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on 23 June 2009
Warrior Daughter has a strong, brave heroine and is powerfully written by an author who pulls no punches when it comes to taking the reader to the heart of the action.

It is the story of the child Skaaha's journey to womanhood on an Iron Age Scottish island. Her life, and that of her sister Eefay, changes dramatically when their mother, a warrior queen, dies in a chariot race. They are sent to new communities, separately, distancing them from the unpopular new queen, Mara. Skaaha goes to the father she never knew, to train as a blacksmith, but continues the warrior type exercises she practiced previously. Aged 11, she has many challenges to face, culminating in a personal crisis some years later, which takes her to the edge of insanity. Aware now that some-one wants her dead, Skaaha does intensive warrior training in order to challenge her adversary, determined to fight to the death.

Warrior Daughter contains a rare insight into a first century society, based on the island we now know as Skye. Showing us a culture very different from our own, we discover that the leading is done by women and of course the warriors are of both sexes. This does not mean the men are powerless wimps - far from it. Both genders have important roles and we meet many interesting characters in the novel. Two of my personal favourites are the gorgeous Druid Priest, Ruan, and Jiya, Skaaha's aunt, who has mental problems. Also a warrior, she is loyal and funny.

The laws and ethics of living in such a community are enviably clear-cut, with helpful boundaries on one hand, and the sexual freedom and respect of women on the other. Of course, there are some who would break the rules, as in today's society. We are also given an insight into Druid beliefs and practices, including the four main festivals of a year. Into the background are threaded descriptions of clothing, jewellery and food. Sound, through the cries of birds, or the throb of a festival drum brings the reader right into the action.

Janet Paisley never shirks from graphic depictions when it comes to sex scenes, nor ones of violence. These are never gratuitous; rather they take the story forward, inviting the reader to experience them along with the characters. Such a scene, one of revenge, reveals exactly how a victim feels when they are being violated, one which I felt was particularly cleverly written. However, the novel is not without its share of humour, which is well handled, and well placed.

Equally powerful are the beautiful descriptions of early morning mists and landscapes, firelight story-telling gatherings, tender moments between characters and the sad aftermath of an infant's death, where raw emotions are expertly handled. The author has a great understanding of human nature and gives us people to believe in. To place them in the Iron Age is a feat in itself which demonstrates the extent of research done, confirmed in the author's note at the back.

Skaaha's earlier life is fiction, based on the Historical Sgathach, Iron Age Warrior, whose legend was recorded in the oral traditions of the time and later in the Ulster Cycle, written by medieval monks. It is a believable precursor to the woman of legend, and a superb story brilliantly told.
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on 10 January 2011
An interesting book with some severe weaknesses and some great strengths. The book deals with the adolescent life of a famous celtic warrior queen of the sland of Albion (Britain) called Skahha in the novel during the 1st Century AD.

Historically speaking it is very interesting how little the Romans are spoken of, just a couple of times, mainly through their artifacts such as swords and once by mentioning that they war with everyone. Its not like the tribes of Albion are exactly peace loving themselves. Throughout the book the original invasions of Caesar appear to be something that never made it to the far away island that Skahha inhabits being off the coast of Albion. The time must also be before the invasion of Britain in 43 AD by the Emperor Claudius since the young Cattimundia is very young. The invasion, I think, took place when she was somewhat older. One other thing which stands out in a strange way is the front picture which shows a young woman holding a Roman pilum. This makes little sense as these kinds of pila were designed to crumple upon impact on shileds and so are completely useless for anything other than a single spear cast. Such weapons which were as yet not present in Albion until the Roman invasion although may have become available through trade before the invasion. The news of the invasion of Albion would most definitely have travelled the length and breadth of Britain in a matter of days. No warrior would possess such a spear since a warrior would of course require stabbing spears with multiple uses.

