Call of the Druids by Fiona Tarr

Call of the Druids by Fiona TarrHistory is full of moments when those in power stomped out all mention of magic, but what if the people with such talents teamed up to prevent their elimination? That’s the foundation of Call of the Druids, and I presume The Priestess Chronicles as a whole.

The story begins with a young priestess whose bloodline connection to King David of Israel means she’s assigned a diplomatic marriage rather than allowed to follow her calling. She’s trained her whole life to use her gifts from God to fight evil. Ariela begs God for another path and the angel Raziel sweeps her away to parts unknown. She arrives in Roman-occupied territory where Celtic clans struggle to protect their few remaining druids and their disappearing culture.

While the beginning would be appropriate in any young adult novel, make no mistake. This story delves into the heart of Roman atrocities with their treatment of conquered people, especially women. It also looks at how greed and envy can corrupt a soul. Even without knowing something of the history involved, I had no doubt as to the villains of this piece almost from the moment she lands in a mud-filled alley.

Morrigan, a druid, finds and protects Ariela as she overcomes the disorientation of learning she has jumped not just in space but also some 500-700 years in time to offer the druids hope when they’re all but lost. The druid suspects Ariela is more than the young, vulnerable woman she appears, and she’s right.

Though trained in battle and magic, Ariela is not alone in the battle against the Roman conquerors either. Beyond Morrigan’s help, she’s joined by two friends in the clan, Culaan and Genie, who stand up for Ariela even while they doubt the truth of her accounting.

Druidic power had so faded from the clan memories, even Culaan believes Morrigan nothing more than a mixer of herbs, though her potions are far from simple tinctures. Genie is slower to dismiss the idea, or at least she recognizes the accuracy of Ariela’s accounting of that time. This interest in history is an odd quirk in a woman known as a huntress and tracker extraordinaire.

Culaan has his own specific histories, a mystery shrouding his dead mother and the disdain of his father, who is also clan chieftain. Where another could grow bitter, Culaan is good-hearted and looks out for those around him, the image of his father’s relationships with the clan.

I’m mostly recounting things from the story rather than talking about the themes of the story for two reasons:

First, the theme is pretty straightforward, which does not diminish its strength in any way. The destruction of culture and loss of knowledge in the wake of conquer is something I mourn. It is an atrocity repeated all too often in our histories, and one that has echoes down the timeline to modern day, affecting us still.

The second, though, is because I was swept into the story and the characters until little else mattered. Do not fear I’ve given away all the interesting parts. The above barely scratches the surface of a complex dance between tradition and belief, honor and greed, and fear versus action.

The story has a rotating point of view (POV) that can fall on almost any character in any scene. While this might bother some of you, I suggest you give it a try because I never lost the sense of whose POV I was in no matter how often it moved. This is a well-telegraphed close omniscient voice such that it took me a bit to realize how often it switched. Any other technical issues were minor in comparison to the strength of the narrative and characters as they worked to keep the druidic traditions alive.

At one point, the angel charges Ariela to “Save the magic,” but this is no simple task. She has to find and bring supporters around her, learn to navigate new cultures, and help bring faith back to those who have lost their way if she’s to have any chance of living up to this command. Nor is Ariela left unmolested in her efforts. Her first act upon arriving has consequences stretching further than she could have imagined.

Fiona Tarr made the story come alive through complex characters with their own concerns and histories to drive them. If you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll know story wins out over anything, but a strong story is more than theme and plot. It’s the people contained within the lines and how they become real to the reader. Call of the Druids succeeds in this admirably.

P.S. I received this novel from the author in return for an honest review.

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