Review: Wrath Of The Picts – Steven A. McKay

My version: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction, Post-Roman Britain
Steven A. McKay
First published: 2022
ISBN: 9788848932461
Pages: 281
Sent by author.

Reviewed in return for ‘the usual’ in used notes, no questions asked

Princess Catia has gone missing and once again it falls to the legendary druid, Bellicus, to find her. Was the child taken by force, or did she go willingly with the Pictish warrior-woman, Aife?
Their trail leads north to the windswept fortress of Dunnottar, so the druid must journey there with his companions, Duro, Eburus, and the fearsome wardog, Cai. Leaving Dun Breatann in the hands of Queen Narina and her enigmatic new husband, Ysfael, the friends ride out, but things are never as straightforward as they seem…
Violence and death follow Bellicus as he seeks to discover the fate of the princess. In doing so, he also finds himself on the trail of the swordsman, Lancelot, who disappeared months before when his warband was slaughtered by Saxons. Will the druid be in time to save the both? Or will their enemies, old and new, earn the bloody vengeance and glory they so desperately desire?
Ambition, lust, grief, and the power of the old gods combine in Wrath of The Picts as Bellicus and his companionsare thrust towards a shocking finale that will leave Dun Breatann in turmoil and Northern Britain ravaged again by war.

The Warrior Druid of Britain books are destined, I feel, to become classics of Histrorical Fiction. A fresh new take on the classic legends of Britain emerging first from the Roman occupation and settlement, through the Saxon invasion and slaughter, to becoming Britain as we know it – as it was before the Northmen came again in 1066. A time of legends, a time where legendary deeds are done bt legendary heroes, just to survive.

The first book in the Warrior Druid series

I don’t think I”m really stretching my neck out much by saying it is a must read book (and series), even if you aren’t familiar with the period and/or Steven’s earlier work. If you’re not, you’re in for a real treat, if you are, you’re going to be held spellbound, for a long, long time.

Steven takes us deep into the Britain of the post-Roman period; the violence, the peace, the love, the hate, the trials and tribulations of a genuinely formative era for Britain and its peoples.

Bellicus is once again on a life or death mission (he certainly does a lot of travelling in these books, good job he’s a big bastard, eh?). He is tough and largely uncompromising when he is on a mission like this, demanding much of his companions but always there to lend support, or sword, and generally rescue people from the jaws and axes of death at the very last minute. Certain death – he laughs at it! Marauding, screaming in the night witches – pfft! Magic tricks, he’s got ’em! All in all, just about everything and anything you want, need and desire when you’re travelling towards certain death with just about the perfect Historical Fiction hero.

In Wrath, we’re getting up close and personal with the Saxon invaders – tough-minded aggressive, greedy marauders, here masquerading as traders – yet the forefathers of pretty much all English people, don’t forget. Robin Hood was proud of his Saxon heritage, but here, the Saxons are the enemy, a wave of warriors crashing against the rocks of the original peoples of Britain, forcing them east and north, and calling them ‘strangers.’ In their own lands, no less – and gradually overwhelming them. Not quite yet though, not while there are heroes like Arthur, Lancelot, Bellicus and Cai.

And speaking of Bellicus, Steven has got himself one of the most memorable characters in Historical Fiction, if you ask me. One of his own imagination, of course, as Steven’s Robin Hood was an embellishment of a pre-existing character, and to a large extent, had to confirm to what we think we ‘know’ of Robin Hood from all those films and myriads of books. Bellicus is a man we can all appreciate, most of the time. An honest man who can see what the truth is, if it helps him or not. But who isn’t afraid to grip the bull by the horns and run it through, if that’s what is needed. Bellicus exists in the blissful years before Historical Fiction writers feel they have to write about god and Christianity at every turn. Bellicus’ ‘religion is to good and if you do good to him, he’ll do good to you. If not, then there’s the hunting dog…you’ll get a head start…

Only a couple of niggles: It isn’t the Picts that are actually wrath-ing. They’re pretty irritated here, sure, especially in the later stages, but The Vexation Of The Picts probably got chucked out by his editor. So, for Picts actually going to DEFCON 1, that would seem to be what we have waiting for us in the next book (after my reading the end of this one). I don’t know if we can sue Steven for false naming of books though, I’ll have my people look into it.

Look closely, about half way down, in the centre, what’s it say?

I’m barely scratching the surface of all that’s right and worth savouring about the Warrior Druid series, but if what I’ve written above isn’t a reason to go and buy the book, then I’m a Chinaman as we say here in Jutland…oh, and that’s the second niggle: it’s Jylland! Know how I know?
I live (t)here. In Jylland.

Steven’s writing and story-telling has come a long way from his early days with Robin Hood back in Sherwood (you see what I did there?). Wrath Of The Picts is, if I understand correctly, his first book written as a full-time author. And it is showing. Having the time to concentrate fully, and maybe even jot down stuff where and whenever it occurs, has lifted the Warrior Druid Of Britain series to (yet) another level. I’m guessing, but it probably beats having a proper job, anyway.

Just when you thought Steven couldn’t get any better. He does.

You can buy Wrath Of The Picts from Amazon

Now, check out all the books in the Warrior Druid series:

In case you thought the Picts were a forgotten people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.