The Warrior’s Princess

Written by Barbara Erskine
Review by Sally Zigmond

At an end-of-term party, Jess, a teacher in London, is drugged and raped by someone she knows well. She suspects several men although she has no recollection of the event. Traumatised, she resigns her post and seeks refuge at her sister’s Welsh cottage. Her sister is on holiday in Rome and alone in the house Jess soon feels threatened. She is sure someone is stalking her. And to add to her fears, she keeps hearing the plaintive sobs of a young ghost.
As her fears increase she slowly finds out that she has ‘tuned’ into the life of another woman who was brutally raped at the time of the Roman invasion of Britain and subsequently taken to Rome. And so Jess’s life becomes slowly and inexorably entangled with that of Eigon, daughter of King Caractacus (Caradoc). Soon the past invades the present as Jess’s attacker is subsumed by Eigon’s and begins to obey his evil commands. How can the impending horror be averted and both Jess and Eigon saved?

If you are a fan of timeslip novels then this rich and dramatic novel will not disappoint. Erskine is brilliant at conveying dramatic scenes, especially the ones here set in the Rome of Nero and the emerging Christians. The way both stories inter-relate is very cleverly done as is the climactic conclusion as both stories become one.

Having said that, I wonder whether there’s just that bit too much going on here and far too many people. I got the impression that the author wasn’t fully in control of her narrative so needed to resort to convenient plot devices. I couldn’t fully accept all the convenient coincidences nor the way that in the present-day sections, nobody remembered to charge their mobile phones or conveniently forgot to keep other people informed of what they’d learned, their plans and their whereabouts, thus creating situations that could have been so easily avoided in real life. I know fiction isn’t reality but I found it tiresome. So not for me, I’m afraid, but I can foresee without tarot cards or dreams, that this one is destined to be a best-seller.