Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: Warrior Queen by Alan Gold

Title: Warrior Queen
Author: Alan Gold
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: NAL
Published: 2005
Pages: 384

Rating: 2 out of 10

I was originally looking forward to reading the fictional biography about the life of Boudica, the Celtic queen who made an attempt to stand up for her people against the rule of the mighty Roman empire.
But from the very first page, I knew that this book would most likely be a let down, and I was correct. At some points, it just got ridiculously silly, the way that Gold chose to tell his story.

Boudica is without a doubt a very interesting historical character, but she seemed so cookie-cutter here - a strong, take-charge woman who is also of course unparalleled in her beauty. She seemed quite modern to me, and I never felt that I was in the long ago Dark Ages of Britain.

It takes quite some time to get to what I would consider the important plot points, being when Boudica begins gathering an army and waging war on her country's conquerors. I understand that creating a back story about Boudica's life and the reasons for her bitterness toward Rome is necessary to some extent, but the book focuses on these years heavily. It takes about three quarters of the book for the battles to start.

There were a lot of pointless diversions to Rome, where we see things from the viewpoint of Emperor Claudius, his wife, and later Emperor Nero and his mother. I couldn't see the point of any of this, as it had nothing to do with Boudica's part of the book. I normally agree with switching to the enemy's perspective, but it didn't work here. No one in the royal family particularly cares about Britain, and in fact the author even highlights this fact. Gold was most likely making an attempt at irony - Boudica's beloved land is being taken away by faraway rulers who barely know it exists.
It just did not work here, though. Claudius is a blabbering idiot (one of the only times he speaks is to say "So, what's important enough for you to interrupt the first time my wife's been intimate with me in a month?").
His wife Messalina is a raging sex addict, which is actually accurate, but all of her midnight orgies had absolutely nothing to do with the story.
Later, the book dwells over an incident where Nero tries to have his mother killed, but we are never even told why. I was quite baffled, as there was absolutely no motive introduced whatsoever, and again, I failed to see why we were being told about things that had nothing to do with Boudica, or Britain, or, well, with anything.

The language and wording was laughable. Indeed, I was giggling aloud at some messy sentences.
Unforgivably, there is an error on the very first page. A boar that Boudica is hunting "homes" in one her, rather than "hones in."
Boudica describes her witnessing of a druid sacrifice as horrifying and as one of the most terrible things she has ever seen, but a few minutes later leaves because she "grew bored."
One night, Boudica sees her parents making love. If that isn't creepy enough, she actually gets turned on by this, and tells us that she "has only once experienced a man's penis within her." Wow. As you can probably guess, that was the sentence that had me laughing. What atrocity.
When Boudica has only met her future husband once, she tells us in one sentence that she doesn't know anything about him, and in the next says that he is good in bed. Um, how does she know this?!
There were plenty more contradictions and just outright laughable, jarring sentences, but you get the idea.

The book had an irritating habit of writing childish, amateur sounding sentences, but adding a formal twist to them. It just made them feel even more staged and out of place.

Once we finally, at last got to the war with Rome, the story picked up a bit. I found it off-putting, however, in the parts where Boudica brings her own children into battle with her and encourages the two young girls to brutally kill Roman men.

This is not a book that I would recommend. A real disappointment.