Thursday, 6 November 2014

Anna Reviews: After Whorl: Bran Reborn by Nancy Jardine

After Whorl: Bran Reborn (Book II in the Celtic Fervour series) by Nancy Jardine
Reviewed by Anna Belfrage

We are so grateful that the author is generously giving away ebook copies of the whole series - books I, II and III. Please see details for the giveaway at the bottom of this page.

I suppose all of us have seen those rather devastating pictures of the German tanks mowing down the Polish cavalry at the beginning of the Second World War. Superior technology and superior discipline met passion and courage and left a trail of carnage behind. In Ms. Jardine’s book, it is the Brigantes – a British tribe – that represent the Polish cavalry, facing up to what must have been the most impressive military force of their times, the Roman Legions.

When the legionaries clash with the brave British warriors they, just like those German tanks, cut a swathe through the proud Brigantian fighters, leaving very many dead and just as many badly wounded. One of the wounded is Brennus, a young man who figures on the fringes of Ms. Jardine’s previous novel, The Beltane Choice (which, by the way, I can most warmly recommend).

Brennus returns to life permanently damaged and disfigured. The former champion of his tribe is reduced to a man who has little purpose in life – apart from wanting to make the Romans pay. To mark his new inferior status, Brennus renames himself Bran, a man with no past and little interest in his future. Fortunately for Bran – and the reader – some of his grim outlook on life is affected by the young female firebrand Ineda, a Brigante just like him, as devoted to making the Romans pay as he is.

Where Bran is introspection and bitterness, Ineda is passion and hope, an unquenchable force who refuses to believe the Romans can’t be beaten. Bran is somewhat more sanguine – and besides, what use is he in a battle? – but Ineda’s enthusiasm is very contagious, and soon Bran starts to see that he can fill a purpose in the ongoing fighting between his people and the hated invaders. Bran may no longer be able to fight, but his crippled exterior makes him more or less invisible to the Romans, thereby making him a most valuable spy.

Further to the “political” aspects of her novel, Ms. Jardine also gives us a budding romance between the damaged Bran – who, in his own opinion, has little to offer Ineda – and the inexperienced Ineda, too young to understand Bran’s reticence. She is hurt, he is hurt, and things don’t at all develop as they should, causing as much frustration for Bran as for Ineda. But when at last things start to improve, calamity strikes – again.

After Whorl: Bran Reborn is mostly told through the point of view of Bran and Ineda, but in the latter part of the book Ms. Jardine also gives voice to one of the Roman oppressors. I found this expansion in point of view to further deepen the reading experience, and even more so as the Roman in question is far from a brute. Tribune Valerius has his own baggage, his own issues, and while he is not necessarily a compassionate man, neither is he cruel or heartless.

In general, Ms. Jardine writes a flowing prose with strong dialogue and vivid descriptions, transporting the reader to a time when most of present day northern England was covered in woods, when sun filtered through overhead canopies of leaves to dapple the ground below in splotches of sun.
Add to Ms. Jardine’s writing skills her impressive historical knowledge and you have a most satisfying historical read, where facts and actual historical people take on shape and sound – two thousand years later. Thanks to Ms. Jardine, I now have a very clear idea as to how a Brigantine might have dressed and how his home would have looked – and I’m not entirely adverse to spending some more time in one of those huts, and why not in Ms. Jardine’s next book?

The only little gripe I have is the inconclusive ending, which leaves the Bran/Ineda situation pretty much up in the air. Somewhat frustrating – at least for this reader who cant wait to read the next part in the series!

About the author:  Nancy Jardine lives in her native Scotland where she divides her time between her grandchildren, her garden and her writing. Other than the books in the Celtic Fervour series (of which After Whorl is the second) she also writes contemporary mysteries. She admits to having a tendency to lose track of time when playing with her grandchildren, is an active blogger and also finds time to read, review and generally support other authors.

For more information about Ms. Jardine, why not visit her blog

After Whorl: Bran Reborn is available on Amazon and Amazon UK.


Anna Belfrage is the author of six published books, all part of The Graham Saga. Set in the 17th century, the books tell the story of Matthew Graham and his time-travelling wife, Alex Lind. Anna can be found on Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and on her website. If you would like Anna to review your book, please see our submissions tab above.

If you're interested in the giveaways, that's books I, II and III of Nancy Jardine's Celtic Fervour books, it's simple; all you have to do is leave a comment here on the blog or on this review's associated Facebook thread! Good luck! May the Fervour be with you!


  1. Anna, as usual you've penned a lovely review and I would love to win this series! I've actually read the first, and will agree with you all the way: it was brilliant. TBR, here we come!!!!

  2. I love the modern day analogy, that Anna makes, to introduce us to the series.This sounds like a very interesting series from an author, who is new to me.Thank you for the giveaway.

  3. This series sounds right up my street and is reminiscent of Rosemary Sutcliff, that fantastic writer that introduced me to historical novels. I'd love to win a copy of these books.
    And thank you Anna for this fabulous review! The WWII analogy you use is spot on.

  4. Lovely review Anna, sounds like a brilliant read. Definitely a series for my TBR list.

  5. I can only concur with all who have commented before me, it sounds a truly brilliant read. It's now on my TBR list.

  6. This sounds like a wonderful series and I would love to win it!