In this most recent contribution to the ever-growing legend of Boudica, the great queen of the Iceni who fought the Romans in Britain, Alan Gold has valiantly tried to outdo the new offerings by such authors as Manda Scott. Given the familiarity of most historical fiction readers with the facts to the extent that they are known, it lies to Gold to craft his Boudica in a memorable fashion so that his warrior queen is different than all others. To say the least, that is a daunting task.
While Gold manages to flesh out the characters of such historical figures as Claudius and Nero more fully than many other authors telling Boudica’s story – and makes them disgustingly unpalatable as human beings – and convincingly paints Boudica’s stepson, Cassus, as a really bad fellow, he fails, I think, to make Boudica more accessible than other authors. Doubtless, Boudica is a wise diplomat who manages to rally the tribes to fight the Roman invaders. She is a fearless warrior. She is much beloved of her husband, Prasutagus (who departs this mortal coil early on in the book) because of her beauty, her sexuality and their true partnership during their marriage.
But it falls flat. Gold does try valiantly to tell the story from a slightly different perspective and has done a yeoman’s job of sorting out historical fact from fiction. But the prose is sometimes stilted and uncomfortable. There is no spark. The story – which is the stuff of legend – becomes boring. There are a number of other Boudica offerings that kept me engaged and interested, but this wasn’t one of them.