Song For A Dark Queen (Red Fox Older Fiction) (英語) ペーパーバック – 1996/4/8
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From the day Cadwan fashioned a sword from a willow wand and composed a victory song for his young mistress, Boudicca, he has loyally charted her rise to Queen. Boudicca is the strong and brave leader of the Iceni tribe - courageously guiding her people from one victorious battle to her next. Then Emperor Nero rules that the royal line of the Iceni is to be ended, and Boudicca knows this is one battle she cannot afford to lose. . . .
Rosemary Sutcliff was born in 1920 in West Clanden, Surrey. With over 50 books to her credit, Rosemary Sutcliff is now universally considered one of the finest writers of historical novels for children. Her first novel, The Queen Elizabeth Story was published in 1950. In 1959 her book The Lantern Bearers won the Carnegie Medal. In 1974 she was highly commended for the Hans Christian Andersen Award and in 1978 her book, Song for a Dark Queen was commended for the Other Award. In 1975, Rosemary was awarded the OBE for services to Children's Literature and the CBE in 1992. Unfortunately Rosemary passed away in July 1992 and is much missed by her many fans.
The book was certainly written with teens in mind. I myself was more than a little shocked when I found a particularly violent passage. In it (just prior to fighting back) Boudicca is whipped half-naked before the Romans whilst hearing her teen-age daughter screaming as they are raped. This scene is meant to be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back, forcing Boudicca to round up the different native tribes into her war host. Just the same, don't go handing this book to a ten-year-old who's interested in battlescenes. I'd even be a little hesitant to hand it to a fifteen-year-old, but that's just me.
The author's writing is rather lyrical in its passages. There are beautifully evocative lines describing, "The dark, lifeless and lightless green of forest depths in late summer". At the same time, it can be rough going. Sutcliff is attempting to bring the reader fully into early Britain. In doing so, she makes no social comment on war and the cruelty of armies. Boudicca shows no mercy to the Roman men, women, and children she catches. This book is filled to the brim with blood, gore, and muck. It is difficult not to sympathize with the protagonist, but it is clear that she is just as depraved, in many ways, as the Romans she fights. Throughout the book the author dots her passages with letters a young Roman sends to his mother at home, giving the reader a glimpse of the opposing side's point of view. Admirable, admittedly. Yet in the end the book suffers from the greatest flaw of all. It's boring. Anyone who has read the author's preface at the beginning knows that Boudicca is bound to fail, and that it is only a matter of 181 some pages before she does. To slough through this story is hard going at times. When Sutcliff writes dialogue or action, she is excellent. But most of the book is bogged down in exposition, and I would be very surprised if younger readers take to the style. A good effort made to glorify a worthy subject, but in the end a poor showing.
In this story, she turns her power to a fascinating time of history, and explores the depth of human depravity.
Song for a Dark Queen is aptly titled. With her words, Sutcliff does create a song. It is a poem, but not one of beauty. A song, but not for pleasure. The golden rays of sunshine that peer through the forest leaves in the early chapters fade away. Black night seeps through until no more light can be seen. Innocent childhood is destroyed by horrific depravity. Good motives and familial love is swallowed up in ruthless hatred. The world is evil without redemption.
A song with no hope: its end is darkness, death, and despair.