5 ⭐️ Review: Hammer

Cathie Dunn – Aauthor of historical fiction

I must admit I’m not overly familiar with the period of the Roman invasion of the British Isles (other than through Nancy Jardine’s fabulous novels), and even less so with the politics of the regional tribes across the isles, but you don’t need much knowledge of it in order to understand the intriguing plot of Hammer

We meet Genonn, an ageing druid who wishes for nothing more complicated than retire to the Cuala Mountains (modern day Wicklow – a stunning area!) to live out the rest of his days in peace. But first, he has to track down a warrior, Oengus, accused of killing a clan chief’s two sons 10 years earlier. When he finds him, he discovers that Oengus carries with him the Hammer of the Gods, Lorg Mór, stolen when the boys were killed. Was it proof of Oengus’ guilt?

After a decade of absence, the men return to meet the Elders who are now led by the former wife of Genonn, the mother of his daughter, Cliodhna. The Elders send him to the tribes of what is now south-eastern England to deliver Lorg Mór to Boudica, to help them to victory – and to suss out what these Romans are up to.

Along the way, we have murder, with dangers lurking everywhere as tribes and enemies mistrust each other. We watch Boudica’s triumphs before her final battle, Roman advances, personal betrayal, and – lastly – Genonn’s revenge. 

Told from the points of view of Genonn, and the Roman Agricola, we discover different sides of the conflict that erased many of the ancient British tribes, killing or assimilating them. Not only that, but the ancient ways of life are threatened. 

Hammer is a story full of tension. The pace is a little slow to start with, but picks up soon enough when it sends us on our way. Unexpected twists, changes in loyalty, and a few surprises make this a riveting read. You’ll find intrigues galore, and not just political. Personal vendettas, infiltration, and deception keep you turning the (virtual) pages. 

The characters are clearly defined in their roles, but are often able to look outside their own world to see how the advance of the Roman armies change life in the British Isles beyond any recognition. It is also a time of change in religions, with the old Celtic Gods succumbing to the threat of the Roman Gods – and, in addition, the new movement surrounding the so-called Son of the One True God. A melting pot of trouble!

A gripping adventure, very well researched and written, Hammer is a must-read for fans of historical fiction set in ancient times. Highly recommended.

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