Recently, I wanted to read something other than crime fiction, but chose The Warrior’s Princess by Barbara Erskine, which just happens to include a couple of rapes, kidnappings and a murder. However, it’s really a time-slip book, switching between the present day and the first century AD in Rome and Britannia, a mix of historical fiction, fantasy and romance.
It starts dramatically as teacher, Jess is raped in her flat. She has only vague memories of her attacker. She then resigns from teaching and flees to her sister’s house in Wales, which is haunted by a young girl. She becomes interested in discovering more about the girl and her sister, Eigon, the daughters of Caratacus, the king of the Catuvellauni tribe who led the British in their fight against the Romans. He was captured and taken as a prisoner to Rome, together wife his wife and daughter. Actually she becomes obsessed to the point of absurdity, regardless of her own safety, so much so that the past and the present merge in her mind. She travels to Rome to continue her research into Eigon’s life.
There was much I enjoyed in this book – the suspense as Jess gradually begins to remember who her attacker was and the danger she finds herself in both in Wales and Rome were initially gripping. I also liked the historical references, such as the persecutions of the Christians by Nero, and the Roman and Welsh locations. I remember walking around the Roman Forum imagining what it must have been like so I could identify the picture of ancient Rome that Jess is able to construct.
However, I thought it was too drawn out, and would have been better if the plotting had been tighter. I was also sceptical about the way Jess and Eigon “communicated” through Jess’s dreams and trances. It seemed an artificial way of telling the story. The mix of supernatural and historical however, was quite intriguing even though I had to suspend my disbelief a little too much for my liking and there were too many coincidences and contrivances. Although I thought the ending was rushed and kaleidascoped in comparison with the rest of the book, it did hold my attention to the end.