Certainly Manda Scott must be applauded for her research into the era and subject matter, as her surrounding details are vibrant and for the most part credible. Characters are larger than life. Were this marketed as historical fantasy, certainly many of my criticisms would disappear. However, the entire Boudica series is, alas, not marketed as historical fantasy, rather as historical fiction, and it is there I find fault. Why? There are several reasons, however foremost of these is the overarching neo-pagan, fringe spiritualism in the guise of lucid dreaming which forms the backbone of much of the series.
While the concept of seeking dreams and spirit guides certainly is prevalent throughout many indigenous societies, the physicality and causality of the dream-sequence has never been given any scientific, credible corroboration, and so to credit Eceni and other native British tribes with the ability to manipulate weather and events through the act of lucid dreaming stretches the bounds of what might be considered historical fiction.
And in this, the third book of the series, Scott very much relies upon lucid dreaming and the effects this has upon her main characters.
An entertaining read, especially if the reader sets aside the question of credibility in historical fiction.
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After finishing the last book of this Manda Scott series, I felt out of sorts with the heavy emphasis on the state of the relationships of the main characters, while in the midst of creating an army, organizing a revolt, focusing on a crucial resolution on a people's survival against the Roman invasion. As there is very little known about what exactly happened and the few pieces we have were written after the fact in Rome, the author had a blank canvas to start with and a monumental task in tackling this series. That is appreciated. Throughout a four books, I felt the story line lacked credibility, especially when expediency demanded a certain amount of intelligent planning and approach and the characters wallowed in their intimate affairs instead. The only part that made sense was Mac Calma's decision to leave Mona to the Romans and re-establish the dreamers etc. in Hibernia. We can only hope that who ever survived the last clash also relinquished their lands to start over in either Caledonia (Scotland) or Hibernia (Ireland). Both countries displayed ferocious and successful campaigns against Roman occupation attempts at a later date. Perhaps the Boudica's progeny were part of those future war hosts.
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This series by Manda Scott is a fantastic read for those who love historical novels with lots of adventure and excitement. There are 4 books in the series, and this is the third one. They are all wonderful, descriptive and engaging novels full of period detail, passion and life.
You get fully immersed in the life of that era and become deeply attached to the characters. I think one of the great strengths of this series is the author's creation of very real, three dimensionsal characters who come alive for us and make us care about them. Well worth the money.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Powerful, spiritual tale of love and war overcomes plodding paceMarch 16 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Manda Scott's "Boudica" series is nothing if not remarkably consistent. The third novel of a planned four-volume series, "Dreaming the Hound," possesses all the hallmarks of Scott's earlier novels, "Dreaming the Eagle" and "Dreaming the Bull." For the most part, this is a positive.
Scott has pulled off a magnificent achievement between her selection of a protagonist and her mastery of Roman-era Britain. We first met Breaca as a twelve-year old girl as she killed her first warrior. At the opening of "Hound," Breaca has grown into "the Boudica," the mightiest warrior of the varied Celtic tribes of England who is destined to lead the unified tribes against the legions of imperial Rome. Not much is exactly known about the Boudica, but Scott has created a fully three dimensional character whose emotions are even more powerful than her sword arm.
Scott has also recreated a mystical Britain where the local tribesmen live connected to spirits and ancestors the way the reader can only marvel at and the Romans can only fear. The Celtic warriors of Scott's imagination are tied tightly to dreams, and Dreamers are perhaps the most important figures of all -- even though the warriors get all the hatred and glory from Rome. It's not always easy to follow what is happening when the spirits get going in Scott's novels, but it's always interesting reading.
At the outset of "Hound," the Romans are firmly entrenched in the east of Britain, and the Celtic tribes control the west. But the Boudica must rally the remaining eastern tribes to her banner if she has any hope of kicking out the Romans, so she must journey into the wolves' den. Raising an army under Roman noses is a difficult task, particularly when Roman law prevents any tribesman from owning a blade more lethal than a butterknife. But the Boudica goes about it with her own brand of mysticism, daring, and determination.
Scott peppers "Hound" with several intriguing sub-plots, and the most interesting of these is the struggle for identity of the Boudica's brother Ban/Valerius, who was raised a Celt then spent years butchering Celts in Rome's service, and is now back with the islanders. Can he shed his Roman identity? Can he live with a foot in both camps?