One weakness of the book appears to be its one dimensionality in the sense that it does not appear to build up a good view of the surroundings and instead focuses on the people involved without really laying out the ambient surroundings. There is an attempt to include the presence of animals in a way which makes them more like spirits, this does not succeed. Instead, the books focuses very strongly on the Celtic matriarchies that existed within Celtic society and the presence of female warriors in a similar way to how they existed in Germanic tribes of same period. From the appendix at the back of the book the author appears to stress very heavily how such matriarchal societies functioned, e.g. men only spoke to a woman when spoken to, women married mltiple men but not the other way round, women could divorce men, only women formed the society of elders etc. I am not sure how much this may have been the case. Whether this is a reaction to the current patriarchal societies in the world, as first initiated in European iron age cultures through the influence of the Romans and later the Christianisation of Europe during the dark/middle ages, is a question for the author.

On the other hand the book is quite good at trying to portray the warrior society of the Celtic tribes and the violence which appears ever present. It also makes use of well known archeological evidence of bodies found in bogs. The book mostly stresses the friendships and occurrences in the life of Skahha such as her relationship to Ruan, the warrior priest and to Mara, her enemy. I also liked the way how rape was described as a dehumanisation of masculinity in general, for all other men in the society. This would work within a small village or a closeknit community.

A decent novel but no masterpiece.
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VINE VOICEon 25 April 2010
This is a most unusual book, set as it is in the first century. I'm not sure why I bought it as I prefer novels set either in the present day or the comparatively recent past but this has changed my mind. It was a superb read, tightly written and with a strong narrative drive. The characters are very well realised and Skaaha, the heroine of Warrior Daughter is someone who will stay in my mind for years to come. The novel is very well researched and Janet Paisley has done a great job in bringing the Iron Age to life. I can't imagine why it wasn't shortlisted for the new Walter Scott prize for historical fiction. I loved it and look forward to the next novel from Janet Paisley.
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on 24 June 2009
As reviewed by Pam Norfolk in the Lancashire Evening Post:
An exciting new novel from Janet Paisley is not so much an adventure story as an enthralling lesson in Iron Age social history ...
Far removed from the precious sensibilities of 21st century Britain, this tale of a Celtic warrior princess presents a young woman's rite of passage in an age when life was a raw fight for survival.
Sentiment played little part in a child's life ... our heroine Skahaa, daughter of the Isle of Skye's warrior queen, is lucky to have been raised by her birth mother ; most children were placed into the hands of selected foster mothers.
When 11-year-old Skahaa's mother dies in a chariot race, she must witness her gruesome `disposal' into the afterlife - an ancient ritual in which her body is devoured by carrion eagles in a feeding frenzy at High Sun.
But Skahaa's troubles are only just beginning; the new warrior queen Mara is hostile to the young girl and she is forced to forge a new life beyond the queen's reach.
With rumour, fear and danger sweeping the island, the fast maturing Skahaa cannot remain unmoved and must find the courage to confront her enemies in defence of her people.
The unfolding story of Skahaa is a unique and revealing account of a long forgotten world in which a daughter was `worth two boys, maybe more' and men spoke only when addressed by their women and were useful only for breeding purposes.
Skahaa's journey through life depends heavily on old certainties and rigidly observed ancient customs but there is also a touching recognition that their beliefs are not infallible.
`They are stories we use to explain the world, to help us understand ourselves. Every story has its own truth,' observes a wise druid priest.
Skahaa's world is basic and sometimes brutal but it still has those eternally human qualities that any young woman would recognise ... shared secrets with close friends, the banter, the giggles, the escapades with lusty young men.
Paisley's evocation of an ancient Celtic fiefdom is a marvellous marriage of imagination and scholarship ... a unique and inspiring story that goes far beyond the usual bounds of an historical novel.
Truly memorable!
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on 16 September 2012
Set at the latter end of the Iron Age in the first century of the Modern era, Warrior Daughter is about Kelts, the Keltoi - beautiful, artistic, poetic and ferocious, especially the women. These people are the progenitors of the Scotland we now know, or at least, once knew. Due to the fact they did not write their history, but related their stories through oral bardic traditions, much of our knowledge of the Kelts is taken from what some would call mythological sources (though notable Romans and Greeks did write about them). However, as a Scot who believes bardic tradition is a valid historical source, this story reads with plausibility and is populated by three-dimensional characters. But, then, obvious from her author's notes, Paisley has done much research into her characters and the place and time in which she sets the story. It is this, along with her excellent writing and story-telling abilities, that give this book its authenticity.

