When the fourteen year old Boudica is sent to the isle of Mona to study with the Druids, she begins a friendship with the priestess Lhiannon that will last life-long. But Boudica is not called to become a priestess. When the Romans conquer Britannia, she is called home to marry King Prasutagos and unite the two branches of the Iceni tribe.
While Lhiannon, torn between her love for the priest Ardanos and her desire to remain virgin so that she can become High Priestess one day, rides with the Celts who are still resisting the Romans, Boudica settles into a marriage that after a rocky start becomes a true love affair. But when Prasutagos dies, the Romans treat the Iceni lands as a conquered country, and when Boudica protests, she is flogged and her daughters raped.
In her rage, Boudica calls to (and calls in) the Morrigan and raises the tribes against Rome. The rising becomes a horde that destroys three Roman towns. At the same time, the Roman governor is seeking to eradicate the Druids on Mona. News of Boudica’s revolt draws him back before Lhiannon and Ardanos are killed, to the inevitable, tragic, confrontation between Celtic fury and Roman discipline.
When Marion handed me the rough draft of The Forest House, I discovered that it featured a third century Roman Emperor, the imminent departure of the Legions (which took place in 410 C.E.) and the Society of Ravens, a group of young men who were the children of the priestesses raped by the Roman soldiers in the attack on the Druid isle of Mona in 61 C.E.. Since only the latter was essential to the plotline, we agreed to set the story in the first century. However I found myself regretting that we could not say more about that backstory. The events of 61 C.E., when the destruction of the Druid’s sanctuary was taking place at the same time as the famous rebellion by Queen Boudica that nearly swept the Romans from Britannia, offered a tremendous opportunity for storytelling, and we talked about doing something with that material one day.
Since Marion had already established the idea that local chieftains might send their children to Avalon for training, it seemed reasonable that Boudica might have been sent to the Druid isle for a time, offering me an opportunity to link her story to theirs. By beginning the story just before the Roman invasion, I was able to cover the conquest of Britain, and address the early history of Lhiannon and Ardanos in order to explain how they became the people they are in The Forest House.
Like Priestess of Avalon, Ravens is firmly rooted in history. In many ways, it is more of a historical novel than a fantasy, and those who like their tales to be more Otherworldly will prefer some of the other books in the series. Between Tacitus and Dio Cassius, we have a great deal of information on the history of the Roman conquest of Britannia and Boudica’s rebellion. My task was to tell the hidden story of the defenders. Unfortunately, the historical record was also a limitation–no matter how powerful the Druids’ magic, there was no way I could have them win. My second source of information was the archaeological record, from the charred layer of earth beneath London, Colchester, and St. Albans that bears witness to Boudica’s fury to the remains of places inhabited during the period when she lived. I had the good fortune to travel to Britain and walk over much of the ground. You’ll find pictures of some of the sites in this site’s photo gallery.