Revolt Against the Romans

Written by Tony Bradman
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

I can see why Tony Bradman dedicated this book to Rosemary Sutcliff; they are both interested in a clash of cultures and the resulting emotional conflict about where one belongs.

Rome, A.D. 41. Twelve-year-old Marcus is summoned by his cold, stern father, Gaius, who has been ordered to Britain to help civilize the natives after the failed Catuvellauni revolt. Marcus will join in him the spring. The Britons are disgusting savages, says Gaius. They are covered in tattoos and cut off their enemies’ heads. So when Marcus is captured by the ferocious Catuvellauni, he fears torture and death. Instead, he is taken as a hostage by their leader, Caradoc, who sees him as a bargaining chip.

Then Gaius’s letter arrives, ordering Marcus to kill himself like a true Roman. Horrified and upset, Marcus refuses. He has come to understand the tribe’s language and he likes their way of life. He’s made friends. Here, he can be himself—as he can’t be with his father. He wants to stay with Caradoc and the tribe. But will he be allowed? And what will happen if the Romans attack the Catuvellauni again?

On the surface, this book is a straight-forward coming of age book and a rattling good adventure. But it also has added depth. Marcus learns that there are better ways of parenting than his father’s cold authoritarianism, and that the Catuvellauni are not the blood-thirsty savages he was told they were. He must drop his prejudices against non-Romans and understand that the alien Britons might have something important to offer. Gradually, he becomes a different person, and, in so doing, he frees himself of the weight of his father’s expectations.

I enjoyed watching Marcus becoming more confident and pro-active. I think that boys of eight plus would enjoy this book, too.