As fans of Scott's earlier novels know, this is not a feel-good series. While there are occasional moments of levity, this is a rather heavy series -- deep emotions are felt deeply, horrific burdens are carried for years, and betrayal is the order of the day. Even positive emotions, such as the joy of redemption, are weighed down by soul-crippling guilt. Scott describes these emotions vividly, almost overly so, and there are many passages that will have you rubbing your forehead in sympathy with the characters.
The worst thing that can be said of Scott's "Dreaming" series is that the books are rather plodding. If you were the kind of reader who wishes Tolkien included a few more chapters about Tom Bombadil or went deeper into the dwarven genealogies, then you'll probably find Scott's books fast-paced thrillers. If, instead, you're more into Bernard Cornwell or Conn Iggulden (and I suspect there are more of you than there are in the former camp), then you're likely to find the "Dreaming" novels slow going. Ultimately, I think they are worth the investment, as Scott writes very well . . . but it's also fair to say that these are not "lean and mean" novels, too.
Not for the squeamish ("Hound" culminates with a brutal torture of the Boudica and her family at the hands of a corrupt Roman -- one of the few historical events we actually know about, so there's no spoiler there), "Dreaming the Hound" is a wonderful exploration of pre-Roman Britain. Melancholy, dark, and sometimes downright scary (and occasionally more than a mite slow), but wonderful nevertheless.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This now a quality seriesJuly 29 2005
- Published on Amazon.com
It's volume three of Manda Scott's hugely successful fantasy about one of Britain's most famous warriors. Breaca, known as the Boudica, is back in Britain killing Romans and spending months agonising over her destiny at the head of the Eceni. In isolated tow is her younger brother, Ban, now known as Valerius, a deserter from the army and exile after the death of Claudius. Nero is on the throne and Britain is no longer safe.
Scott has our tortured, reluctant leader spend the first hundred pages hunting alone, struggling to deal with the choices facing her. Return with no honour to Mona or go east to the enslaved Eceni and the one-armed embittered Prasutagos. After facing multiple demons and spirits both without and within we end the first part of this latest novel with her in her own familial fellowship of her ex-lover Airmid her son and daughters, Cunomar, Graine and Cygfa and their protectors, Ardacos and Dubornos. With the ever faithful hound, Stone at her side she returns to the Eceni to take a position at Tagos' side as his queen, all the while tormented by images of her family enslaved and trying to establish a parental relationship with Cunomar and Graine. Meanwhile Valerius is living a quiet life as a blacksmith, an unwilling adopter of the boy Bellos and being constantly pushed by the Mona dreamer, Luain mac Calma, to take active part in Eceni life again..
The action really starts around page 170 or so when the British client kings and families are summoned to the Roman governor for a lesson in subjugation. The resultant death of Eneit and then Tagos' death in an ambush of Philius hands control of the Eceni to Breaca. Both she and Cunomar begin their assembalge of a war host, whilst on Mona Valerius finds himself reborn as a dreamer to both Nemain and Mithras. Longinus Sapdze returns at the vanguard of the legions under the command of Suetonius Paulus to take the island and ends up in a trap sprung by Valerius, captured and on the end of a shifting allegiance. Our explosive climax ends with the historically infamous flogging of Breaca and rape of Graine and Cygfa before Valerius and Corvus rescue them setting in motion the events that will lead to the most famous insurrection in British history.
I criticised Manda Scott's opener of this series as a somewhat directionless fantasy. However, the massive improvement that commenced with her sequel is surpassed in this stunning third. Here, for the first time, Scott was going to be measured against historical fact and has not been found wanting. Emotive characterisation, a solid merging of ancient Celtic culture and mythology with Roman modernisation, gripping plots, effusively described battle scenes and rending portraits of personal and familial pain make this everything Conn Iggulden is not.
If, like me, you weren't overly captured by the first novel, stay with it because this author does deliver in a big way in this novel and for one, this reader, awaits the fourth installment as soon as Scott can pen it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Imaginative, but rather long and far too many unclear passagesOct. 9 2011
Mr. Thomas Thatcher
- Published on Amazon.com
This is the third book I have read in Miss Scott's series about Boudica and I have quite enjoyed them all. The first is probably the best and the most readable. The trouble is, we know virtually nothing about Boudica and the whole premise of the story hangs on a few lines in Tacitus and later Dio Cassius, plus, of course, later and recent archaeological evidence of Boudica's disastrous revolt. Therefore, we have to accept from the outset that 99% of the work is pure fiction and as such it's done quite well. This review is partly a catch-all.
