The Oath: The Druid Chronicles, Book One

Written by A. M. Linden
Review by Jinny Webber

The Oath is a tale of Druids and Saxon Christians in 8th-century Britain. The Mother Goddess-worshipping Druids, executed as witches if discovered, survive in remote, hidden communities. Two of the three protagonists are Druids: Caelyn, a priest and consort of the High Priestess, and Annwr, the Priestess’s sister, captured and enslaved by the Saxons fifteen years before, who’s served as nurse to Aleswina, a Saxon princess. The third is Aleswina, now a novitiate in a convent and about to be married against her will.

Forced by their separate crises to flee together across dangerous Saxon territory, they face constant challenges. Both Druids want to be in charge, and Aleswina seems inept and timid. Their conflicts are both profound and funny. Each grows through confronting dire situations as they try to reach their goals. As his Druid teacher told Caelyn, “Any quest is as much about overcoming flaws within yourself as climbing mountains or slaying dragons.”

The story rolls along at a lively pace, rich with details of the times and a wide cast of characters. What is known about Druids, their worship of Mother Earth and their animistic beliefs, here combines with believable rituals created by Linden. Though she takes liberties with history and Druid religious practices, this doesn’t read like a fantasy novel. Druids never recorded their secret rituals, so an author is free to create the mysterious. Those interested in goddess-worshipping religions will be drawn to the novel. Any reader curious about 8th-century Britain will enjoy Linden’s innovative focus on the little-known Druids as well as early medieval Christians. Her plotting, shifting points of view of the three engaging protagonists, and evocative writing style make The Oath a pleasure to read. Highly recommended!