By Arlene Radasky
Kindle Version Available
Dramatic in all the right ways, The Fox by new author Arlene Radasky does for bog bodies and Druids what no author in time has ever done; she celebrates ancient history, endless romance and undying love. Brilliant and utterly breathtaking, Radasky’s is a powerful new voice in romance, fantasy, and historical fiction. Bravo!
The Romans’ path of destruction jeopardizes a Caledonian clan unless they are able to strike a bargain with the Gods, which ultimately means a human sacrifice. Jahna is a member of this first century tribe. She has the power to merge minds, which she chooses to do with a twenty-first century woman, Aine MacRae and her contemporary, a young man Lovern, to whom she was hand-fasted in her time and of whom she shared a child, in order to save her people. In the name of the gods, Lovern was killed. Druids place his body in the sacred Black Lake, but through a visit from his ghost, Jahna sends their child away thus securing their bloodline. In the midst of madness, Jahna lives just long enough to reveal to Aine, her grief. Two thousand years later, in the year 2005, Aine is hoping to reestablish her career as an archaeologist and assists in the excavation in the Highlands of Scotland of a first century Caledonian chieftain’s tomb with fellow archaeologist, Marc Hunt. As the fates align, Jahna, guides Aine to one bronze bowl, then another, and when she is led by a ghost, Aine uncovers a two thousand year old man encased in a bog. As the circle goes unbroken, a heart’s chains are loosened and it is understood that Aine and Marc are able to rediscover their past love.
About the Author
A scholar of ancient history, Arlene Radasky is fortunate to have walked upon each of the seven continents on the earth. For the past two decades she has worked with a number of nonprofit organizations including the American Red Cross and Hospice of Santa Barbara. She currently lives in California and is a proud mother and grandmother. This is her first novel.
O.Scarlett! REVIEW by Rachel
I’m not actually sure what I was expecting when I picked up this book, a short fun children’s book, maybe? Especially considering how cute the little fox is on the cover. But fairly early in the book, you realize that the fox represents Lovern, and the border is the clan colors.
There are many areas of history that I find fascinating, and anything concerning the Roman Empire will usually catch my eye. An added bonus was that this was also about Scotland and archeology.
The book is written in first person – usually from Jahna’s viewpoint, but quite at least a third of the book is written from Aine’s point of view, and a few places are from Lovern’s. This may sound confusing, but the author was careful to label who was speaking first person, and the date. The book begins with Jahna in 72AD October. She is serving her uncle in his home, not as a servant, but with her mother and because her uncle’s wife is dead. She is 16, and despite trying to avoid her uncle’s glance – she is brought forward to be assigned a husband – one she has no love for the boy or his work. She is devastated, but determines to be a good mate during the year of handfasting. The boy is no more pleased than she, as his heart was set on another girl. But such is the way of the clan.
Jahna is telling her life story – to Aine – through dreams that pass through time. Aine lives in modern day London and is an archeologist. She and Jahna have been dreaming together since their childhood. Jahna also dreams of a boy, who takes a fox as his name sign.
While the book gets off to a slightly shaky start, as it was difficult for me to get a feel for what was going on right away, by the time I finished the first two chapters, I was completely intrigued – and I couldn’t wait for Aine to unearth the bog man ... which I expected to happen fairly early in the book. Chapter after chapter sped by with discoveries of bones, bowls, ashes, homes, and so much more ... but no bog man. I felt keen disappointed when he finally showed up in the story. (This based on the product description from Amazon.)
Because of the first person nature of the book, I was really able to get to know the two main girl characters. They are strong and determined, and I found myself hoping that their stories would have good endings. Most of the important characters were well developed. I’ve got a great imagination, and the pictures were so plainly painted with the authors descriptions, that you could almost smell the peat moss burning, and feel the cold of winter. This was a story that drew me and kept me so involved with the life and love of the characters, that many times, I found hours had gone by without my noticing.
This is such an amazing book with so many twists and turns and unexpected discoveries and surprises. Unimportant comments that make the reader shake their head in early chapters, hold vital clues later in the book. This basic plot holds so little of the story, and none of the magic that takes you back into time, to experience the magic, the book must be read in it's entirety.
Jahna is planned to be handfasted to one of the boys of the tribe, she is 16. A big winter ceremony is being planned, and her handfasting, and others, will be officiated at the event. That night her uncle brings home a nearly starved druid. She knows him. He is the boy that she has had passage dreams about and with. He knows her, the gods have sent him here to marry her. Lovern convinces the uncle to handfast the boy to another girl, and save Jahna for him.
