After the king of the Iceni tribe dies, the Romans follow their standard policy: annex the Iceni kingdom
into their empire. When queen Boudicca protests, she is dismissed. When she demands justice, she is imprisoned and raped. After promising to submit to Roman rule, she is released. After all, what could a woman do to challenge the Roman rule of Britain?

Boudicca, however, would not submit. In her fury, she assembled an army, destroyed Roman cities and demolished an entire Roman legion. Finally, in 61 AD, she gathered her nation for a final battle to drive
the invaders into the sea. In spite of being heavily outnumbered, Rome won the battle, and Boudicca, refusing to be taken captive again, drank poison and died on the battlefield.

In Draegnstoen, her iron-willed determination carries down through the ages; through fifteen
generations of her descendents who share the dream of expelling Rome. Finally, the confluence of
fate and chance fires the hopes of Coel, a prince of Ebrauc. Determined to fulfill his ancestor's dream,
he assembles a tenuous alliance of northern kingdoms.

In the midst of treachery, tragedy, shifting alliances and with help from the Picts in the north, Coel
finally rallies the people to fight one last great battle to decide the history of the land. (Released 2011)
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Excerpt
Satisfied they were ready; the warrior queen glanced over her shoulder at the Romans in the distance. They seemed to be waiting on her. She spurred her horse and galloped in their direction; a lone rider charging the enemy. It energized her. Today she almost felt like she could face them alone. After a short distance she gave a jerk on the reins and turned back to face the Iceni.
 
Taking a deep breath, she looked them over. Her hand instinctively went to just below her throat and fingers followed the gold chain down to the gold mesh sack with the fist sized stone in it. It gave her confidence to know it was there. And now it was time.

"My people!" She waited while the crowd fell silent. "You have fought like dragons these last few days. These invaders who stand before us now are utterly astonished at your bravery. Twenty years ago they came to our shores. They wanted this land as part of their empire. But they are now learning - this is our land! These Romans are used to taking what they want. They wanted a bigger empire; instead we gave them death and defeat. This day we take back all that is ours, every handful of this soil, even to where the sand meets the sea. I am here today, not fighting as a queen, but as one of you. I was made to bow before the Romans too. If I took off my armor I would show you the scars on my back where they beat me. They raped me, they raped my daughters."
 
She paused and searched for calm. It was bitter anger, not sadness that made her voice break but she would not let them hear her sob. Boudicca gazed at the multitude. All eyes were locked upon her. She started again.

"Any of you who wish to live under the heel of the enemy may leave this field now. But the Romans will no longer rule me. Our cause is just. We have destroyed three Roman cities, an entire legion of their soldiers and many of their people. The gods look down and are smiling upon us."
She pulled her sword and held it up. "This ends today. They are not meant to be here. This is not their land. It is time to send them home!" A cheer erupted and echoed across the plain. Boudicca shot a glance at the enemy. Shields and javelins seemed to jostle nervously.
Certaneus was at the front of the throng on his mount. Ripping sword from scabbard, he raised it overhead.

"Boudicca!" He screamed, turning to face the horde. They took up the chant. "Boudicca!" It sounded ragged.
The queen glared across the field at the Romans. "Bastards," she whispered through clenched teeth, her throat tight, eyes stinging.
"Boudicca," stronger this time…. before the end of the day, Suetonius would kneel naked before her.
"Boudicca!" in unison, the wave of savage wrath crashing across the plain…right before she killed him.
"Boudicca!" She heard the white hot rage in their united voice, matching her own. Whirling her mount around she stabbed the sky with her blade and they charged screaming, rushing past her to meet the enemy.
Draegnstoen, Prologue: The Battle of Watling Street
Reviews
Harper Collins

Draegnstoen is an historical/fantasy novel about the young fifth century king of Britain, Rhun, who rallies his northern kingdoms to fight one last great battle and expel the Romans from the land.

The young Rhun, having slain a dragon in the opening chapters of the novel, becomes king after an unexpected and tragic battle in which his father is killed by the Romans. His intended bride, Princess Thalia, also dies leaving Rhun with the responsibility of finding another wife. In a moment of desperation he weds his sister, Frydissa, much against her and his younger brother Coel’s wills.

Coel and Rhun’s relationship deteriorates as Rhun’s underhand and ambitious policies threaten the kingdom of Ebrauc’s stability. On discovering Rhun’s intentions to form an alliance with the Romans, Coel and Rhun have a heated confrontation at the Dragonstones which results in Rhun’s death. Coel therefore inherits the throne and marries Feodia, a Pictish Princess, and Frydissa happily marries Aengus in a joint ceremony. Various battles and territorial disputes ensue, culminating in The Great Battle against the Romans.

There is a strong historical milieu to the novel in which Blackmer confronts shifting alliances, paternal and sibling relationships, and explores the responsibilities a king must face, in leading his people. There is also a strongly fantastical element to his writing – dragonslaying and the importance of myth and superstition are deely embedded within the narrative. I found there to be a good balance of battle and court scenes, juxtaposed with the analysis of sibling and political relationships. The chapters are very short – often no more than a page long, and I think that in some cases this causes the flow to become disjointed and confusing. Perhaps expanding some chapters with more detail and description combined with greater focus on characters’ internal thoughts, outside of the dialogue would give a more complex story?

There is a huge marked for this type of fantasy fiction, and here at HarperCollins the Voyager list is champion for quality science-fiction and fantasy. The success of authors such as Robin Hobb and Ray Feist demonstrate the timeless and fascinating endurance of this genre. In my opinion, there is enough originality in Draegnstoen to stand out from its’ competitors, whilst still maintaining those important elements which will ensure its’ success in this competitive area of the market.
This book has been passed to editors in Voyager and Angry Robot for further consideration.
June 28, 2009
Entrancing depiction of fifth century Britain
By Katherine Holmes

Draegnstoen settles at once into the bones. After so much Arthurian tragedy, this book glimmers of a triumphant end, that of the Britain tribes ousting the Romans. I was entranced with the royalty that led to Coel, Old King Cole in British legend, his brother's marriage to his sister and the dragon hunts, depicted so that I wondered if dragons might have become an extinct species in Britain.

The momentum along with the details made me confident of the author's research into the fifth century A.D. And the intermarriage with the Pict tribes from Scotland was charming, in dialogue and in the uncertainty of the alliance. The Pict princess entered battle tattooed and she had a crow at command.

This whole book is elegantly constructed with intrigue and the spying that finally gathers the tribes to Coel. They fight the Romans, one thane revenging a crucifixion, and as the Goths dominate Rome. But it is the focus on individuals that keeps one reading. In the end, I felt a chill in my spine because I believed this book had comprehended early Britain and a war it had won.
December 18, 2011
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