“Likable Barbarians”

ImageLast night i finished reading Gillian Bradshaw’s Island of Ghosts, a historical novel taking place in Roman Britain at the time of Marcus Aurelius.  The back cover reads:

Ariantes is a Sarmatian, a barbarian warrior-prince, uprooted from his home and customs and thrust into the honorless lands of the Romans. The victims of a wartime pact struck with the emperor Marcus Aurelius to ensure the future of Sarmatia, Ariantes and his troop of accomplished horsemen are sent to Hadrian’s Wall. Unsurprisingly, the Sarmatians hate Britain–an Island of Ghosts, filled with pale faces, stone walls, and an uneasy past.

Struggling to command his own people to defend a land they despise, Ariantes is accepted by all, but trusted by none. The Romans fear his barbarian background, and his own men fear his gradual Roman assimilation. When Ariantes uncovers a conspiracy sure to damage both his Roman benefactors and his beloved countrymen, as well as put him and the woman he loves in grave danger, he must make a difficult decision–one that will change his own life forever.

I found this to be a fascinating book, appealing on so many levels. The history behind the story is fascinating, it inspired me to do more research into the Sarmatian people and how they fit into British history. There are elements of mystery and romance in the story which I found balanced things very well. Bradshaw shows herself to be a master of character development; I found all the characters to be well-rounded and sympathetic to a point. The Orlando Sentinel calls the characters, “likable barbarians,” and they are just that. Bradshaw littered in the historical details so that at no point did it feel like an “information dump.” A less skilled author would have failed at this, for this story is so very rich with history that I felt I learned a lot even as I enjoyed the adventure.

I would say that this book could translate to film well, but I’ve seen what producers have done with Roman Britain in the past few years and I’m a bit afraid they would slaughter it.

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