Boudica: Dreaming the Hound by Manda Scott is the third book in a four-book series about the Celtic warrior Boudica who led the tribes of Britannia against their Roman invaders.
This is the most exciting book in the series so far. It lacks the long, drawn out, complex battle maneuvers of Boudica: Dreaming the Eagle (#1) and the unconvincing transformation in Boudica: Dreaming the Bull (#2) of Bán of the Eceni tribe into Julius Valerius of the Roman military.
The novel is full of interesting twists and turns, allegiances and betrayals, disguises, confrontations with the Romans, acts of heroism, sacrifice, and spiritual quests. Scott skillfully builds each scene to its inevitable climax/confrontation. The characters are more fully developed: Cunomar, Boudica’s son anxious to step out of the shadow of his parents by proving himself a battle-hardened warrior; Graine, Boudica’s youngest daughter, frail, delicate, and a powerful dreamer; Bán/Valerius struggling to come to terms with his identity and define his allegiances; and Breaca/Boudica bearing the heavy mantle of leadership. The novel ends with Boudica and Valerius amassing an army to fight the onslaught of Rome’s battalions.
The novel leans more toward historical fantasy than historical fiction since the voices and spirits of the ancestors play a prominent role and influence events more so than in previous books in the series. Animals, notably hounds and horses, exhibit a refined sensibility and connection with humans bordering on the unreal/magical. Dreaming becomes paramount as gods and spirits of dead ancestors communicate regularly with the living. The characters rely heavily on lucid dreaming to guide their actions, nudging the series more toward historical fantasy and further away from historical fiction.
Although Scott depicts the actions of the Roman military as brutal and savage and their alliance with slavers as driven by an unquenchable thirst for profit, not all Romans are painted with the same sordid paintbrush. Some behave with honor and are quick to condemn the gang rape of young girls and the slow deaths by torture and crucifixion. An intriguing aspect of the novel lies in its depiction of allegiances and loyalties to individuals with a shared history that transcend allegiances to the Roman military. We see this with the Roman prefect Corvus who chooses not to betray Breaca even though he recognizes her as Boudica. His loyalty to and feelings for Valerius are unwavering. We also see this loyalty in Longinus who fought along side Valerius against the rebels while both were in the Roman military but who now stands at his side with the rebellion.
Manda Scott combines extensive research on the era with a creative imagination to craft another page-turning, entertaining novel that continues the intriguing saga of Boudica, the Celtic warrior who took arms against the invading army of an empire.