This book had me at druids, but I was happy to find it a beautiful experience as a whole. The Oath by A. M. Linden is set in 788AD Britain, portraying the struggle between Saxons and indigenous Celts. It’s the first part of The Druid Chronicles.
Caelym, a young Druid priest, ventures into Christian territory to retrieve Annwr, his high priestess’s sister abducted many years past. She survived as a nurse to a Saxon princess, Aleswina, who’s now confined to a convent.
The princess’s cruel cousin, the king, decides to marry her instead, which complicates Caelym’s further plans as Annwr refuses to abandon Aleswina. So, the three of them journey through rural Britain and bardic tales to safety and family.
Druidic and Christian Cultures
The main clash in The Oath is between Druidry and Christianity. The book weaves historical facts through the narrative, but limited primary information on druids made their representation a challenge. Regardless, Linden does a nice job putting together what would have been a polytheistic, matriarchal, and nature-loving culture.
Caelym’s perspective and stories, as well as those of other characters, immerse us into this society’s beliefs and rituals. At the same time, the likes of Aleswina give us the Christian perspective. What’s wonderful about The Oath is how it presents different sides of the same coins.
The book’s most powerful feature are its characters. They’re interesting and convincing from start to finish, except for some missed opportunities to develop them further. Even so, as we move from one’s viewpoint to another’s, we get to know each person inside and out—their facades and their truths.
What I loved in particular were Caelym’s layers. At first, he just seems vain and selfish, but the gradual unravelling of his love, charisma, and naivety made me appreciate him so much more. If nothing else, The Oath is a very effective study of masculine identity.
Engaging Plot of Perspectives
On the downside, the climax and ending could have been stronger, while a more diverse narrative structure and development would have made the plot’s rhythm even more engaging. That said, everything already flows nicely through its characters, events, and historical insights.
It gets funny, emotional, and exciting in equal measure, keeping the reader hooked. Not only that, but The Oath is a great example of how multiple points of view are more than able to carry a story. It works in this case because everything has a purpose and nothing feels wasted, whether its words or characters.
The Oath is historical fiction at its best. It brings the British Dark Ages and the true magic of the druids to life with a story rich in personality, spirituality, folklore, wisdom, and more. Minor flaws aside, this is a book worth diving into and a series I’m very ready to fall in love with.
Get your copy: Amazon
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