by P. C. Darkcliff
Celts and the Mad Goddess whisks the reader away to Celtic Bohemia in 14AD; a land peopled by Warriors, Ogres, Fair (and Foul) Maidens, Druidesses and a touch of fantasy. The story opens with eccentric yet beautiful Rawena, day-dreaming of Garux, the boy she loves. But, Garux loves her sister, Arvasia, and to make things worse, Rawena is about to come face to face with Pandemia, the rat-goddess who desperately needs a friend…
Historical fantasy is not a genre I normally read but I really enjoyed Celts and the Mad Goddess. It’s intelligently written, cleverly plotted and very amusing in places. There are three strands to the narrative. The first is Rawena’s unrequited love for Garux. This is sensitively handled and poignant throughout. It also forms the bedrock of the novel and its consequences lead to the apocalyptic situation in which Pandemia places Rawena, which is the second strand. The third is good old Celtic fighting against various invaders but part of that also has its roots with Rawena’s rage against Garux and Arvasia. The reader is completely immersed in the Celtic world with all its visceral filth. It’s incredibly atmospheric, authentic and deceptively detailed. The mythical element works strongly and could have been utilised even more.
Rawena is an intriguing character, although at the novel progresses, it is sometimes hard to pin down exactly on whose side she is but then I don’t think she knows; she hovers between right and wrong and, personally, I would have liked more definition in her development. Pandemia, the rat-goddess, is brilliantly, repulsively realised and written with such dimension that you felt sympathy for her and an uncomfortable sense of pathos emanating from her. She is humorous yet provides some thought-provoking wisdom pearls (especially in light of Covid and I though the nod to the Pandemic with her moniker was wryly astute). All of the characters are individually and deftly drawn. I felt compassion for Ortaver and some of the minor characters are hilarious, mired in their own moral and physical grime. Garux and Arvasia are strongly developed and well-placed to carry this series forward with Seneusia equally refined and possibly lined up to take the place of Agira, the Druidess.
Celts and the Mad Goddess has been written with a lot of depth and sustainability for the series which is refreshing. Some books of this genre are written for the author rather than reader and can, consequently be indulgent with unpronounceable names, flimsy plotting and completely over the top fantasy thematics – it still has to be credible even if it’s fantasy. P.C. Darkcliff has primarily considered the reader in this novel, maintaining integrity and believability, whilst also having a lot of imaginative fun as a writer. At times, there was a lot thrown in the narrative mix; it could have been a touch more concise but notwithstanding this is a faultlessly edited, well-crafted and engrossing historical fantasy. Highly recommended.