Monday, January 31, 2005

Dreaming the Hound by Manda Scott

Review by Alastair Mabbot

The Herald: The third entry in Manda Scott's series about the British warrior queen Boudica, Dreaming the Hound sets the stage for the climactic revolt of the Iceni people against the powers of the Roman Empire.

"At the point we join the story, in AD 57, Scott's Amazonian heroine, Breaca, isn't playing the role of the victorious Boudica. She wears the black feathers of the vengeance hunter in her hair rather than the braids of a warrior, and has cut herself off from her tribe, the Eceni, to wage a lone guerrilla war against the Romans.

Scott's characters lead busy lives and have complex relationships. Half-brothers, former lovers, stepchildren, adversaries and allies are scattered across the landscape, so picking up the threads is daunting. Is it surprising that Dreaming The Hound should turn out to be less than the page-turner promised by the blurbs? In the early stages, at any point where the narrative risks getting bogged down, Scott allows it to do so. Her focus on her characters' inner lives all too often forces the liberation of the British tribes to take a back seat to their various spiritual quests, as they consider the will of the gods deeply and talk to each other in a formalised courtly monotone.

But, although the dialogue doesn't get any more exciting, the action does. In the final third, it gathers pace, leading to a climax which sets the scene for the last installment. The author comes into her own in the closing stretch, generating an atmosphere of tension and horror that is almost enough to make up for the perseverance it's taken to ge there."
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