There is a huge amount about "dreaming" as a skill (as you might expect from the titles), the ancestors, visions, psychic skill and so on that can become hard to take and really tedious after the twentieth time. I have no doubt that our forefathers were more alert to natural processes and far more sensitive to Nature's lessons and warnings, but the writings of my farming ancestors and the records of their men speak of bloody hard work, great knowledge about the countryside (although not of plant names, funnily enough), a very great deal of disease and early death and huge amounts of alcohol just to get through the day. There wasn't very much dreaming, and country folk, although deferential to the Rich and Famous and Religious, had little time for them or for organized religion in any form. Miss Scott's English on this is sometimes tortuous to the point of a real lack of clarity, and I found myself reading and re-reading certain passages, especially in The Hound, just to be clear about who was doing what to whom, and why, and if at all.
Her depiction of animals and livestock is good and readable (she is, after all, a vet), as is her description of the various lurcher-like dogs that occur in the book, although the Crow Horse would have been killed and eaten the first time it played up. The Romans actually found horses a real pain and much preferred cattle as day-to-day working animals. Any interested readers should look at the history of the Chianina Breed to learn more about this side of things and also research the fact that Romans used draft cattle wherever and whenever possible. They thought that horses were lame quadrupeds in which the first sign of illness is sudden death, as right-thinking people do now.
The side-story of Ban/Valerius is odd, and very patchy, and even with the few relationships that there are in the book, once again you may finding yourself flipping back to just be clear who is who. Invented characters can be difficult to maintain in a quasi-historical narrative, and the Ban figure is unattractive, inconsistent and unbelievable. I enjoyed her treatment of the Emperor Claudius who, as she rightly says, has been somewhat whitewashed by Robert Graves and recent treatments. There is no suggestion that any Roman Emperor (or his close family) was anything other than quite unspeakably nasty - they had to be to survive. Invasion and Empire are never pleasant in any way, but with Miss Scott there is just far too much guesswork about Britain and how it reacted in these times as there are few Latin texts and no native writings at all.
The other view that is quite allowable is that Boudica was a pretty ghastly woman, a sort of proto-punk with teeth, who didn't realise that the game was up, however awful that situation may have seemed to many. Her last few months of rebellion left tens of thousands dead, many of them her own people, and the ramifications were desperately horrible for native Britons. Archaeology from last year alone is beginning to show the true extent of her destruction. I would imagine that the locals on the south-easy were finding it very hard to decide who was the most awful - Boudica or the Romans. The trouble is with Noble Causes is that they end up with thousands dead, always and almost without exception: most of them are, of course, women, children, the old and the infirm. The other thing that suffers is the food supply (which few nowadays realise, understand or care about) when 95% of the population was involved in farming and gathering, as opposed to the one-third of one percent as is the case in the UK now.
An agreeable if sometimes stodgy read, but about 200 pages too long and written in a wordy style with too many convoluted sentences. It's a real achievement, but some very rigorous editing would have made a significant difference to all three books. All in all, it is a work of fiction and, as such, the narrative is just racy enough for it to succeed.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The pace quickensJuly 26 2010
A J Dormaar (Author of The Chronicles of Aridayn series)
- Published on Amazon.com
In my previous reviews of this series, I have mentioned that Manda Scott is a thinking person's writer who many conventional readers may have initial trouble adapting to. She laid down a distinct path of mysticism that many readers, probably expecting more thud, bang and wallop, may have become confused or bored by.However, throughout the first novel "Dreaming the Eagle" and to a lesser degree in "Dreaming the Bull", Ms Scott has laid down the foundations towards a more explosive second half, so by the opening of "Dreaming the Hound", the experienced reader who has followed this series will better appreciate the more subtle nuances that have occured throughout the first two novels as now many events will make far more sense. Ms Scott delivers a definite punch in this third instalment of the quadrilogy as characters and events harden into their final mode and destiny is determined.
