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Apollo's Raven Paperback – April 10, 2017
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2017 New Apple Summer E-Book Award: Historical Fiction - Official Selection
24 AD Britannia is in turmoil. Celtic kings hand-picked by Rome to rule are fighting each other for power. King Amren's former queen, a powerful Druid, has cast a curse that foretells Blood Wolf and the Raven will rise and destroy him. King Amren reveals to his daughter, Princess Catrin, the grim prophecy that his former queen pronounced at her execution for treason to him:
The gods demand the scales be balanced for the life you take. If you deny my soul's journey to the Otherworld by beheading me, I curse you to the same fate as mine. I prophesy your future queen will beget a daughter who will rise as a Raven and join your son, Blood Wolf, and a mighty empire to overtake your kingdom and to execute my curse.
Catrin is trained as a warrior and discovers she is the Raven and must find a way to block the curse of the evil former queen. Torn between her forbidden love for her father's enemy Marcellus, and her loyalty to her people, she must summon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that awaits her.
Will Catrin overcome and eradicate the ancient curse? Will she be able to embrace her forbidden love with Marcellus? Will she cease the war between Blood Wolf and King Amren? Will she save Ancient Britannia?
Apollo's Raven sweeps you into an epic Celtic tale of love, magic, adventure, intrigue, and betrayal in Ancient Rome and Pre-Arthurian Britannia.
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now.
"The requisite fantasy elements of magic and mystery abound. Tanner also does an admirable job weaving in the politics and mythology of a bygone people. A complex and promising start to a new fantasy series." --Kirkus Reviews
"APOLLO'S RAVEN is a soaring epic that carries its audience on an adventure full of ancient magic, passionate romance, and political intrigue." --IndieReader (IR Approved)
"Apollo's Raven is a historical fantasy with strong elements of romance, political intrigue, and magic. Many surprising twists enrich the historically-drawn plot. Points of view shift between different characters effectively, heightening the tension from one moment to the next. I love the scenes contrasting the cultures of Celtic Britannia and Rome, during which Tanner's research really shines." --Historical Novel Society
"If you're looking for something entertaining with a fast, action-paced rhythm, Apollo's Raven by Linnea Tanner is a definite must. For a woman who is trying to figure out where she belongs in her world, this tale is relatable to other young women in our timeline who are also trying to figure out where they belong." --Literary Titan (Gold Book Award)
"Apollo's Raven is a rapturous read that mixes Celtic mythology into a good historical romance."--Forward Review
"Fans of romantic historical fiction will appreciate the author's obvious love of ancient history and attention to period detail in this promising start to a new series." --BlueInk Review
From the Author
In preparation for writing Apollo's Raven, I extensively researched and traveled to sites in the United Kingdom which are described in my book.
Book 1: Apollo's Raven is an epic Celtic tale of love, magic, adventure, intrigue and betrayal in the backdrop of Ancient Rome and Britannia. The story follows two star-crossed lovers from vastly different cultures: Catrin, a Celtic warrior princess, and Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony.
The heroine, Catrin, is inspired by historical and legendary accounts of Celtic warrior queens in Britannia where women were held in higher esteem and could serve as warriors and rulers. The Celtic noble warrior society was heavily influenced by Druids and rival rulers fought each other for power.
- Publisher : Apollo Raven Publisher, LLC; First Edition (April 10, 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0998230006
- ISBN-13 : 978-0998230009
- Item Weight : 1.3 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.98 x 0.87 x 9.02 inches
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United States on July 20, 2021
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Top reviews from the United States
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I fully enjoyed this epic tale of intrigue, deception, and love. The characters are developed well, while the plot leaves the reader wanting more.
One of my favorite aspect has to be the connection that Catrin has with ravens. She is able to see through her raven’s eyes, control its action when inside, and is able to call upon many ravens when she is need of help.
Also, I loved the many storylines and directions this book took. There was the ancient curse set upon Catrin’s family. Its connection to her conniving step-brother, Marrock. Then, the connection to the Druidess, Agnora, and her evil plot. Also, there was the unsettling matter of the Emperor favoring Marrock as King versus the true King Amren, Catrin’s father. I could go on and on, but I won’t. Just know that there’s even more to this adventurous read!
