Review

Hadrian's Wall

by William Dietrich



In the days of the Roman Empire, the Emperor Hadrian built a wall
across Britannia creating a border between the civilization of the
Empire and that of the Northern Celtic tribes. This wall
represented the far reaches of the Empire as well as a clash
between cultures. Using the wall as a jumping off point, William
Dietrich, in his latest novel HADRIAN'S WALL, imagines life at the
edge of the Empire. The conflict between the Celts and the Romans
are personified in Valeria, a senator's daughter from Rome, and
Arden Caratacus, a Celtic chieftain trained in the Roman
army.

Although Valeria's father is an influential senator, the family is
broke. Valeria is given to the wealthy army officer Lucius Marcus
Flavius in an arranged marriage. The marriage will bring money to
Valeria's family and prestige to Marcus. Thus, Valeria is off with
a small entourage, including her slave Savia, to Britannia to wed
Marcus and begin life at Hadrian's Wall where he is newly
stationed. Marcus's new appointment has angered the commander of
the Petriana Calvary, Galba Brassidias, who does not want to be
second in command to the inexperienced aristocrat Marcus. But how
far is Galba willing to go to gain the power he feels he
deserves?

Valeria views her trip and marriage as an adventure but from the
moment she lands in Londinium, things begin to go dangerously
wrong. Her party is not met by her husband or any representatives
of Rome and are harassed and attacked by the locals. Just in time,
however, they are saved by Galba. And repeatedly on their journey
from the city northward to the wall, Valeria is put in harm's way
only to be saved by Galba.

After the disappointing wedding ceremony and wedding night, things
get even worse for Valeria and Savia. After just a short time
living at the wall, they are kidnapped by Arden Caratacus and taken
to live among his tribe. There, Valeria learns the language and
ways of the natives and comes to appreciate their spirit and
culture, even participating in one of their most sacred religious
rites. Still, she is called by her duty as a Roman wife to escape
and return to her husband and own culture. The only thing in her
way is her comfort among her kidnappers and her growing affection
for Arden. When she learns that Galba is playing a dangerous and
violent game setting the Celts and the Romans against each other so
that he may take command from Marcus, she acts to save lives,
risking her own and her place in both cultures.

After a fierce battle between the two sides at the wall and
Valeria's second disappearance, Inspector Draco is brought in from
Rome to determine the role that Galba and Arden played and where
Valeria has gone. Draco interviews those who met Valeria in
Britannia before and after her kidnapping, including Savia, who is
now in a Roman prison. Even as he struggles to put the pieces
together, Draco finds himself pulled into the drama, as curious as
Valeria about the freedoms of the Celts and as duty bound as the
Roman officials and soldiers who are willing to die to defend
Rome's borders.

Dietrich's novel is dramatic and engaging, if not quite
historically accurate or wholly unique. Valeria and Arden are
spirited and romantic protagonists and each is realistically
conflicted over issues of duty, love and culture. Valeria is a
frustrating character, often making bad or dangerous decisions, but
then again she is a young woman, sheltered her whole life from the
darker realities of the Roman Empire. Arden is interesting in that
he, and not any other character, has lived in both worlds and has
an understanding of both sides in this cultural conflict. In Galba,
Dietrich has created a brutal villain, whose lust for power
overtakes even the duty to Rome he thinks he is upholding. Each
character, including the Christian slave Savia, the Druid priest
and even Inspector Draco plays a bit of a stereotypical part, never
quite acting in unexpected or surprising ways. Still, the novel is
romantic and full of adventure, making it more of an entertaining
read than an edifying one.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 22, 2011

Hadrian's Wall
by William Dietrich

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • ISBN-10: 0060563710
  • ISBN-13: 9780060563714