Breaca (Boudica) takes on a more mature persona in this instalment and is no longer solely a Xena-type individual. In 'Dreaming the Hound" we are confronted with a woman who comes to realise the full weight of her responsibilities off the battlefield, and the reality of her growing family. In addition to her almost adult son, Cunomar, and her treasured small daughter, Graine, she has adopted the almost adult Cygfa, Caradoc's daughter from a previous relationship. Although Breaca takes pride in the warrior prowess of her two older children, she is fearful for the safety of the uniquely gifted and sensitive Graine, and this familial vulnerability reveals the true worry of Breaca the mother. As the grim reality of Roman occupation bites, Breaca realises that there are very different battles to be waged in peacetime, namely ensuring people have enough to eat and combating the exhorbitant demands of the rapacious Roman tax collectors. Her Eceni homeland is particularly hard hit by Roman demands, and Breaca is haunted by the grim reality that if taxes are not met in coin or goods, slave dealers will descend on her suffering people. Her old childhood friend, the one armed Tagos (Prasutagos to the Romans) has tried to rule the Eceni in her absence but is fighting an uphill battle, and she has to return home with her family to restore some semblance of pride and purpose to her people.
Meanwhile Valerius (formerly Ban) is undergoing a rebirth. Since his return to the British Isles, he has settled in Hibernia (Ireland) where he seeks a quiet life as a smith and healer. He has also become, albeit reluctantly, a father figure to his former slave, Bellos, whom he rescued from a run-down brothel in Gaul. But when his natural father, the famed druid prince Luain Mac Calma appears and offers Valerius a chance at reclaiming his original birthright, it cannot be ignored. Those readers who have persevered from book one will know that on coming of age in the British tribes, each person took on a particular animal totem - and in Valerius's case, this is where the hound of the novel title comes in, a ghostly figure that is extremely similar to (and probably is) his long-lost beloved dog Hail. Healed in both body and mind and badly regretting his past atrocities, Valerius is urged by his father to take an active part in British affairs once more. Valerius has come to realise that all that has happened to him is part of a far bigger plan, and now knows that his lethal fighting skills picked up from the legions, combined with his unique psychic gifts, will be invaluable to his embattled people in the days to come.
The novel's tension builds throughout to a ghastly grand finale that will leave many readers panting for the fourth and final instalment of this series. The emotional strain on Breaca both as a leader and a mother is palpable throughout and this reader could certainly feel the terrible anguish she feels over some of the decisions she has to make. As the soul-destroying machinery of Roman bureaucracy marches relentlessly across the country like a swarm of locusts, the reader is introduced to the odious person of the procurator, a soulless, number crunching, tax hungry parasite whom even the ordinary Romans despise; all modern accountants beware! He slides through the second half of the novel like a snake, making his conflict with Breaca and the Eceni inevitable and by his actions tipping the scales inevitably towards open war.
Overall, this third novel is well worth the wait. I, for one, immediately went out searching for the fourth book straight after finishing this one!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Dreaming the HoundJune 8 2006
- Published on Amazon.com
Judging by the handful of reviews each book in this series has gotten, it seems that not many people have read Scott's Boudica series. This is unfortunate as any lover of historical fiction, and especially British fiction, would really enjoy the story.
As a previous reviewer said, it *is* slow-going, and very heavy. And Scott often uses an omniscient (and long-winded) authorial voice to tell readers things that might better have been described in other ways. It also would have been nice to have a brief summary of characters and the roles they played early on in the book- Scott gives us a pronunciation guide for a small number of characters, but not all. As it's been a while since I read the previous book, and it will probably be some time before I get a hold of the next book, some names and events were forgotten. But these are small quibbles when you consider the grasp of history encompassed by these books.
Being the penultimate book of the series, Dreaming the Hound has the least action. There are not so many outright battles with the Romans. Instead, most of the battles are internal: Breaca's children Cunobar and Graine, both trying to come into their own and earn their mother's respect; Breaca's brother, Valerius, who must determine his identity- Roman or Briton?; and Breaca's personal struggle to come to terms with her conflicting roles of warrior, "queen," and mother.
It is a well-written, thoroughly engrossing book. Highly recommended, especially if you are interested in Celtic tradition before it became Romanized. But be sure to read the first two books in the series beforehand- these are not stand-alones.