Before Beltane: A Prequel to the Celtic Fervour Series

Written by Nancy Jardine
Review by J. Lynn Else

71 AD. Lorcan has been tasked by King Venutius to put out a rally cry for all Brigante tribes to unite. Still torn apart from a recent civil war, Lorcan treads a perilous path from one roundhouse to the next. However, with a new emperor in Rome and the increased Roman presence during the normally quiet winter months, Lorcan may unwittingly have the perfect excuse for the clans to join forces. Meanwhile, Nara has trained most of her life to become a priestess. When the gods reveal a new destiny for her, she is forced to return to her father’s hillfort, where she is unwelcome and shunned. Trained as a healer and with use of the sword, Nara’s skills may be called upon sooner than anyone realizes, especially her father, as rumors spread of Roman vessels arriving near their shores.

Before Beltane is an immersive trip into the Iron Age of Britannia. From new archaeological discoveries to the writings of Ptolemy’s mapmaker, Jardine’s comprehensive research and intuitive contextual choices bring the story to life in plausible and nuanced ways. Subtle touches of Gaelic in the dialogue, along with well-detailed social hierarchies, enrich the story. Tensions are rising for the indigenous people while Lorcan’s and Nara’s stories draw closer together. The book is packed with more character development and world building than I typically see from prequel novels. I am impressed and would definitely read more from this author and the Celtic Fervour series.