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Review: Warrior Daughter, Janet Paisley

When Skaaha’s mother dies in a chariot accident, her entire life changes.  Instead of being the prized daughters of a leading warrior queen, Skaaha and her sister are separated, sent off with their fathers to learn trades.  Skaaha has never met her father before but quickly grows to like him and to enjoy forging.  As she grows to maturity, she begins to suspect irregularities in her mother’s death and falls in love with a man who is not entirely suitable.  After Skaaha’s first Beltane, she realizes that she must find the answers and become a warrior to match her greatest enemies.

Though Warrior Daughter isn’t massive at under 500 pages, it feels epic in scope.  I loved learning about the 2000-year-old Celtic world that Skaaha inhabited.  Her character is based on the legendary Scathach, one of the many mythical figures in the Ulster cycle, as a young woman.  The society is matriarchal; women are warriors, leaders, and free to choose as many husbands as they’d like.  The gods are women.  Pregnant women are essentially worshipped and looked up to.  I’m thinking this doesn’t sound so bad!

Of course, it’s not so easy for Skaaha.  She has the blood of the gods running through her veins thanks to her mother, but that only makes her life harder as others envy her.  Skaaha grows quite strong throughout the novel, growing and changing as she faces new obstacles constantly.  I really liked her.  I suspected who was behind much of the conflict in the novel – it’s really quite obvious from the beginning – and I was firmly on Skaaha’s side throughout the novel.

Possibly the only warning I might give to this novel is that it’s quite graphic.  There is a violent rape and the characters have a lot of sex with each other.  The rape in particular was extremely difficult for me to read, as I imagine it would be for any woman, but it did have bearing on the plot, as did much of the other graphic scenes.  Everything, whether scarring or healing, furthers the development of Skaaha’s character, so in that sense I don’t think I would call it gratuitious, but I could have done without so many details.

After reading Warrior Daughter, I find that I’d love to learn more about the Celtic culture which the author researched and recreated.  Her author’s note only further piqued my interest, especially when she discussed archaeological discoveries and comparisons she drew in order to make this society as close as possible to the real one.  I found it fascinating and I can’t wait to do some of my own research.

This is a fantastic historical novel.  While not for everyone, I was absorbed in the story and enjoyed my time with it greatly.  I would definitely recommend it and I’m eager to read Janet Paisley’s first novel.

Warrior Daughter is available from Amazon UK.

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