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 mould the country for their own ends one man will change the course of Britain’s history forever. . .
. . . THE DRUID.
Anyone who has read any of Steven A. McKay‘s previous books will know that he consistently delivers powerful stories full of action and high drama, but more than this he fills his tales with memorable characters that have you either cheering on his heroes (and heroines) and booing his excellent villains. In The Druid he does this again – and then some!
From the opening scene where a night of feasting, singing and celebrations comes crashing down in a nightmarish attack by mysterious assailants you know that you are in for another page turning, nerve shredding ride through the dark days of British history.
What always impresses me when reading one of the author’s books is his wonderful gift for transporting you to a Britain which is at once recognisable and yet completely alien to the nations we know now. Here Scotland is a land of small kingdoms where petty kings vie against their neighbours to wield power and influence. A Scotland where violence is seen as inevitable as the rain. It is also a Scotland where faith in the old ways still lingers far from the influence which the Romans had imposed on the southern lands. Here the Druids are still revered. Ancient beliefs are followed and honoured. It is a land where a man’s honour is all he truly owns, and where he must be prepared to kill to protect it.
In the southern lands the power vacuum created by the departure of the Romans has left England as bereft as a child without a parent. It is unsure what to do with itself. Gone are the ancient tribes who once ruled these lands, gone are the Iceni, the Catuvellauni, the Trinovantes and the Astispumantes*
This is not the England of leafy shires and warm ales by the cricket pitch, this is a land beset by the growing spread of the Saxon hordes who having secured a base along the east coast have turned their attention on grabbing ever more territory as their own. To achieve that they are prepared to do anything, even contemplate the wholesale genocide of the native people if they refuse to bow down to their Saxon invaders.
As the tale unfolds through an exquisite series of memorable scenes we follow the mighty warrior druid Bellicus as he dogs the footsteps of the kidnappers, willing him to catch them and destroy them.
From the attack on the village where the young Princess Catia is stolen by Saxon invaders we are taken on a breathless adventure across the length and breadth of Britain from the rolling hills of Strathclyde and the mighty bastion of Dumbarton Rock through the wild Borderlands and deeper and deeper into a land which will become England until the superb climatic and atmospheric scene amid the standing rocks of Stonehenge.
One aspect of all this which I particularly enjoyed was that while the bulk of the story is obviously taken up with Bellicus’ quest to rescue Catia in the background is the no less compelling tale which is revealed to us in little morsels which constantly whet the appetite. While Bellicus heads southwards, back at home his king is becoming increasingly reckless as anger leads to him to shatter the code which the separate kingdoms have followed in war until now. His desire for blood threatens to destroy all he has hoped to achieve as far away in the north-east castle of Dunnotar a Pictish king, aided by a former friend and fellow druid of Bellicus, see the opportunity to expand his own kingdom. As anger grows towards the kingdom of Strathclyde will Bellicus and the little princess have a home to return to?
All I can say is that I hope Steven A. McKay has his nose pressed to his laptop screen, busily writing book 2 of the Warrior Druid Chronicles.
Book 1 is a wonderful addition to his work and one which I heartily recommend.
*one of these tribes may not be real.
Steven A. McKay was born in Scotland in 1977. His first book, “Wolf’s Head”, came out in 2013 and was an Amazon UK top 20 bestseller. “Blood of the Wolf” is the fourth and final book in the Forest Lord series which has over 100,000 sales so far.
He plays guitar and sings in a heavy metal band when they can find the time to meet up (which isn’t often these days to be honest).
Check out his website here