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Daughter of Albion: A Novel of Ancient Britain    by Ilka Tampke order for
Daughter of Albion
by Ilka Tampke
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Ilka Tampke's Daughter of Albion is a historical novel set in Caer Cad in southwest Britain before the Roman landing in AD 43 under Emperor Claudius. An Author's Note at the back of the book tells us that Caer Cad is Cadbury Castle, an ancient hillfort in Somerset. Those Tampke calls journeypeople are druids, and an element of fantasy creeps into the novel through their beliefs and actions.

Our young heroine Ailia is somewhat of an outcast. Abandoned as a baby on the doorstep of the Tribequeen's kitchen, she was taken in and raised by Cookmother, within the Durotriga tribe but never fully part of it. The fact that her parentage is unknown means that she is half-born, unskinned. As such she is denied learning and cannot marry. A strangemaid, Heka, arrives at Caer Cad and is consistently hostile to Ailia - why?

Ailia attracts the attention of noble born Ruther who had been sent to Rome 'to learn their soldier's craft'. He saw greatness in Rome and believes their rule over Britain inevitable. They become lovers, though they see the world very differently. Like the Tribequeen, Ailia believes in the old ways, but the tribe's defense against Rome needs a Kendra, the voice of the Mothers, and Albion has been without one for decades.

On an errand by the river Cam, near the Oldforest, Ailia encounters Taliesin, in the water, a large iron fishhook pierced through his lower lip. She cuts it out and treats the wound. Afterwards, he disappears 'like the mist from the sunshine.' They meet again and he teaches her many things. He is bound to the Mothers' realm. Ailia makes her own way there, is trained by Tara herself, and earns a special sword.

Then war erupts and an unskinned Kendra blesses a battle, which ends in massacre. But Ailia fights on - and, luckily for readers, the author is working on the sequel to her story. I look forward to it!

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