There were a couple of areas where this read could be improved. For instance, the back-and-forth between Catrin and Marcellus was a bit much. Then, I do question the use of modern-age profanity in 24 AD.
Overall, I was happy to have read Apollo’s Raven, and loved Tanner’s ability to tell a wonderful tale!
I honestly wanted to love this book. It isn't often that I find Celtic-inspired fantasy.
Kristin James gives us a wonderful audio experience. Her voices are varied, distinct, and well crafted (even the male voices). Her control of vocal inflections and tempo shifts throughout are nothing short of incredible. She's second to none.
The first thing that struck me about this book is the lushness of the descriptions of the physical locations. I have no doubt whatsoever that the author has either extensively researched the locales or visited them personally.
At first, I actually liked both of the main characters quite a bit.
Initially, Catrin comes off as very mature, confident if a little headstrong, and well rounded.
Similarly, Marcellus is a strong-willed young man with a cool head for politics and is less immoral than I would expect of the son of a Roman senator.
Unfortunately, both of these characters quickly become very wishy-washy on all of the qualities that appealed to me.
Catrin's headstrong nature becomes childish and petulant and Marcellus becomes the sex-driven ass that most of his kind are known for.
Of secondary concern is the "romance" between them. I'll be honest, at the end of the book I still don't believe they're in love. I've seen nothing to suggest they are. It feels more like an obsessive school-age infatuation.
Neither knew the first thing about the other when it began, and rather than having any basis in emotion or personality, it is purely physically driven, even at the end of the book.
Now, outside of the "romance" there is an interesting plot, though it takes a long time to get to it. And unfortunately it seems to come out of the blue since the author focuses almost solely on the romance and Catrin's budding magical abilities.
Although there are a couple aspects of it that I find a bit ridiculous, I enjoyed the magic system. I think it was well thought out and there are many points of connection with the powers historically attributed to the druid priests and sorcerers.
I particularly enjoyed the raven and wolf particulars, especially as those two animals are historically associated with those of the warrior caste.
Similarly, huge chunks of the world building are brilliantly assembled and conveyed. It's almost effortless the way the author presents most of the world building.
The truth is that if this was a secondary world fantasy I would have nothing negative to say here. However, this is a historical fantasy based on the Celtic world and I find myself wishing the author had done her research a little more thoroughly.
The single biggest, most glaring problem that irritates me to no end is the druids WERE NOT priests. Nor were they sorcerers, as this book purports. The druids were a caste. They were the intellectuals. The educators, the historians, the judges, the poets, the philosophers, the shamans... and yes, the priests and sorcerers as well. But while a druid COULD be a priest or sorcerer, not all of them were.
The term "druid powers" would have been met with confused expressions.
The second major issue also ties in with the druids. This being that THE BRITTON CELTS DIDN'T HAVE A WRITTEN LANGUAGE YET!
(this being set in the year 24 CE)
Sorry, I didn't mean to yell. It had to be done. In Brittany the Celts didn't develop written language until around the 4th century CE.
And finally, the Caste System. While the Celtic caste system was not nearly as rigid as, say, the Japanese or even the Romans themselves, they still had an established caste system that was difficult to break out of and there is not the slightest hint of that caste system in this book.
Apart from the historical inaccuracies, there are a few other problems. First, good chunks of the prose are just clumsy to read. The natural consequence to this is much of the dialogue feels stilted and gets repetitive. There is also a lot of word usage that just feels wrong for the period.
Now, I'm not one of those purists who thinks the language needs to be 100% accurate to the period. But it should hold to a slightly more old fashioned feel. Unfortunately, we end up seeing a lot of modern turns of phrase that throw me out of the story quite regularly.
There were several points where words seem to have been transposed (eg: "in her eye's mind"). There are a lot more of these sorts of occurrences than I would normally expect from a professionally edited novel.
I'm also struggling with the language barrier. We're somehow expected to believe that after spending every day together for over a month, still Marcellus never learned any of the Celtic tongue. Despite his statements earlier in the novel that he really wanted to learn to communicate with his captors.
Let's talk about consistency for a minute.
There isn't any. The star crossed lovers change their minds about one another so frequently it makes my head spin. On the one hand, it lends credence to my opinion that they are merely infatuated. However, if we are meant to believe it is "true love" as Catrin insists, then why are they forgetting about that and betraying/accusing the other of betrayal so often?
