The Serpent Dreamer

Written by Cecelia Holland
Review by Ilysa Magnus

Against the turbulent backdrop of the Viking invasion of Ireland in the 9th century, Holland, a prestigious and prodigious writer of historical fiction, has created a concept of a five-part series featuring Corban Loosestrife. I read and reviewed both The Soul Thief and The Witches’ Kitchen for this publication. The characters and plots were enthralling. The coalescence of historical fact and fantastical elements was craftily done by Holland.

Not so here in this third of the series. Although I understand that Holland’s concept for the series is to place Corban in a place and time where he will ultimately play a pivotal role in history, I got lost here – and I didn’t enjoy getting lost. I don’t get the feeling that Corban did either. He is the proverbial fish out of water.

Corban has now “relocated” to pre-colonized America, a strange, bloody land filled to the brim with warring native tribes, cultures and languages he cannot understand. With native “wife” in tow, Corban is led on a mystical journey to confront an approaching army his sister’s daughter has envisioned – a quest that will change the world he has come to know.

I am not ordinarily a big fan of prehistoric fiction, although I’ve read my share and will acknowledge a masterful piece of storytelling. Judith Tarr does a remarkable job of recounting prehistory in White Mare’s Daughter and other novels. Anna Lee Waldo has written engaging books about pre-colonized America. This book is simply not in that league. As incomprehensible as his life appears to Corban, it was equally incomprehensible to me.