Eventually the two marry, but they don’t have a child, in spite of the dreams that Jahna has of a girl child. They live with Jahna’s mother, who is increasingly ill with a cough that torments many of the tribe – a side effect of burning the peat moss in too closed in of an area. Johna becomes Lovern’s assistant and begins to learn about healing and helping her tribe.
The Romans are an ever increasing threat to their lives. Traders cease to come, rumors abound. During a trip when Lovern is gathering supplies, Jahna goes to gather herbs, and a man shoots an arrow through her leg, brings her back to his camp, and rapes her repeatedly. He has no plans to keep her alive when he is ready to travel again, so he doesn’t feed her much, not that she is hungry, as her leg is getting infected. She is rescued, but feels great shame and will not go to Lovern when he returns until they have performed a ritual and sacrifice with a white stag. She is finally pregnant with a girl child – Jahna’s mother dies soon after she is told this news.
Life goes on, but when the clans join for information and trade, the druids single out Lovern for a spying mission into the heart of the Roman camp. When he returns, the druids demand a return to their old ways and a human sacrifice – a willing one, in hopes of appeasing the gods and saving their way of life and the life of his daughter. Will his sacrifice be enough to save them all?
While the story of Jahna and Lovern is unfolding in the past, tossed in and out of the chapters, is Aine’s story. She is an archeologist, and recently has escaped an abusive marriage. She’s trying to get her feet under her again, and make up for the time she lost in her marriage. She joins an old friend, Marc, on one of his digs, and through a dream, Jahna shows her a copper bowl. This bowl will be one of the more important finds of that dig and will show up much later in the book in Jahna’s story.
Later, while exploring the countryside, Aine has a deep conviction that she needs to dig the area. She is convinced that their is much to find here. But the odds are against her, she has very little money, and the farmer’s son wants to sell the family land to a hotel chain. When Aine tells Marc about her dreams, he thinks she is crazy – but chooses to help her out for a short time anyway. The clock is ticking, her money is running out fast, so when a tunnel collapses on top of Aine, trapping her inside, will she be able to hold onto her dream? Will she be able to piece together the story that Jahna is trying so hard to tell to her?
The reader is taken on a heart wrenching epic tale. Because the story is unfolding from the past and the present simultaneously, the reader has a unique insight into the archeological finds, gaining knowledge that the modern archeologists will not posses. It is a story that allows the reader to connect the dots for themselves. Just enough adventure to keep the reader involved, just enough romance to stir the heart, just enough danger to keep your palms sweaty, and just enough mystery to keep you guessing until the very end. This was a lengthy read of well over 400 pages, but rarely did the story slow or lag to make me very aware of the length – and usually this was during Aine’s parts of the book.
I found it very difficult to pull myself back into the present once I reached the end of the book. For days afterwards, I wanted to pick it up and read more, but the book had ended. It wasn’t a rosy and happy book – but perhaps, it showed a good picture of what life was like for the people who were being conquered by the Roman Invasion.
Jahna and Lovern are the spiritual leaders of their tribe. There is a great deal of religious explanation, and ritual. They talk directly to the gods in their dreams. Jahna can see people on the other side of death, and helps the dying cross over. Blood sacrifices are performed often.
Note: Most of this book would be a fascinating conjecture of the life of the people living in Scotland around 80AD, even for readers as young as 12, but there are 4 areas where the book dips into the Mature reads – there are several love scenes between both couples, Aine and Marc, and Jahna and Lovern. In one full chapter, Jahna is captured, raped, and starved. The rescue is quite bloody. Lovern is sacrificed. Parents should read this book before allowing a younger child to read it, to see if it is more than they want their child exposed to.
Genre/Theme: Historical Fiction, Romance, First Century, Roman Invasion of Scotland, Archeology
Reading Level: Mature TEEN - high school to college - due to graphic nature of a capture and rape in one chapter, also blatant but short descriptions of sex between characters
Profanity: LOW - few mildly offensive words - there were a few words I found offensive, but others may not be offended by them. Usually the offensive language was in the modern time. Including using the name God.
Sexuality: OBVIOUS - blatant sexuality in text, but not explicit - descriptions of body parts and reactions to them. Most of the details are spared the reader. .... The sexuality during the rape chapter is far more blatant and offensive.
Other: human sacrifice, eating meat raw and bloody, rape, war and fighting, slavery, abusive marriage