To say nothing of the fact that we're expected to swallow the basically "insta-love" we see with them. While there is a half-assed attempt at explaining it away as their souls being already familiar with one another, it's left as basically conjecture and feels like a really thin explanation.
And finally, the ending.
Again, some of this seems to come out of the blue. Although the groundwork was there earlier, because of the focus of the novel very little of it is seen until things are brought to the fore.
That said, though, when we finally get to it the ending actually comes together pretty well and ties several (though not all) of our disparate plot threads together into a cohesive close that is at least moderately satisfying.
I found the book fast-paced and engaging with well-developed characters whose storylines the author weaves skillfully into her intricate narrative. I especially liked Catlin who is believable and sympathetic. A skilled warrior and devoted daughter, she is nevertheless haunted by a childhood trauma involving her half-brother, Blood Wolf, as well as by her ability to become one with the Raven, her spirit guide. I also thought her love interest, Marcellus, as well drawn as she and with a complexity that earned my interest. Though handsome and spoiled, he too carries wounds from a difficult relationship with his ruthless Roman father. Despite their outward differences, they are kindred spirits.
The plot unfolds at a fast clip with many shifting perspectives of many characters, so many that they could easily cause confusion. Yet Tanner manages to incorporate them artfully enough that I understood the motivations of each character without any damage to the story’s dramatic tension. For example, Agrona, the Druid priestess, seems a shadowy character, until the narrative shifts to her perspective, making it all too clear what her evil agenda truly is.
Even so, as much as I appreciated Apollo’s Raven for its character and plot development, I found its development of setting rather limited. I rarely had a sense of time and place in its descriptions. Though promoted as historical fiction, it did not evoke, for me at least, a Britannia of the first millennium. Instead, the magic of the book is in the actions of its characters and the handling of its plot – not in the mists of Avalon, or in its Celtic legends, or even in the lyricism of its language. In fact, much of the descriptive language could be stronger. Similes such as “she felt her stomach drop like a hung corpse” fell flat, making the book less enjoyable for me to read.
However, I doubt that I am the audience for Apollo’s Raven. I do believe the audience for it is the young adult fantasy reader who I suspect would love its epic Game of Thrones energy. Filled with spirited dialogue, villains with evil intent, considerable sex and violence, the book is designed for entertainment, not elegant language, education, or inspiration. Still, I wish it could have been more. I remember reading fantasies as a young woman, such as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia that transported me to worlds unknown and inspired me to be better than I am. I wish more such books were written today.
Top reviews from other countries
I bought this book because the premise sounded interesting and because I am drawn to historical fiction and fantasy, and especially novels involving ancient Britons and Celts. As an author of fantasy novels myself, I also like to help and support other authors when I can.
I will try to make this review as constructive as possible, but I have to admit from the outset to being rather disappointed in the structure and execution of the story, the depth and development of the characters, and also certain aspects of the writing. On the positive side, the author clearly knows her history regarding the Celts and Romans in a time of upheaval and danger, and the world within which she places her characters comes across well. However, for me, she did not keep control of the various plot layers, resulting in a story structure that felt disjointed, at times rushed, and often bogged down in non-essential scenes. I found the early pace of the novel to be too slow, and only towards the end did it pick up to anything like a good pace.
I also found the various characters to be one-dimensional in that their natures lacked nuance. I have no issue with multiple points of view and each POV character change was well defined. However, some of the changes felt contrived rather than necessary, and I thought the novel would have been stronger for restricting the narrative’s viewpoint. The novel’s “magical” aspect could also have been better handled, with clearer explanations. This is one area where the author could have inserted some much-needed extra tension.
As a freelance editor, I also have to say this novel would have benefitted from a good proof read. The sentence structure, phrasing and syntax were often awkward and stilted, leading me to wonder whether English was actually the author’s mother tongue. There were also some poor word and grammar choices, and I found the majority of the dialogue to be repetitive, wooden, awkward and uninspiring. One word choice that I found irritating was the use of the word “cathos”. It appears several times and I made some effort to find out its meaning – trying both Merriam-Webster and the OED, and also other internet sites. All to no avail, and I was forced to conclude that it was a typo. When I finished the novel, however, I found that the author had included an explanation of this right word at the end of the Author’s Note – right at the end of the book! It ought to have been explained at the front.
