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The Druid King
Norman Spinrad
Little Brown paperback £10.99

review by Michael Lohr

Norman Spinrad is better known for his prolific science fiction novels such as The Solarians, Greenhouse Summer, Deus X, Journal Of The Plague Years, and The Iron Dream, but with his most recent novel, The Druid King, he delves deep into the realm of historical fiction.
   This novel is purely historic in nature, except for a few artistic interpretations of rather vague factoids. In 54 B.C.E., the Roman military led by the flamboyant, but wise, Julius Caesar plunges his army across the Alps and deep into Gaul. The Druids looked to one man to unite the tribes and save their way of life, Vercingetorix.
   Vercingetorix was an Arvernian prince and the son of Celtillus, who was put to death by his fellow Celtic tribesmen for attempting to reinstate kingship in Gaul (he, of course, wanted to be King of Gaul). Ironically, Vercingetorix had served in Caesar's armies as a youth, as part of the Gallic contingent sent there to show loyalty of the tribes. Vercingetorix served his time in Rome's army then returned to take over the ruler-ship of his tribe. He proved that he learned much from Rome. He had become a well-known, respected leader and warrior. While unrest simmered in Rome, Caesar attempted to conquer Britannia. With Caesar occupied, the various Celtic tribes on the mainland led by the Carnutes, rebelled. The Druids gathered and declared Vercingetorix as the King of the united Gaul tribes. This did not sit well with Caesar so he abandoned Britannia and focused his sights on Gaul. He returned to the mainland with the might of Rome to crush the rebellion and capture the King of Gaul.
   In The Druid King, Spinrad captures the intensity and struggle of a people desperate to hold on to a fading way of life. He effectively demonstrates the very complex Celtic social structure and the role of the Druid within Celtic society. He also successfully captures the tragedy and pain of the failure of Vercingetorix to stop Rome, which signals the subsequent demise of Celtic Europe. One of the more interesting and little known aspects of this time period that Spinrad delves into is the involvement of Germanic tribe, the Teutons, in the eventual fall of Celtic Europe. If it were not for Caesar bribing the Teutons to assist in the attack on the Gauls, things may have turned out differently.
   This is a marvellous historical novel for anyone fascinated by ancient European, Celtic and/or Roman history. There are elements of romance, intrigue and betrayal throughout. Spinrad paints such a vivid portrait of this time period that you do not need to be a student of ancient European history to understand and enjoy this novel.
   The Druid King was recently made into a feature film entitled Druids (originally titled Vercingétorix, la Légende du Druide Roi, in France) starring Christopher Lambert. Norman Spinrad co-wrote the screenplay.

Related item:
tZ  Norman Spinrad: Druid King - interviewed by Michael Lohr
The Druid King

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