A tremendous final book in a stunning trilogy, this is a gripping and sometimes moving book in which a young woman has to find a new way of surviving. Following on from “Empire’s Daughter” and “Empire’s Hostage” this book goes seriously beyond an Empire with a strong resemblance to the Roman Empire into vastly new territory. These books present an alternative history which is nevertheless impeccable in its research and holds together brilliantly; it is a consistent tale in both its setting and characters. Lena has changed much over the preceding two books, from an older girl who loved and lost her partner Maya over the need to defend their women’s village from a seaboard attack. Not only did she learn to become an effective warrior in defence of her home village over a period of some days, but also she began to learn and appreciate the problems and possibilities of leadership, even when mistakes and regrets become inevitable.
Lena is the heroine of a book which revolves around how she learns to survive in the most challenging physical circumstances, with an unfortunate and unfriendly companion. This is the story of a journey into the unknown, because even where there appears to be a temporary sanctuary,there is always uncertainty and drama. It is the story of individuals in a setting that no one chooses, and where life and death are often balanced on the edge. I found that this book is the sort of novel that is full of so much suspense and drama that I could not wait to turn the page to discover the progress and fate of Lena and her associates. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this excellent book.
For the reasons that are outlined in the previous book, Lena is exiled into the unknown lands which lay beyond the known boundaries of the Empire and the lands of any known enemy; the only clue is in ancient writings known to a very scholarly few, which includes Cillian. Cillian is Lena’s only and unwilling companion in exile, an unfriendly man who has few practical skills when compared to Lena. Lena’s life has meant that she is skilled in hunting, fishing and some medical matters. As a soldier she knows only too well how to organise a watch for enemies, how to obtain water and food in unpromising circumstances and how to judge people. She has regrets and guilt about past actions, so when she does have feelings for someone it is not plain sailing in any sense. There is much drama in the journeys they undertake, and this is a continually fascinating read as a result.
I really enjoyed this book. It is far from a “woman in peril” book though Lena is frequently in danger; the difference is that she is continually the agent for change. This is (alternative) historical fiction at its best; a credible story, believable characters and a superb consistency of setting and action. This is not a determinely feminist book, but the fact that the main character is a woman who is at the centre of a very lively plot makes it so exciting. This is a truly remarkable book and well worth tracking down.
Meanwhile, as many activities and attractions close down, even I was persuaded into our garden! My usual job is picking up twigs and branches that may damage the mower when it does get down. Meanwhile, Husband did the planting and weeding and got very muddy. I suppose it is still only March! Here’s hoping for good weather wherever you are!