the end of the reign of Emperor Claudius, which was shortened when
he consumed a plate of poisoned mushrooms served lovingly by his wife
Agrippina, Rome was swallowing up nation after nation, often with
little resistance. The only thorn in Rome's side was the
warlike tribes of Germania. They constantly raided and burned Roman
outposts scattered along the Rhine and made the Romans pay dearly
whenever they enslaved Germanic tribesmen.
Donna Gillespie immersed herself in the lore
and legends of the Roman way of life and has emerged with THE
LIGHT BEARER, a fact-filled novel that is sure to entertain
readers in a manner they will not soon forget.
This massive saga shifts and twists as it follows
the lives of three characters: Auriane, daughter of Baldemar, chief
of the Chattians, one of the most virulent of the Germanic tribes;
Marcus, raised as a slave before being rescued by his father, a
Roman nobleman; and Decius, a Roman soldier captured by the Chattians.
Other cast members both real and fictional come to vivid life.
Much has been written of the cold-blooded shenanigans
of the Roman way of life, from the dastardly crimes of the empire's
leaders to the wheeling and dealing of its senators, but Gillespie
weaves her tale in a way that brings new color and excitement to
For instance, when Athelinda, wife of Baldemar,
is unable to give birth to Auriane, Ramis the prophetess appears.
She massages Athelinda's belly with hen's grease, dittany and hollyhock
and makes her walk. The baby is delivered effortlessly. This is
the same Ramis who once each year performs human sacrifices in the
dreaded bogs of Germania.
Gillespie depicts skin-covered huts with smoke
holes, contrasting the primitive and harsh existence of the tribes
to the glorious mansions of the Roman nobility and the cesspools
frequented by the poorest of city-dwellers.
After his rescue from slavery, Marcus is introduced
to the finest education. He grows to love scholarship and the practice
of law, which eventually brings fame and fortune as well as jealous
At the Midsummer Assembly, the most important
festival in the Germanic calendar, Auriane relinquishes her right
to mortal marriage by giving herself as a bride to the god Wodan.
At sixteen and already adept with spear and bow,
Auriane realizes that her tribe is doomed unless wholesale changes
are made in its battle preparations. She appeals to Decius, the
captured Roman soldier whom she has befriended, to teach her battle
tactics and the use of weapons captured in raids.Gillespie gives
crisp and detailed descriptions of the fighting methods of the well-trained
Roman legions, their precise formations and deadly weapons looking
vastly more polished than the ferocious, undisciplined tribesmen.
As powerful as Gillespie's action writing can
be, she shows a deft and almost musical quality in more passionate
"Peace and contentment rolled over her like
some golden smoke as she drifted over the black and bottomless pool
at the place where the floodwaters became slack and still. Here
was the world's end, and world's beginning; she floated through
a mythical dusk, caressed by the gentle light-play of dawn."
No Roman tale would be complete without festival
games and Gillespie does not disappoint. A dozen golden-helmeted
sword fighters arrive at the Colosseum. When their helmets and scarlet
cloaks are removed, twelve flaxen-haired barbarian women stand revealed,
clad as Amazons in short leopard-skin tunics.
Their opponents are twelve dwarfs attired as
Thracian gladiators. In less than fifteen minutes ten women and
eight dwarfs are slaughtered. Emperor Domitian orders the two surviving
women to be sent to the palace to await his pleasure: "When
I take them, they will think they have been raped by Zeus,"
Throughout this monumental story, Gillespie constantly
increases the excitement and intrigue. There are no flat passages
in THE LIGHT BEARER, only a fast-flowing stream that erupts into
a full-scale torrent in the book's conclusion. Let us hope that
we will see more from this sparkling new author.