after the Romans left there were still remnants there, not just the houses falling down that you get in some books, but real people, with real knowledge and skill. The two main characters Duro and Bel bounce off each other perfectly and allows the author to give a fuller picture of the worlds they both live in… a Druid seen from a personal level and also from an external one. As usual he throws in friendships, love and betrayal… and weaves a clever story. Im still undecided if i like the introduction of Merlin and Arthur… but im interested to see where he goes with that in book 3… as always with Steven Mckay, the books draw me back and keep me hooked which is recommendation enough i think and i’m always interested in what he will write next, his skill as a writer grows with each book…