So I finished Lady of the Light by Donna Gillespie on the plane yesterday. It’s the long-overdue sequel to The Light Bearer. Donna Gillespie has done SERIOUS homework on Roman and Germanic history to write this series. In The Light Bearer, Auriane, the lead character, is a Chattian chieftain’s daughter who “marries Wodan” to become a fierce woman warrior in the fight against Rome during the despotic reigns of Nero through Domitian. She’s captured and becomes the most famous and celebrated Gladiatrix, falling in love with a Roman noble somewhere in the mix, having a daughter, and turning the world upside down. It’s the most engaging depiction of Roman life, from the wonders of their engineering to the daily life of the average soldier, that I’ve ever read. And I read a LOT of Roman, Celtic, and tribal histories. Contrary to a certain snooty perpetual (as in 5+ years) masters student I know, people can learn as a hobby and know as much as a student. But that’s a different post entirely.
I waited YEARS for the sequel, which starts years after Auriane has won her freedom and has renounced iron in favor of peace. Now the Domina of a noble house on the border between the Chattians and the Romans, she struggles to reconcile her love of her Roman philosopher and her duty to her people. To complicate her life even further, her two daughters are night and day: both 1/2 Roman, the eldest thinks she’s full Tribal and hates all things Roman other than her own family. The youngest prefers to think herself a future Domina and has no interest in learning about her mother’s people at all. The family, tribal, and political dynamics layer Gillespie’s story with reality well beyond a simple hero-worship story told around a campfire. Unfortunately, this is only the 2nd in a series of three: all I can do is hope the final chapter takes less time to show up on the shelves than Lady of the Light.