grimirishmanreads’ Review of Dreaming the Eagle by Manda Scott
Dreaming the Eagle is the first entry in Manda Scott’s Boudica quartet. Set in first century Britannia, it tells the tale of the rise of the mighty warrior queen who united the warring tribes against the invading legions of the Roman Empire. It is a story of family, loyalty, war and dreams, a story that captivated me from the first page to the heart-wrenching words of the final, and has me chomping at the bit for the second book. This is historical fiction at its finest.
The best way to describe the pacing of Dreaming the Eagle is the snowball effect. The story starts slow and deliberate, as Scott immerses readers into pagan Britain with its tribal conflicts and cultural norms, where dreams have power and animals are sacred. Dreaming the Eagle mainly focuses on Boudica’s youth and explores the relationships that help shape her into the warrior queen she is fated to become. This might throw off some readers who are eager to get straight into the action but the payoff is worth it. When the pacing does pick up, it quickly builds momentum, culminating in an epic final act. Scott knows how to tell a story.
She also knows how to write great characters, both human and animal. Dreaming the Eagle has two main protagonists: Breaca and Bán. Breaca wishes to be a Dreamer but is destined to be a warrior. This is evident from page one. In contrast, her brother Bán wants only to become a great warrior but might just be the most powerful Dreamer in the history of the Eceni tribe. Scott executes this juxtaposition perfectly. Accompanying both characters as they come of age are their animal companions. Animals, especially horses and hounds, are sacred to the Eceni. Scott does a fine job of capturing the emotional bond between animal and human, and shows the lengths both will go to protect the other. As a dog owner I cannot emphasise how much this element of the story resonated with me.
Another aspect of the story that I really enjoyed was its historical setting. As a lover and teacher of history, this time period has always fascinated me. As stated above, Scott immerses readers into the setting, taking them to various historical locations and meeting the various peoples that inhabit them. I really like the impact that the history and geopolitics of the time has on the characters and plot. Despite the setbacks it has experienced in the decades preceding the book, the threat of the Roman Empire looms over Britannia and it is only a matter of time before its numberless legions will arrive.
In conclusion, Dreaming the Eagle is an excellent read. It is a captivating, heart-breaking and gut-wrenching tale that hooked me from the start and kept my full attention to the very end. Historical fiction is hard to get right and I am delighted to say that Scott nails it. I read this as part of a discord read along and look forward to picking up its sequel, Dreaming the Bull.