In the telling of the story Paisley provides a fascinating look into a society that while male and female were equal, women took the lead in the community. Women were warriors and in many cases taught men the art of war - and of love. Her main character, Skaaha, is based on the real but little known, Scáthach (her name means Shadowy One), who was a clever and fearsome Keltic warrior queen from the Isle of Skye - it is likely Scotland took its name from her. Skaaha has all the courage, skill and inventiveness of Scáthach, and her story highlights a society that understood the value of equality and respect for the feminine; the divine mother, but with some tension and conflict between old and new Druidic beliefs.

The story begins with the death of Kerrigan, the Queen, killed in a chariot race against a jealous rival. Her daughters, Skaaha and younger sister, Eefay, are sent to live with their respective fathers with that jealousy of their mother's rival stalking them through their young lives. It is against this background we follow the journey of 11 year-old Skaaha, as she grows into womanhood where she herself becomes queen at the age of 18. Her story is alive with great characters - none more so than Skaaha's half-crazed warrior aunt, Jiya - feasts and festivals marking the cycles of time and the seasons - and every child has two mothers as fostering, for many reasons, was important to the Kelts.

The backdrop to the story is Kylerhea and Glen Elg on the north west coast of Scotland, arguably, the most atmospheric, beautiful and dramatic scenery anywhere in the world. There is much nakedness, sex and violence in this book - mixed at times with no small measure of humour - but they are all important to the story as these were violent times, with tribal warring, piracy and roaming "outsiders". (The Romans had not yet invaded Britain at the time of the story, but were trading peacefully in the south and are only whispers in this story). In any event, female sexuality played a large part in Keltic belief and tradition and cannot be ignored. Nakedness and sex are nothing out of the ordinary in this society; they are norms. What is out of the ordinary is a brutal rape that takes place in the story, and if anyone is unsure just what sexual brutality is then Paisley will leave you in no doubt at all. It certainly shocked me, and I am no prude. It takes a skilled writer to write of such things and not make them gratuitous - these are not gratuitous.

Warrior Daughter is a Scottish story, but so too is it a story of the world, because at its heart it reminds us of something many modern cultures have forgotten - the importance of the "true" voice of women in our societies, and apart from being a great read, Paisley's Warrior Daughter provides a timely reminder of the importance and value of such things. Ultimately the Romans did invade Britain, and though they failed to defeat the women-led tribes of the north of Britain, their patriarchal legacy of 400 years of dominance on the south of the islands of Britain came to finally end the central role of women in Scottish society on 16 April 1746 at Culloden Moor.

Books are difficult to write at the best of times, but books such as this one are works of tall order, they take time, dedication and attention to detail. They provide great reward to the author on completion (not always monetary, it has to be said), and by default are also rewarding for the reader. Janet Paisley has written such a book; from the atmospheric first sentence to the chilling declaration that is the last, Warrior Daughter is a book that makes the ability to read a very worthwhile thing to have.
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on 12 January 2011
Deeply evocative writing style which engages all of the senses and makes the reader feel the landscape and the times. The period is dealt with in an unromantic way, giving a real feel for the struggles of life in a 1st century isolated community and totally drawing you in.

There are some very "gritty" moments which are written with realism but don't detract from the sensuality of the atmosphere. The heroine is strong and determined and personifies the likely heroine of such a matriarchal society.

