Monday, December 28, 2009

Druids

Druids
Author: Morgan Llywelyn
Ivy Books/Ballantine, 1991
400 pages

Morgan Llywelyn is an American-born, Irish author who specializes in historical fiction, usually about Ireland or some aspect of Celtica. In Druids, she crosses the water to the continent, and writes about the Celts living in Gaul at the time of the Roman incursion. The story is told from the point of view of Ainvar, a curious young orphan from the warrior class who will eventually become Chief Druid of his tribe. During his manhood ceremony he is partnered with two others, new best friend Vercingatorix (whose name means "King of the World") and jealous rival Crom Dal. Vercinagotorix is the son of the recently-assassinated king of a neighboring tribe, and Crom Dal is the son of a warrior and his "stolen" woman from another tribe. The lives of the three boys will intersect at several points, always with Ainvar and Vercingatorix as friends and increasingly with Ainvar and Crom Dal as enemies.

The background on Celtic culture and the Druid life was the most fascinating part of Druids, and this is the focus of the first half of the book. Llywelyn is clearly a master at weaving actual historical events into fiction, and for the most part, I enjoyed reading Druids. However, the second half of the book focused on battles, which (although probably quite accurate from the historical standpoint) got a little redundant. I found myself skimming through the last half . . . ho, hum, another battle.

Vercingatorix, his father, and several of the Romans including Gaius Julius Caesar were "real" historical figures. Llywelyn provides references citing her research at the back of the book. Druids is the kind of book that makes you want to go back and read your history books to learn more about what really happened, and it also makes you think of what might have been if only the Celts had been able to unite in time to push back the Romans. I really wanted the Celts to win, even though I knew they wouldn't. The scene where Ainvar has a vision about the great grove was too cool, and was not lost on me (you will have to read it to find out what I mean!)