Fire Dreamer, by Beth Webb, is the second book in a fantasy series for young adults which began with Star Dancer, reviewed here. The protagonist, Tegen, is now fifteen years old and has left her home village in search of Mona where she hopes to train with the druids and learn to better harness her powers. Until she can find someone to show her the way she is working for her keep and waiting for a sign from the Mother Goddess.
Britain is facing upheaval as the invading Roman army moves across the land, imposing their ways and crushing any who refuse to comply. A young Britain who was raised in Rome, Owein, passes through the village where Tegen is working. He suggests she accompany him to an important gathering where lords and druids will congregate to discuss the crisis. Tegen agrees, hoping that this will enable her to reach her desired destination.
Along the way they find villages burned to the ground, their occupants displaced and afraid for their lives. Among the invaders is a power hungry British Roman, Admidios, who wishes to join with both Owein and Tegen. He recognises her powers, and knows of Owein’s birth right, both of which he wishes to tap for his own ends.
Admidios uses evil magic to get his way and Tegen struggles to find the strength to resist. As the druids gather at Sinodun a force of Roman soldiers are building a garrison across the river. Admidios has plans for his own advancement, Owein offers council to minimise bloodshed, but the fierce British warriors wish to fight to preserve their old ways.
The conniving and allegiances brought to mind Game of Thrones, although without the gratuitous sex and gore. Knowing the history of Iron Age Britain the final outcome can be assumed, but not the detail of this battle. While it is easy to see the benefits of good roads and improved sanitation, this story brings to life the cost. A way of living that respected the ecosystem was thrown away for profit. The most powerful may have benefited but not their slaves.
Like the first book, this story offers a fast moving plot with darkness and danger ever present. The writing is assured, conjuring up a world of smoky roundhouses and damp, wool cloaks which somehow feel warm and welcoming. The magic and ritual add to the atmosphere, while the historical detail is an education.
As this episode in her adventures comes to an end, Tegen moves on. Her world has expanded and her powers increased. I am now eager to read the next installment in her tale.