The White Mare - Jules Watson [The Dalriada Trilogy]
Original Review: February 5, 2015
I adore wandering through libraries. You never know what treasures you'll find.
I found one in The White Mare - a book I'd never heard of before by an author I'd never read. Considering both my lineage and my belief, a tale set in ancient lands where Druids and Priestesses alike played a large role in society immediately appealed. It didn't take much convincing on part of the writing for me to check it out, either.
A priestess, who had somehow lost her Sight, Rhiann finds herself terrified when a Prince of Erin lands on their shores, just after sending their King off to the Otherworld.
Eremon, the exiled King from Erin, who had been betrayed by his uncle and is now in search of glory and support in order to win back his throne.
A land threatened by the Romans.
I can't speak to historical accuracy - history isn't my thing - but Watson paints a pretty amazing picture. Amazing enough that I just realized that for a brief moment I completely forgot this was supposed to be a fictional setting.
Or is it? Hard to tell!
Early on, Gelert immediately strikes me as "the bad guy." Him being an oddity among the other Druids of the clan in his methods, thoughts, and treatment of the heroine point to him as such from the get go. There are many incidents of distaste, so many that I wonder if it isn't a little too obvious that he's the antagonist for this story. Even when he's not on stage, it's impossible to forget him. I wondered immediately if he wouldn't eventually be the one to sell them out to the Romans.
The book deals a lot in matters of betrayal, on all different levels. Personal, cultural, community, political - even spiritual, if Gelert is any indication. It balances that, though, with a story of honor, steadfastness, and hope. It takes me - because of my personal associations - back in time in such a wonderful way, and it makes me realize the depth of not just what I believe, but also who I am. These people, this story could very well be the stories of my own ancestors.
I don't know that I'd feel the same connection to this book if not for the affinity I already carry for the socio-spiritual structure of the people it chronicles. What I do know, is it is a very organic story. It tells of a people, of their lives, in a very realistic way - for all it being considered a fictional story. The way the relationship between Rhiann and Eremon evolve from her pulling a knife on him to finally coming around to full acceptance. The way she grew, and healed. The struggles they all faced as they do the best they can to defend their lands against invaders. There's a strong thread of truth that settles, something that says, "believe."
For as much as I loved it, I do have to knock off a star for the pacing. For the most part, the story progressed at an almost perfect pace. There was a section that almost had me putting the book down, however, for as badly as the progress slowed.