Wave Hunter, by Beth Webb, is the third book in the author’s Star Dancer Quartet, a fabulous fantasy series for young adults set during the Roman invasion of Britain. I reviewed book one here and book two here.
The author does not balk from portraying period realism but always within the context of the tale. This is fine story telling filled with adventure, heroism, and a power hungry darkness that is all too recognisable today.
The protagonist, a young ovate named Tegen, is trying to reach the druids on the island of Mona where she believes her destiny will be fulfilled by joining in with the weaving of a Great Spell to defeat the Roman armies currently wreaking havoc across Britain. Sensing the strength of Tegen’s powers, the unseen forces of both good and evil seek to bind her to their will that their personal causes may be furthered.
Tegen travels with Kieran, the truculent son of a warrior and her guide. They are pursued by a powerful demon which feeds on the fear and hatred that is rife in a land where the old ways of the natives are being crushed under the ordered heels of the merciless invaders. The Roman Governor of Britain, Suetonius, has a personal reason to hate Tegen after she burned him with her magical fire in a previous encounter.
Tegen visits Corinium where she experiences the reality of a Roman town. With the natives subjugated, trade and entertainment have once again thrived. The Romans demand compliance but those who accept their ways may live in relative comfort. Tegen begins to consider that her friend Owein, the son of the British warlord Caractacus, may have been right; that negotiation and compromise could be a better way forward than war.
Determined to reach Mona, Tegen and Kieran head west and north across the lands we now refer to as Wales. In her dreams Tegen sees herself crossing a sea. She is unaware that a powerful witch, Étaín, is summoning her. Both can see into the future but each interprets their visions to suit their own thoughts of how things should be.
Time and again in these books Tegen is admonished by the wise to seek guidance from the goddess from whom she derives her power, to listen before acting. Time and again Tegen is overcome by the fear and stress of her experiences, reacting rather than considering where her actions will lead. It is frustrating to read but understandable. Tegen is but fifteen years old and feels alone on her fearful quest.
As Tegen travels she encounters other druids and her knowledge grows. She climbs a mystical mountain, crosses a stormy sea and falls in love. Eventually she reaches Mona and the druids cast their Great Spell. As the characters in this story sacrifice so much to achieve their goals I am reminded of the quote: “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true”.
Tegen is a very believable character showing typical teenage impatience with her elders. She believes she possesses wisdom alongside her special powers, while they struggle to offer credence to such a young and inexperienced girl. All follow their own preconceived agendas rather than working together. All seem to struggle to learn from their history: that success is won when they listen to and trust in their goddess; that rituals have their place but are not an end in themselves.
What the goddess and the demon are become more clear in this book. It is a lesson from which we all may learn. The tragic ending may have strengthened the Britons against the Romans for a time, but can such a high cost ever be justified? As Tegen’s old druid mentor, Huval, tried to warn, in the end the Romans are not their real enemy.
Look out for my review of the final book in this series, Stone Keeper, coming soon!