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The Druid King Hardcover – August 5, 2003

3.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A distinguished science fiction author (Bug Jack Barron, etc.) turns to historical fiction with this sweeping but unremarkable tale of the myth-infused adventures of Vercingetorix, the greatest and last leader of the Gauls against the Romans under Julius Caesar. As a young man, Vercingetorix is forced into hiding after the execution of his father, who tries to usurp the leadership of the Gauls. Trained by the Druids in the arts of war and magic-his teachers are the Arch Druid Guttuatr and the dazzling swordswoman Rhia, who has pledged to live as a virgin warrior-Vercingetorix is visited by premonitions and dreams of his grand but tragic fate. When his learning is complete, he is manipulated into an alliance with a certain Gaius Julius Caesar, a master of war and intrigue, a leader with great ability and few scruples. Reasoning cleverly with the young man, Caesar also reintroduces him to his childhood love, the beautiful Marah. Vercingetorix is to become a client king through whom the Romans will rule Gaul, but when he realizes that his father's death was part of the plot, he turns ferociously against the Romans. The conclusion is a series of grand battle scenes interwoven with mystic visions. The author's sympathies are clearly with the Gauls, but he is balanced in his portrait of Roman and Gallic factionalism, and reconstructs a Celtic society without the worshipful attitude that marks many fictional treatments of those creative and valiant folk. It's a solid, intelligent effort-but readers familiar with Spinrad's iconoclastic science fiction novels will find it disappointingly conventional, despite the mystical trappings.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Science fiction author Spinrad switches genres, refashioning an intriguing legend into an epic piece of historical fiction. When Julius Caesar set his sights westward, determined to expand the Roman Empire into Gaul, only one man stood in his way: Vercingetorix. Dubbed the king of the Druids, Vercingetorix accomplished the seemingly impossible when he united the disparate tribes of Gaul into a fighting force determined to prevent the Romans from encroaching any further into Gallic territory. A crafty leader and a fearless warrior who, ironically, had been trained as a youth in the Roman army, he organized a brilliant resistance that briefly threatened the military prowess of Rome. In fact, much is made of the fact that Caesar had to enlist the aid of the Teutons, a Germanic tribe, in order to crush the Gallic rebellion. Spinrad breathes new life into a mythical figure, reimagining the adventures and the motivations of a larger-than-life superhero. Replete with action and intrigue, this fictional biography is distinguished by the attention paid to the details of the Celtic, Latin, and Germanic cultures. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (August 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375411100
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375411106
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,721,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Casey Murph on October 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It is good to see the story of Caesar's wars with the continental celts with some attention payed to the celtic side of the story. Did find it at times somewhat juvenile. For example; when a character rides a horse in this story they constanlty make it rear up. This annoys any real horseman or student of iron age cavalry. This story is supposed to be about iron age celtic warriors on sturdy gaulish ponies, not a girl's fairy tale of knights on white stallions. And Vercingetorix is given as a name recieved from birth rather than a title he had been bestowed with(Ver means high,Cinget means warrior, Rix means king.Ver-cinget-rix high warrior king) he would have been given a simple name as a child and called Vercingetorix only after he took command of the Gaulish army. And Vercingetorix is portrayed very young even at the climax. I find the notion of a boyish Vercingetorix unable to grow a respectable celtic mustache leading an army implausible. I would recommend it to young readers interested in the story of gaul, but not to the more sophisticated enthusiast.
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Format: Hardcover
Norman Spinrad makes a fine debut in historical fiction, with occasional lapses into fantasy, in this riveting tale about the legendary Celtic chieftain Vercingetorix, the leader of Gallic resistance against Roman legions commanded by Gaius Julius Caesar. Spinrad does an excellent job in describing Druid religious rites, and the profound influence they play on the thoughts and actions of Vercingetorix. He also provides us with mesmerizing descriptions of Gallic leaders and of Caesar and his generals. I thought I could see and smell the Gallic towns and their people, as well as the bloody battlegrounds of the Gauls and their Roman invaders. Without question, Spinrad's sympathies lie with Vercingetorix and his relationship with the woman warrior Rhia and Marah, his potential queen of a unified Gallic state. Although this isn't Spinrad's best work of fiction, it is still among his finest novels, rich in the vivid detail and lyrical prose that he is noted for in his science fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
While not exactly famous, Norman Spinrad is well-known in the world of science fiction as a reliable veteran who has been producing stories for several decades. With The Druid King, he departs from that genre to tell a historical tale of Gaul during the last days of the Roman Republic.

The protagonist in The Druid King is Vercingetorix, a young man who is destined to become the King of Gaul. At the beginning of the story, however, he is merely the teenaged son of a Gallic chieftain. His father has visions of uniting the tribes to oppose Rome, but Vercingetorix's uncle ends that with murder. Vercingetorix is forced to flee and takes refuge with the Druids.

Meanwhile, Julius Caesar has his own ambitions, and the conquest of Gaul is a mere stepping stone for him. A master manipulator, he is able to defeat his foes as much with wiles as with force. Briefly, he makes Vercingetorix his protégé, but soon enough they are foes, leading opposing sides. Unfortunately for Caesar, Vercingetorix has picked up enough from his former mentor to become a difficult adversary.

This is a story of Rome vs. Gaul, but not just in terms of peoples but also ways of life. Much is made of the different approaches to battle: the Gauls believe in honor in battle, the Romans are merely concerned with victory. This difference in philosophy will prove to be a major problem for Vercingetorix as he realizes the Roman approach is necessary to overcome his foes, but his followers are less willing to break with tradition.

Spinrad is a good writer, but the edginess that makes him excellent in his science fiction is missing here. As a result, this is merely another good historical novel.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I actually prefer Spinrad's "Mexica" but this is a decent recap of the take if Verxingetorix. Some of the ancillary love interests felt forced to me, and I don't think they had historic parallels. But all in all an enjoyable read
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Format: Hardcover
THE DRUID KIND is a sweeping, soaring, crashing, and enchanting historical novel by Norman Spinrad, a distinguished author best known for speculative or science fiction. In this book he creates a fictional life for Vercingetorix, who lived in what is now France in the First Century BC. Although a hero to the French, Vercingetorix is not well known in this country --- especially since so few of us now encounter the memorable sentence: "Gallia omnia divisa est in tres partes." That is the opening line of Julius Caesar's GALLIC WARS, which not only made Caesar's reputation in Rome but also made generations of young Latin students either love or hate him. What history knows of Vercingetorix --- and, for that matter, of the Druids --- comes largely from Caesar. The rest is legend ... but who can say that there is not in every myth a core of truth, or else why would these stories endure through the centuries?
Vercingetorix's historical truth is just this: He was a Celt, a warrior who managed to get the several fiercely independent tribes of Gauls to unite in a final battle against the Romans, led by Caesar, at the Siege of Alesia in 52 BC. Under the leadership of Vercingetorix, the Gauls came very close at one point to defeating the great Roman Army, but in the end the Romans won because of their well-organized battle tactics. Vercingetorix surrendered himself to Caesar, was taken to Rome in chains for exhibition in one of Caesar's triumphal marches, and was either assassinated there or allowed to kill himself by falling on his own sword --- the Roman death with honor --- six years later.
This is a stirring and heartbreaking framework for a novel, and Spinrad makes the most of it.
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