Iron Age warriors Dug and Lowa captured Maidun castle and freed its slaves. But now they have conquered it, they must defend it.
A Roman invasion is coming from Gaul, but rather than uniting to protect their home, the British tribes battle each other – and see Maidun as an easy target.
Meanwhile, Lowa’s spies infiltrate Gaul, discovering the Romans have recruited bloodthirsty British druids, and Maidunite Ragnall finds his loyalties torn when he meets Rome’s charismatic general, Julius Caesar.
War is coming. Who will pay its price?
I adored Age of Iron, the first book in this series and was waiting eagerly for this second book to be released. I sometimes have worries about whether a sequel will live up to the first one, but I think because of Watson’s irreverent style of writing, I didn’t worry about this book and I was very happy to be proved right on that score.
Clash of Iron turns a few things we thought about certain characters from the first book on its head. The most notable are Ragnall who takes self-absorption to a new level and becomes one of the enemy, even if it was by accident and a sense of his own self-importance. The other characters are from the original 50. Chamanca, who I now think kicks ass in a slightly icky way but she has undeniably won me over; Atlas who is just solid, likeable and is as loyal to Lowa as he was to Zadar; and Carden who can find the humour in any situation. Those three are just awesome.
Lowa and Spring have grown beyond their experiences in the first book with Lowa learning to be the Queen of Maidun and to not repeat the mistakes Zadar made, while Spring is learning to be the best she can be and looks up to Dug and Lowa. I keenly felt her frustration with her magic and not being able to understand how it worked, especially when it came to people she cared about.
Dug, thankfully, is just Dug! Still badger profanity obsessed, solid, dependable but now just wants a quiet life. I kept rooting for him and Lowa to reconcile as they so clearly wanted to be together but battles, events and timings meant it proved difficult. I was surprised he managed to keep out of it for as long as he did but I do admit cheering when he entered the fray.
For the bad guys, they are too many to mention in this but oh my goodness, some of them are horrible. Methods of torture for amusement or questioning is never going to be pretty but the author managed to get pretty damn inventive here. He also managed to make some of it macabrely amusing. King Hari the Fister’s trials come to mind there (you will know what I mean when you get there!).
I loved the way Caesar is portrayed, perhaps slightly out of convention with history but it worked very well for me. His famed journal being an account of what he wanted to show he did rather than being what he actually did and his penchant for referring to himself in the third person was brilliant.
Felix, ahhh, Felix. You were a surprise and I could quite happily see you go through every one of the torture methods mentioned and not shed a tear. I really hope you get your comeuppance!
Characters aside, the story is well crafted with Watson’s own take on that period of history and it flows well and kept me reading. Betrayals, heroism, horror, despair and gory battles are all ingredients for a decent fantasy novel but Angus Watson’s talent for writing those with realism and humour amidst it all is what raises this series from decent to fantastic.
Bonus points for the inclusion of a few famous Gauls. I utterly, utterly loved that!
Bonus points taken away for making me cry at the end!
Overall this was a brilliant, exciting and engaging second book and I can’t wait for the third now, to see if some things are permanent and if so, how the remaining characters will give Felix and Caesar the punishment they so richly deserve!