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The Eagle and the Raven
ISBN 0140249486 / 9780140249484 / 0-14-024948-6
Publisher Penguin Books Canada, Limited
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Pauline Gedge, the award-winning Alberta writer known primarily for her novels set in ancient Egypt, such as Child of the Morning and Stargate, has also essayed the field of British history, as in this early work The Eagle and the Raven, originally issued in 1978. The blurb tells us that the subject of this novel is Boudicca, queen of the Iceni tribe who led a famous revolt against the Roman occupation of Britain in the middle of the first century. Despite its assurance that her "passion and pride lit up the mysterious world of the Celts," the famous queen only features sporadically in the first three-quarters of this 900-page door-stopper. But lest the reader feel cheated, we have the mystery of the Celts in spades, embodied in the sprawling saga of the great resistance leader Caradoc (a.k.a. Caractacus), who is finally betrayed to the Romans by a discarded lover. There are lush and misty landscapes, druids lurking in the shadows, and much singing and drinking of mead. While there are some fine evocations of the British landscape, and the characters are more convincing than those in Gedge's Egyptian sagas, embarrassingly purple passages abound: "Spring came to Aricia like a jaded old whore, draped in false beauty to hide rampant decay." Do the ancient Celts (as has been suggested) merely provide a convenient ethnic identity for white people, or does their dream of freedom and paradise represent the plight of all oppressed peoples? But freedom is more than dream; it is about real social and economic self-determination, not pretty fables set in the misty hills of Albion. --Robyn Gillam [via]