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The Warrior's Princess [Hardcover]

Barbara Erskine
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 2008

The powerful new timeslip novel from the worldwide bestselling author of Lady in Hay, in which the fate of a young woman becomes entwined with the extraordinary history of a Celtic princess.

Jess, a young teacher in London, is attacked by someone she fears knows her well. Fleeing to her sister’s house in the Welsh borders to recuperate, she is disturbed by the cries of a mysterious child.

Two thousand years before, the same valley is the site of a great battle between Caratacus, king of the mighty Catuvellauni tribe, and the invading Romans. The proud king is captured and taken as a prisoner to Rome with his wife and daughter, the princess Eigon.

Jess is inexorably drawn to investigate Eigon’s story, and as the Welsh cottage is no longer a peaceful sanctuary she determines to visit Rome. There lie the connections that will reveal Eigon’s astonishing life - and which threaten to reawaken Jess’s own tormentor.

Barbara Erskine’s ability to weave together the past and the present, shedding light on a real but little-known figure, makes this a tremendous novel of Roman and Celtic history, passion and intrigue.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; First Edition - 1st Printing edition (1 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007174284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007174287
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.2 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 362,152 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A historian by training, Barbara Erskine is the author of many bestselling novels that demonstrate her interest in both history and the supernatural, plus three collections of short stories. Her books have appeared in at least twenty-six languages. Her first novel, Lady of Hay, has sold over two million copies worldwide. She lives with her family in an ancient manor house near Colchester and in a cottage near Hay-on-Wye.

Photograph © Karolina Webb

Product Description


‘A riveting timeslip novel’ Fanny Blake

‘Her forte is mood, atmosphere and the toe-curling frisson’ Elizabeth Buchan, Sunday Times

