Friday, November 27, 2009

Ursula's Maiden Army by Philip Griffin

Ursula's Maiden Army cover

Ursula's Maiden Army
by Philip Griffin

Trade Paperback: 287 pages
Publisher: Beagle Bay Books
First Released: 2006

Source: Review copy from the publisher

Book Description from Publisher Website:
Britannic Princess Ursula hatches a bold scheme when the men of her country go to defend the crumbling Roman Empire—that an army of women can defend their island home! She and her friends Pinnosa, Brittola, Cordula, Martha and Saula, create an all-female force who successfully defend their homeland from the Picts, Hibernians and Saxons.

When the Britannic men don’t return from the Continent because they are embroiled in the disaster that becomes the fall of Rome, Ursula comes up with an even more audacious plan—the army of women shall go to Germania for a Grand Wedding of the Forces. Alas, her objective quickly goes awry when weather, politics and war keep the armies apart—and thrust Ursula and her 11,000 maiden army directly into battle with the Huns! Ursula’s Maiden Army will enthrall readers with it’s tale of adventure, bravery and the determination of its heroine.

Ursula’s Maiden Army is based on the legend (and scant truth) of Saint Ursula, the fifth century martyr of Cologne, Germany.

Ursula's Maiden Army had an interesting plot with plenty of excitement and action and a bit of romance. The pacing was fairly good. However, I felt like most of the characters and setting descriptions lacked depth. Except for Pinnosa, Ursula, and Brittola, who had some unique personality traits, the characters tended to blend together due to their similarity.

While some things were described in detail, often the author used such general descriptive words that I couldn't easily visualize the object or setting. For example, the characters look "upon the villa's entrance" and I'm thinking "is he referring to a door? a gate? an arch?" The author also didn't seem very familiar with horses, ships, individual fighting, and the everyday details of armies. Some of these details weren't realistic (like women who'd never been on a galley being instant experts at working the oars in tandem and completely running the ship).

The characters followed Christianity mixed with Roman god worship (which was one of the nice tensions in the story). While this wasn't marketed as a Christian book, they did refer to God and sing praise songs to God. There was a character who tended to get preachy. The other characters considered her their moral compass, but, because she lacked depth, she sometimes came across to me as judgmental and a hypocrite.

There was no explicit sex. There was a minimal amount of British bad language. There was a minimal amount of graphic gore. Overall, I'd rate this novel as interesting, fairly clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
The relentless crunch, crunch, crunch of the soldiers' feet as they marched through the city and past the Palace was so strong it shook the small, traditional figurines of the house gods--the lares--in the corner of the ladies' chamber on the upper floor. One of the old, domestic deities toppled over and leaned awkwardly against the side of the shrine. The thunderous marching, shrill horns, blaring trumpets, rata-tat-tat of drums and roar of the crowd forced the young women in the room to shout at the tops of their voices in order to be heard.

Martha and Saula, who were right beside the balcony, had to cup their hands to each other's ears and bellow to be heard. They were trying to see out without being spotted by the people below. Being lean and willowy with long, loose straight hair, they looked like a pair of long-necked herons peering out of reeds.

Cordula, her brown locks pulled back and braided into a waist-length ponytail, stood alone on the other side of the window. She knew she wouldn't be the first to see the highlight of the parade--the approach of the Commanders. But it gave her a clear view of the Londinium Road as it traversed the small rise outside the city gate. That way, she would be the first to see her darling Morgan on his black horse, Hermes, should they appear.

1 comment:

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