Review: Wrath of the Picts by Steven McKay


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 far 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 them 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 the druid and his companions are thrust towards a shocking finale that will leave Dun Breatann in turmoil and Northern Britain ravaged again by war.

My Review

In this book five of the series, we mostly follow young princess Catia and her friend Aife as the latter flees Dun Breatann—or rather, its disreputable king, Ysfael. Catia can’t bear to see Aife leave on her own and begs the girl to take her along, thus precipitating an even bigger crisis. No one knows whether Catia has been kidnapped or not, but her disappearance gives Ysfael the excuse to execute Aife’s countrymen left behind as hostages. Our gigantic Druid, Bellicus, must involve himself in this explosive situation, for he alone can deal with all parties. Catia and Aife lead their pursuers a merry chase, especially when they discover and free Lancelot from miserable slavery on a Saxon merchant ship:

The slave stopped in his tracks, still holding the big stone, and he looked at her face again, eyes boring into her as he examined her features.
“Dun Breatann,” he breathed. “You’re Catia.”
“I am,” she replied, but he continued to speak.
“You’re the princess Bellicus was looking for.”
“You know Bel?” Catia was dumbfounded but the mention of the big druid made her feel instantly homesick and she broke off, fearing that she might burst into tears.
“Know him?” Lancelot replied, face lighting up for just a moment as he thought of Bellicus. “We’re good friends. He was with me when I killed Leofdaeg’s father on that raid together, just the two of us. What a day that was!”

Catia shows herself to be incredibly resourceful, even though she lacks the experience and martial skill of Aife. She is truly her father’s daughter, and manages to keep herself and the other fugitives one step ahead of disaster. At the same time, although Ysfael threatens the security of Dun Bretann, Bellicus manages to outmaneuver him. For the moment. This is a lively story and keeps the pages turning.


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