‘Stephen King meets Ruth Rendell’ Frank Delaney

‘Barbara Erskine’s storytelling talent is undeniable’ The Times

From the Author

I first came across Eigon, the historical heroine of The Warrior's Princess, when my father bought a cottage in the parish of Llanigon some forty years ago. Who, we wanted to know, or what, was Eigon? The church guidebook answered our question. But only sort of. There are two theories. Either he was a bishop or she was the daughter of the great Welsh hero, Caratacus. Obviously I preferred the second option.
But then came the $64,000 question. If Caratacus had a daughter called Eigon and if she was taken to Rome as a captive as history records, how would she have ended up as the patron saint of an ancient church in the Welsh borders, 300 years before the official conversion of Britain to Christianity? This was the question which inspired this book. My curiosity was further piqued by a splendidly framed engraving of Fuseli's painting of Caractacus at the Tribunal of Claudius at Rome, which has hung for years in the hall outside my study. In the picture Caratacus is portrayed as the noble warrior, his fists clenched in iron manacles, his moustaches to the fore, his brow steely. His daughter and his wife and even the Empress Agrippina are depicted as respectively, wilting, fainting, theatrical and buxom. The picture is I have to admit not really to my taste, but for us it is doubly interesting, firstly for its depiction of Eigon and the obviously dramatic story it tells and secondly, because the engraver was my great, great, great grandfather, Andrew Birrell. I had to find out more.
Caratacus, the warrior king and opposer of the invading Romans was the son of Cunobelinus (or Cymbeline), king of the Catuvellauni. We know a great deal about his opposition to Rome, his battles, his defeat. We know he was taken with his family to Rome, made the famous speech to the Emperor as they stood facing an almost certainly horrific death and won the Emperor's approbation by the brilliance of his address, whereupon he was pardoned.
This much is described by the Roman historians, principally Tacitus. There is however another Caratacus, or Caractacus, or Caradoc. Here he is a legendary and mythic hero, the father of many children, the descendant of gods and from the novelist's point of view it is the many gaps and inconsistencies in all the information and misinformation that have come down to us about this period that are interesting. Here we are at the cusp between history and legend and it is from this mixture that I have teased out the single thread of my story.
I asked myself: how and why could Caratacus just disappear from history? Where did he live in Rome? Why did he not immediately plan to return to Britannia to continue his fight? Surely so great a hero cannot have been seduced by a Roman retirement plan. The only reasonable explanation was that he died. If so, what happened to the daughter who was taken with him to Rome?
To call Eigon herself shadowy is an understatement; what we know of her is full of inconsistency. `Caratacus's daughter' disappears from history after the great set piece speech in Rome. But then we have her mysterious reappearance as a saint in the foothills of the Black Mountains.
So, if Eigon existed at all, was she as she is depicted by Elgar in his cantata Caractacus, where she is old enough to have a lover, and in the painting by Fuseli, where she is a full-grown woman at the time of her capture? Or was she a child? The latter would, I thought, make more sense as she was still with her mother on campaign.
Then I wondered where Christianity came in and that at least was obvious. The Rome to which Caratacus and his family were taken was the Rome of St Peter and St Paul; if they survived they would have been there at the time of the Great Fire of Rome and the Christian persecutions under Nero and they would almost certainly have met up with Pomponia Graecina while there; her arrest and the charge that she was following a foreign religion is recorded, again by Tacitus. Some say she had been influenced by Druidry during her time in Britannia; some by the new Christianity. I have covered my options by making her interested in both.
It seemed to me a good guess that Eigon eventually returned to the country of her birth and, if she is remembered here as a saint, then she must have returned as a Christian. In the early Celtic church the term saint meant someone who served God and lived a holy life. The Llan in Llanigon (still spelt Llaneigon in Victorian times) did not imply that this ancient place was originally a parish or even a church. Llan came to mean both those things in later Welsh but in the original meaning the term referred to a small religious community or centre, focused around a particular spiritual person, which would fit in with it being the place where Eigon chose to settle down. She was actually there. In person.
Thus from very slender threads I have woven her story. I can't claim it to be history but I feel I have given a good guess.
That leaves me with one last mystery which Caratacus has bequeathed us. Where did that last great battle take place? It seems strange, but no one knows for sure. There are many places which claim to be its site. In the end I invented one of my own. My Valley of Ravens does not exist as such! If you are interested in finding out more about some of the possible locations for the battle please look at my website ( where I have listed some of them and posted some of my own photographs.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely gripping story 8 July 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was hooked from the very first page. The tension builds until you almost can't bear to read any more. I had to read it in small chunks until I got to the last 150 pages - when I couldn't bear to put it down until I knew what happened. Jess goes through a traumatic time in her own life and finds herself haunted by Eigon - a princess from Romano Britain - when she escapes from her problems to stay at her sister's Welsh farmhouse. Her pursuit of the truth about Eigon leads her into danger and also to Rome where her sister is staying with a friend. Jess starts to see friends and enemies in a new light. Can she uncover the truth about the present as well as the past? If you like 'Lady of Hay' you will love this. It is Barbara Erskine on top form.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Celtic Connundrum 27 Aug 2008
I have read all of Erskines previous books so eagerly await any new offering.
Only trouble is she is so formulaic, its the same novel plot over and over again.I wish for once she would come out of her comfort zone and surprise me.
Good points , learning about Celtic Britain and Roman Times with a mix of early Christianity thrown in.
Bad points, plot all over the place.Characters very annoying and having read so many of her works i sadly guessed most of what was going to happen.The ending after nearly 500 pages was weak.
Ive given it 4 stars because she is a good story teller but Barbara stretch yourself next time and come up with a different plot for once.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Just awful, I'm afraid 15 May 2009
It starts off promisingly, with the initial shocking scene and the flight to Wales, but by page 200, with Jess dripping unconvincingly around Rome with the bogeyman lurking in the shadows, the clairvoyant predicting doom and destruction, the all-too-obvious Future Husband brooding in the background and the fictional 1C Welsh princess racketing between Wales, Rome and back again, I just couldn't be bothered any more. The characters don't convince, the plot, such as it is, bored me and I decided life was too short. So I skimmed to the end and was glad I hadn't wasted any more time. BE used to be a good way of spending a few evenings. Don't bother with this one.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Really sorry to be negative 25 July 2008
For the first time ever, I have been unable to finish a Barbara Erskine. I'm a fan of her work, read all her books, buy them in hardback on the day of release, normally have them in pre-order with Amazon for months in advance. A month down the line, I've not finished this book and this morning I've taken the bookmark out and I've given up. I simply don't care what happens. I've no interest in the characters, found them incredibly annoying and can't relate to them at all. I'm gutted. I'm giving it a 3 just in case it's my own tastes that have changed. I will be buying her next one, after all, her last one, I read in 2 days flat, this one, it's been a hard slog and I've not reached the finish line. Sorry!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A battle to get through it...? 5 May 2010
I have really enjoyed reading Barbara Erskine and thought her earlier novels; Lady of Hay, Child of the Phoenix, Kingdom of Shadows, Midnight is a Lonely Place and House of Echoes were all really very good indeed - interesting, original, atmospheric and great stories. I have felt that the later books - Whispers in the Sand, On the Edge of Darkness, Daughters of Fire and Hiding from the Light are somewhat weaker, and The Warrior's Princess is possibly the weakest so far.

