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Beric the Briton

by G. A. Henty
398 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by Jenny

A masterful tale of the Roman invasion of Britain with excellent morals.

Plot

Amidst the Iceni queen Boudicea’s rebellion is young Beric, raised as a hostage among the Romans and well-learned in their ways. With his knowledge of Roman warfare he manages to shape his haphazard people into something of an organized fighting force. But through betrayal and the sheer power of the Roman army, Beric is captured and taken to Rome, there to become a gladiator and a favorite of Nero himself. But his studies serve him well, and he gambles against the odds to free his fellow slaves and bring them to good standing in the eyes of Rome.

Morality

The characters are shown in a human light, neither as good as they could be, nor usually as bad. No one is perfect, but evil is never condoned. Beric himself is a very upright young man and holds to a rigid code of morality throughout the story.

Spiritual Content

There is the veneration of Celtic and Roman gods, but the ‘learned’ in Rome no longer believe in the deities.

Several characters discuss the tenants of Christianity in a favourable light, and it dictates the actions of several key players in the story.

Violence

There is plenty of violence throughout the book since Beric’s chief task is that of a sort of war-chief and a gladiator. None of it is described graphically, though with Henty’s skill he describes it masterfully.

Drug and Alcohol Content

There are instances of drinking among the tribes and drunkenness in the emperor’s house. The main character is never drunk. Poisons are used.

Sexual Content

There are mentions of sexual activity in the emperor’s house, but this is not described in detail. Beric is betrothed to a girl, but both of them are chaste. Before the rebellion, to rouse the sympathy of her people, Boudicea lowers her dress to show the scourge-marks on her back.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Nero is portrayed is a willful, self-centered man whose comments to others can be colorful and uncouth. Handled by Henty, none of this is written in a stomach-turning way.

Conclusion

Henty is a masterful story-teller, capable of bringing history to life in the eyes of his fictional characters. In this book he made most vivid the landscapes, the cultures, the very times through which Beric walked. This is a book any lover of Roman history will enjoy, girl and boy alike.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: 13+

Review Rating:

Average rating: 3 stars
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