Review: Queen of Darkness

Book Title: Queen of Darkness (available here)

Author: Tony Bradman

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: November 2019

Most Suitable For: Years 4-6

Reviewed By: Jayne Gould, Librarian

As the saying goes, history is written by the victors, and with the Celtic tribes of Ancient Britain leaving no records, we only have the Roman accounts of what happened during Boudicca’s revolt. Tony Bradman has taken details from Tacitus’ description of the Iceni queen and the battles she led to creating a vivid and gripping story told by Rhianna, who witnesses the events of a turbulent time in British history.

With both parents dead, Rhianna and her younger sister Eleri are taken in by Boudicca, to live in the Queen’s House. There, Rhianna becomes friendly with Garwen, one of Boudicca’s body servants and a skilled fighter, whilst Eleri is taken under the wing of Maeve, the younger of the queen’s daughters. Keen to learn from Garwen, Rhianna finds that obedience to the queen is expected as the price for her initial kindness.

After the king, Prasutagus, is poisoned, Boudicca defies the Roman rulers, with an awful punishment inflicted on her and her daughters. This resolves into an over-riding need for vengeance as Boudicca plots her uprising to shake off the yoke of Rome, drawing the support of other tribes. Despite her love for Boudicca, Rhianna is only too aware of the darkness she reveals, with terrible revenge wreaked upon the inhabitants of Camulodunum, Londinium and Verulamium, as the cities are burned to the ground. At the final great battle, where the tribes’ defeat seems certain, an act of mercy gives Rhianna and Eleri a means of escape and hope for the future.

The story of Boudicca’s revolt has resonated down the centuries and whilst undoubtedly courageous, if foolhardy, to take on the might of the Roman army, Tony Bradman has also felt that there was something dark about the rebellion. His story aims to give young readers an understanding of the motivations that led to the uprising. As an East Anglian born and bred, with a deep interest in Roman history, sparked by visits to Colchester Castle [built on the site of a Roman temple], Boudicca has long been one of my heroines. This version, showing a darker side, perhaps dispels some of the more romantic notions about her, but gives an opportunity to open up discussion on a range of ideas.

Curriculum links: British history; The Celts; Romans in Britain; Ancient Romans


You can order Queen of Darkness online or from your local bookshop or library.

Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book and to Review Panel member Jayne for reviewing it.

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