From the time Cethen Lamh Fadha and his sharp witted wife Elena see a Roman ship slam into their village dock, to the clash of arms that takes place almost two years later as a result, their life is an uprooted trail of turmoil. Led by a Brigante king who, at times, seems to be an affliction that rivals that of the Romans, the couple find their paths reluctantly crossing that of Gaius Sabinuis Trebonius, senior tribune of the Ninth Hispana Legion.
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Gaius himself is no more pleased than Cethen and his wife by their chance encounters. With a sometimes erratic Governor overseeing command of the Ninth, and his own wife doing more harm to his career than good, he finds himself snared in his own tangled web of troubles and intrigue, Gaius's fate is, nonetheless, firmly tied to that of the Brigante chieftain and his wife, often at great cost to both body and soul.
With historic characters in the background such as the cynical Vellocatus, former shield bearer to Venutius and the man who married the aging king's divorced wife; and Cartimandua, a pragmatic but very human queen, the story moves quickly. Along the way the reader meets others far less known; Criff, the bard, who subtly keeps his feet in either camp, in more ways than one. Morallta, a Carvetti warrior whose lust for battle and rude distain is matched only by her odd pleasures; Cian, a brother whose brash temperament injures himself more than others; and Titus, the Ninth's veteran primus pilus, who sometimes should know better, just to mention a few.
The tale is told with a down to earth realism, often laced with humour that is best describes as dark. The book's editor Marg Gilks, sums it up with this endorsement:
Never before has an author brought Roman Britain to life for me as Graham Clews did with this tale of three characters whose lives are torn apart and brought together by the circumstances of their time.
These are not mere characters in a story but living, breathing, feeling people with their own flaws and strengths, people with who the reader can laugh or despair, people that the reader understands and cares about. That they happen to be living in societies that are foreign and long gone to dust is incidental, especially when the author has clearly done his research to make the foreign world of A. D. 70, if not familiar, then alive and real for the reader.
As a long time reader, writer, and editor of historical fiction, I urge anyone yearning for not only quality historical fiction but also a plain good story to pick up Eboracum: the Village. Graham Clews does not disappoint.