Terra Incognita

Written by Ruth Downie
Review by Ilysa Magnus

This is the second installment in the trials and tribulations of our memorable hero, Medicus Gaius Petreius Ruso, a Gaul serving with the Twentieth Legion of the Roman Army stationed in Britannia.

After solving a mystery (Medicus) involving the murder of prostitutes in Deva where he is stationed, Ruso decides he needs to clear his head and get some distance from what is considered to be a fairly socialized part of Britannia. He joins a contingent of the Batavians headed for the far northern parts of the country, a wild and woolly place by all estimates. Not coincidentally, Ruso’s slave/girlfriend, Tilla, is from these parts. That Tilla’s knowledge of the people and locale doesn’t work in Ruso’s favor is putting it mildly. These people just don’t like Roman rule.

Naturally, the minute that Ruso beds down in this inhospitable clime, one of the Batavians is found beheaded. The retiring medic, Thessalus, admits to the murder. The head honcho of the Batavians can’t possibly permit a Roman doctor to be proclaimed a murderer, so he is determined to find a “local” on whom he can place the blame.

In Ruso, Downie has developed an engaging, funny, tongue-in-cheek, smart-as-a-whip character who doesn’t care to be typecast and who is capable of thinking outside the box. Through her supporting cast, Downie also paints a remarkably vivid picture of what the farthest reaches of Britannia acted, sounded and felt like. Thoroughly enjoyable and delightful, and it’s not necessary to read the first book here – although, frankly, it only adds another layer of fun!