I think the stories - both the past and present - in the earlier books were so much stronger that that connection between past and present was more believable and much more convincing. The biggest criticism I have for this book is the 'present' section of the story is not only weak, but the central character Jess seems to do nothing but simply fall asleep and thus allow the story of Eigon to take precedence. At least in earlier books, the central character was either ill or exhausted or deliberately trying to make a contact. We just went from one bedroom to another and it all became a little tedious. The supposed villian Titus was despatched quickly and easily in his reality, and in the present, his "ghost" and that of Glads simply went away because they were told to!

I suppose it must be difficult for an author to come up with a slightly different angle to an amazingly successful format and formula, but I have a feeling that if more books are forthcoming in this vein, they may become a little stale and repetitious; after all, how many of her books up to now have been about characters re-living their pasts through modern day people?

Still, she is a good writer and the concept is a good one, but the reality is that these last few books and especially this one, just don't compare with her earlier writing, which is a shame. It's like Bjorn Borg making a comeback at Wimbledon and crashing out in the early rounds; perhaps we should remember these people at the top of their game.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing 20 Jun 2009
I usually love timeslip novels like this. A first-century Celtic princess's life parallels that of a modern-day woman, who escapes to Wales to avoid someone who attacked her in London. Later Jess, the modern-day woman, goes to Rome, partly to escape her attacker (who followed her to Wales), partly to research Eigon's story. I thought I couldn't go completely wrong with a premise like this. The premise is good, but the execution of the book falls far short of my expectations

I enjoyed the historical part of the novel, but it took me a while (about 300 pages) to get in to Jess's story in the present day. You really have to suspend your sense of disbelief at this book, peppered as it is with too many coincidences and deus ex machinas to save the day to count. It's lazy writing, in my opinion. And although Erskine conveys Jess's sense of panic at being stalked really well, through the first 200 pages or so, I found myself thinking, "OK, I get it now, can we move on to the more interesting parts of the story?" Some of the supporting characters were also a bit confusing; at times, Jess's friends seemed to believe her story, but at others, not.

In addition, the dialogue in the modern-day story is a bit stilted; native English speakers I know of use contractions while speaking, and they don't use the passive tense (as in this sentence: "you are looking at me as if I am mad"). I noticed that often, the author would use the same phrases and descriptions over and over again (a number of the characters wear open-necked shirts, and in a couple of scenes, Jess kicks off her sandals--in the middle of sidewalks in Rome in the middle of summer, in order to relax her feet.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars warriors princess
have not read this book yet .but i have had no problems with downloading books from amazon in the past i don't think this will be any different pleased with their service .
Published 1 month ago by paul lane
5.0 out of 5 stars The Warriors's Princess
Loved this book, could not read it fast enough, a good story and a good read. I would highly recommend this book.
Published 4 months ago by Rosemary Hollis
5.0 out of 5 stars Barbara Erskine at her best!
I love anything written by Barbara Erskine and this is one of the best I've read. Full of the usual mixture of historical background then back to the current time and both eras... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Vanessa Bergman
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant read
I read her books in the wrong order, but still enjoyed them and could not put them down. looking forward to reading more just have to find the time.
Published 5 months ago by Wookey1
5.0 out of 5 stars To good to miss
This is the first book I have read in 5 years, what a great read. I have read Barbara Erskine before and her story telling never fails to keep me enthralled. Absolutely brilliant.
Published 7 months ago by churchillian
5.0 out of 5 stars She delivers in every book!
I have come to expect exceptional work, from this author and she never let's me down. I know they all have the same type of theme, but the way the stories are intertwined keeps... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Dave DIY
5.0 out of 5 stars Midnight is a lonely place
I love barbara erskine's books, this one is gripping I couldn't put it down, the history part of this book feels very real. Read more
Published 8 months ago by sheila blackburn
1.0 out of 5 stars awful, silly nonsence
Well, I have always finished every book I have started, just to find out what happens next.But I stopped reading this and deleted it from the kindle- such a lot of muddled silly... Read more
Published 8 months ago by greenfingers
5.0 out of 5 stars barbara erskine
I love barbara erskine. From the first time I read Lady of Hay I was hooked. She is amazing the way she goes between past and present. Love this book to bits.
Published 11 months ago by Shirley
1.0 out of 5 stars Totally unconvincing
This started well and I was drawn into the dual plot but then the whole thing became totally unconvincing.Too many holes. Read more
Published 11 months ago by T. Ball
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