I really could not put this book down and gladly give it my own book of the year status. Highly recommended!
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on 7 June 2009
Warrior Daughter tells the story of Skaaha, daughter of a warrior queen in Scotland during the Iron Age. After her mother's death, Skaaha and her sister Eefay are separated, to keep them safe from the new queen, Mara.

What struck me in this book was the use of the senses, most particularly sound. It's a sense which is present in other books, but not so vividly as this one. From the first to the last chapter, sound plays a large role in the rituals of Skaaha's people (through voice and drums) and nature (bird cries). Janet Paisley writes a vivid tale of the harsh, brutal life led by our distant ancestors. The pain, both physical and emotional that Skaaha's endures to reach a life where she can say she is secure and not needing to always watch her back will touch anyone who reads this.

For all the people who wish and inflict harm on Skaaha, there are those who love her dearly. One of her comforters as she undergoes the rites for women surprised me, and had me looking at the character in new ways. Mara, Skaaha's nemesis, is a woman I would never want to meet or clash swords with. Although, Jiya, Skaaha's friend - I wouldn't mind her as my protector!

The exercises performed by Skaaha and other warriors remind me of martial arts movements. Celts were a warrior nation, and its only natural they practiced their art form to stay in shape. The details of the rituals bring the Celtic world to life. The depth of research for this novel is clear in the author notes, which shed light on a lot of events within the book.

Content:a lot of detail, course language used here. All relationships are explored. Fertility rites etc. Language - also a lot. Violence - some brutal moments. Yet, considering the nature of the Celts, all this is appropriate for the topics broached here.
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on 29 June 2009
After reading Janet Paisley's White Rose Rebel I was eagerly awaiting her next novel. Warrior Daughter more than fulfilled my expectations. It's a fascinating, exciting story about Skaaha, a real woman who lived on the Isle of Skye during the Iron Age. Contrary to the custom of the time Skaaha and her younger sister Eefay were raised by their natural mother, the warrior queen Kerrigen.

Skaaha is 11 years old when her mother dies and the foundation of her life is ripped apart. With the new warrior queen hostile to them, the sisters have to leave all they are familiar with. Skaaha rejects Eefay's suggestion that they both live with her father and become warriors, choosing instead to go with her own father and become a blacksmith. Numerous difficulties follow but, accompanied by her aunt, Jiya, and guided by the druid, Ruan, she eventually settles in, makes friends and begins to build a new life. It is a life that will not remain peaceful and undisturbed for long.

Foreign raids begin to threaten the population, robbers invade homes, and on what should be a happy day, when she comes of age, Skaaha experiences a brutal attack, followed by the realisation that she has a hidden enemy. Her life changes again, and that drives the story, through several dramatic twists and turns, to its gripping finale.

Skaaha lived in a culture that is unfamiliar to us, during a period of religious change. Life was brutal but no more so than nowadays. Everyone had a contribution to make, people were valued, no one went hungry or homeless. Janet Paisley creates an authentic society, intelligently constructed from the limited information available. Her writing is thought-provoking, enthralling and emotive. Warrior Daughter is a superb novel by a highly original author. I can't wait for the follow-up.
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on 31 December 2010
I got this because I'd absolutely loved "White Rose Rebel" by the same author, set in the 18th century. This looked promising but I couldn't get into it, despite several attempts: the historical period being too far from the present! I just couldn't relate to chariot racing in my present situation. As it gets five-star reviews, I have to say, it's not the book, it's me.
I think that it would probably appeal to those who enjoyed The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, as I did, because it's a perfect escape from 21st century living.
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on 1 May 2012
this is my second Janet Paisley story.and it is equally as good as White rose Rebel,a thoroughly enjoyable fast moving story, and like white rose rebel tells of strong fiery women, warrior,s lovers, and mothers,in ancient Scotland,if you have read Paisley before, nuff said. if not, she is well worth a read, and not only by Scots.
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