I do not enjoy writing such negative reviews, but I have at least tried to be honest. I gave the book a rating of 3 stars because it certainly contains potential and there’s nothing lacking in the author’s imagination. The need for a knowledgeable and sympathetic editor, however, meant I could not give it more than 3 stars. I shall not be reading the sequel to this novel.
Apollo’s Ravens] by Linnea Tanner is set back in the times when Romans contested the Anglo Saxons and Celts for Britain. We quickly learn that the heroine, a young Anglo princess named Catrin has two sisters and a brother, as well as the King (Amren) and the Queen as her parents. As the tale unfolds, each of these characters is embellished with secret pasts and ambitions. Even Catrin herself is unusual as we are informed she is something of a trainee mystic with an affinity for ravens.
Early on we also encounter the Romans, Marcellus and his scheming father Senator Lucius Antonius, who is poised to alter the balance of power in Britannia. However, things don’t go to plan. Unpredictable, inexperienced Marcellus places himself in harm’s way to avoid a fatal confrontation during hostile negotiations.
Catrin and Marcellus are thrown together and a deep relationship develops, although neither is sure whether the other is really a spy, trying to gain an advantage for their family and country.
Along with Amren and Lucius, there is a third, secret wicked party that also features, attempting to manipulate everyone involved, hoping to gain ultimate glory. The deceptive individuals concerned also have mystical powers that are likely to prove more decisive than any band of Celtic warriors or Roman legion.
Hostages are exchanged between the Anglo Saxons and Romans to ensure temporary security until peaceful negotiations can be undertaken. The safety of the hostages, one of whom is Marcellus, is jeopardized as both sides scheme and plan to double-cross each other.
As the story continues, Catrin with her mystic abilities has visions that can be interpreted as dire for the outcome of Marcellus and herself, but perhaps she can no longer trust these visions as the evil mystic is also at work. An arrow of death is predicted to kill young Marcellus unless the future can be changed. The outcome is uncertain and we are kept in suspense until the final pages.
I enjoyed reading this work and have awarded five stars, the top rating, as I can see no serious flaws nor detect a reason to do otherwise. It remains to list the aspects of the book which impressed me the most.
At the top of the list must be the historical detail making the story seem very realistic. The research behind this work to achieve this effect subtly surfaces in many aspects. Light touches referring to the squalid dirt and grime, the smells, the physical appearance and much more, are sufficient to paint a vivid picture without hindering the pace of the tale.
The intertwining of Celtic and Roman mythologies into the storyline is also deftly handled so that the reader begins to appreciate how and why some of the characters are aligned. In those dark ages, the trust in the ancient Gods, reincarnation and symbolism would be paramount. These themes are firmly communicated in the book.
The mystical attributes of young Catrin are introduced in chapter one and continue to emerge and grow throughout the book. I found the author’s handling of this topic very believable and of course, crucial to the storyline.
Apart from Catrin and Marcellus, there are many other characters to be discovered. Each individual is sufficiently portrayed to allow the tension and web of intrigue to develop as hostages are taken and the climax arrives. There is love, infidelity, treachery, loyalty, jealousy, defiance, arrogance and more, interwoven within the characters.
Finally, it must also be said that this is the beginning of a love story. The emotions of Catrin and Marcellus along with their spiritual needs, the love scenes, their doubts and fears, are all well handled by the author. The outcome of their encounters is uncertain until the last pages. So even the more romantic amongst us are hooked until the end.
Perhaps I would point to one small flaw that I found as an annoyance, but by no means detracting from the five-star rating. I purchased the kindle version and checked the following observation on both the kindle and the cloud kindle app ( read.amazon.co.uk ). There is no table of contents or list of chapters! Other books do have this! The front cover looks great on the PC, but the lack of an index or table of contents makes it difficult for the reader to drop back to a previous chapter if they want to refer to something. This is only a format issue but in my view worth mentioning. Otherwise, a great book and I am looking forward to reading the next in the series.
Apollo’s Raven is a complex story, told from multiple points of view. Was that a good choice? I have my doubts. The storyline becomes ungainly and loses tension, which is a pity. The characters show various believable traits. Still, some of them are inflated with egomania to a degree that makes them appear less than real. There were some beautiful descriptions of the landscape — Ms Tanner has a deft hand in world-building.