Earlier this year we watched a documentary – 2,000 year History of London and they mentioned Boudica and how her revolt burnt London to the ground. Now we have never really learnt about Boudica but both of my kids were interested to know more and somehow it just fall under the pile of other things that they wanted to learn about and we never took it further. Then two weeks ago I was chatting to someone at Bloomsbury about possible Historical Fiction books (always very popular with both my kids) and they mentioned Queen of Darkness: Boudica’s army will rise… (Flashbacks). I immediately remembered that we never went and read up about her so said we would love to get a copy of the book to read. And wow. I feel like we can tick Boudica off our list of topics to learn about but I must be honest both the kids and myself are not sure how we feel about her and the events around the revolt.
I am going to start by saying two things – firstly this is a Historical Fiction story, so yes the story is based in Historical facts and they talk about people that did exist and they accurately describe the life style of the times, the objects, the way society was structured but there is also an element of fiction woven in. Both my kids are happy with this, we like reading these type of stories and we always talk about which sections are realistic and which sections the author is being creative about. For us these books bring the History to life, the kids can imagine what it would have been like living in those times and we often chat about an event by asking questions – “If you were there what would you have done?” or “do you think that person really had a choice?”
Secondly we found this story a bit more gruesome than others that we have read. There were two sections where I could see the kids had tears in their eyes but they both wanted to continue. I suspected this story might be a bit more gruesome than they are used to so we actually read it all together so I could make sure they understood those sections. And I was very glad to see the author did not discuss anyone being raped but did speak about Boudica and her daughters getting whipped.
There are also sections that deal with people being sacrificed to the Goddesses. We used that as talking points about how you should treat prisoners of war and is executing people okay just because they are on the different side of the battle than you / or in a different tribe? And of course we chatted about how pagan beliefs were different.
The story actually follows a young girl Rihanna, who is in the Iceni tribe and ends up living with the Queen. You get to see the events of Boudica being whipped, her uprising, the treatment of the Romans and eventually Boudica’s defeat through the eyes of this young girl. Rihanna initially loves Boudicca and is in awe of her but over time as she sees the way Boudica treats others she starts to fear her and eventually tries to escape the tribe.
We liked the fact that the author based the story through Rihanna’s eyes and both my kids were really rooting for her and her sister Eleri to survive. Interesting, in the story there is another character Garwen, who fights for the Iceni but is portrayed as kind to the sisters both my kids really liked Garwen and thought she was wonderful. I thought this was a good touch because the kids got to see that just because you follow your tribe into battle does not mean you believe in everything that they stand for. And even if you think the leader is cruel there can still be kind people fighting for that leaders (think it is a great example for when we start learning about World War II). There is also a kind Mother on the Roman side who eventually helps Rihanna and her sister. Again I liked this, I liked that the author included these kind characters as it provided a balance to the more brutual side of fighting and life back then.
As always I was blown away by the way that Tony Bradman (the author) seems to weave so many historical references into his stories. We love this about all his books. And I do feel that the kids have a much better understanding of that time period in British History, both in terms of how the people lived and why the tribes revolted and ultimately what happened in the revolt.
I highly recommend this book for kids learning about Boudica but I strongly suggest that you speak with them about the events or read it with them as I do think there are some tough situations and hard topics that are dealt with in this story.
Other Tony Bradman Books that we have read and enjoyed – Winter of the Wolves (Anglo-Saxon story), Lady of the Mercians and The First King of England.
For other Tony Bradman stories you can look on the Bloomsbury website – Tony Bradman
Note – there are a couple of different ways to spell Boudica – I have stuck with the way the author spells her name, which according to a quick search appears to be the Celtic version. Also as I mentioned above we were given our copy of Queen of Darkness but were under no obligation to write an entire post about the book, the fact it has its own post is because I think it is a good Historical Fiction book for the kids to read.
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