"...elements of magic and mystery abound....Tanner also does an admirable job weaving in politics and mythology of a bygone people. A complex and promising start to a new fantasy series." —Kirkus Reviews
"History truly comes alive under the pen of author Linnea Tanner, but there’s also plenty of room left for characters to breathe and develop under watchful narration. The plot is stellar: well-thought-out and executed with a great sense of beat and pacing as each moment of both the romance arc and the curse is portrayed. Overall, an un-put-down-able fantasy adventure from start to finish." —Readers' Favorite
"An engaging historical fantasy, Apollo's Raven by Linnea Tanner is a captivating tale of triangles [and an] epic Celtic tale of magic and a curse.“ —2019 Pencraft Book of the Year Award
A Celtic warrior princess is torn between her forbidden love for the enemy and duty to her people. Award-winning Apollo's Raven sweeps you into an epic Celtic tale of forbidden love, mythological adventure, and political intrigue in Ancient Rome and Britannia. In 24 AD British kings hand-picked by Rome to rule are fighting each other for power. King Amren's former queen, a powerful Druid, has cast a curse that Blood Wolf and the Raven will rise and destroy him. The king's daughter, Catrin, learns to her dismay that she is the Raven and her banished half-brother is Blood Wolf. Trained as a warrior, Catrin must find a way to break the curse, but she is torn between her forbidden love for her father's enemy, Marcellus, and loyalty to her people. She must summon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that threatens the fates of everyone in her kingdom. Will Catrin overcome and eradicate the ancient curse. Will she be able to embrace her forbidden love for Marcellus? Will she cease the war between Blood Wolf and King Amren and save her kingdom?
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2020 Readers' Favorite Bronze Medal Fiction Magic/Wizardry
2019 PenCraft Best Book of the Year Award
2018 New Apple Book Awards: Official Selection Fantasy
2018 eLit Book Award: Silver Medal Fantasy/Science Fiction
2017 Global Ebooks Award: Bronze Medal Fantasy/Historical
2017 New Apple Book Awards: Official Selection Historical Fiction and Cross Genre
"...a captivating tale of triangles; love, lust and espionage, friend, foe, and spies., barbarians, civilized Rome and spiritual-supernatural beings. The author's knowledge of the mythology and the history of 43 AD Celtic tribes is astounding as she weaves a tapestry of intrigue, a Gordian knot of rivalry and a love story." —Authors Reading (2019 Pencraft Book of the Year Award)
"...a historical fantasy with strong elements of romance, political intrigue, and magic. Many surprising twists enrich the historically drawn plot. Points of view shift between different characters effectively, heightening the tension from one moment to the next." —Historical Novel Society Review
"If you're looking for something entertaining with a fast, action-paced rhythm, Apollo's Raven by Linnea Tanner is a definite must. For a women who is trying to figure out where she belongs in her world, this tale is relatable to other young women in our timeline who are also trying to figure out where they belong." —Literary Titan (Gold Book Award)
"... a soaring epic that carries its audience on an adventure full of ancient magic, passionate romance, and political intrigue." —IndieReader (Indie Approved)
"The historical romantic fantasy takes readers to 24 AD to the Southeast Coast of Britannia, blending magic, romance, and politics into a satisfying tale of one determined Celtic woman who must choose between doing her duty and following her heart." —BlueInk Review
"Apollo's Raven is a good introduction to what life was like for the Celtic Brits when the Romans invaded. The plot is intriguing, and the forbidden love angle adds to the punchiness of the story." —Author Luciana Cavallaro
"An unpredictable, spellbinding tale, made so much richer by the historical integrity of the research carried out by the author, Linnea Tanner." —Author Ann Frandi-Coory
"...an enticing avalanche of one revelation after another....I like to think of this story as a huge metaphor for history rewriting itself through fiction and allowing individuals to take charge of their own destinies." —OnlineBookClub.org
"a rapturous read that mixes Celtic mythology into a good historical romance." —Foreword Reviews
Award-winning Author Linnea Tanner weaves Celtic tales of love, magical adventure, and political intrigue into the backdrop of Ancient Rome and Britannia. Since childhood, she has passionately read about ancient civilizations and mythology which held women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids.
Depending on the time of day and season of the year, you will find her exploring and researching ancient and medieval history, mythology and archaeology to support her writing. As the author of the Curse of Clansman and Kings series, she has extensively researched and traveled to sites described within each book.
A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor's and master's degrees in chemistry. She lives in Windsor with her husband and has two children and six grandchildren.
Chapter 1: Raven’s Warning
24 AD, Southeast Coast of Britannia
Princess Catrin reined in her horse at the edge of the precipice overlooking the sea below to study the pattern of her raven’s flight, seeking an omen. Her dream of the skull-faced moon, bleeding crimson, still plagued her. It was as if she had glimpsed both into her soul and into the future, yet she did not know how to interpret it.
The Raven, her animal guide, shot like an arrow into the thickening mist that partially obscured the sun. The sudden nip of a cool, salty breeze made her shiver. Longing for the disappearing sun’s warmth, she nestled into her plaid cloak and focused on the bird’s aerial acrobatics, first diving at the sheer cliﬀ, then darting up. This close to the edge, one misstep of her horse could dash them both onto the jagged rocks below. Only her raven, a divine messenger, had the power to overcome such a fall and rise into the heavens to soar with the gods.
The Raven disappeared into the fog. Out of the haze, the red-striped sail of a flat-bottom ship suddenly appeared. Driven mainly by oars, it thrust to and fro in the turbulent water; it was unlike the deep-hulled vessels of seafaring merchants powered by air currents over their sails. At the bow of the ship was a strange looking beam shaped like a bird’s beak.
Catrin’s gaze followed the Raven’s movement beyond the white cliﬀs, where more striped sails were emerging from the mist. She counted ten, but there might be more. A chill feathered up her spine.
Could these be warships?
From the distance, she could not determine the total number of ships or the country of their origin. She needed to see through her raven’s eyes for that. But to do so, she had to be alone to meld her thoughts with the Raven. Uneasy that her sister, Mor, and their companion, Belinus, might disrupt her connecting to the Raven, she scanned a clump of brambles some distance down the grassy slope where she had left them. A few weeks back, the couple had met at the Beltane’s spring festival and had since become intoxicated with each other.
Catrin was still rankled that Belinus had tricked her into weapons training. His real purpose had come to light the evening before, when he told her to wait on the hillside so he could finish practicing with Mor. A warm blush spread across Catrin’s face as she imagined their legs entangled with each other. Did they think that she was deaf and blind and that she was too dimwitted to understand what they were doing? The king would not think kindly of it if one of his trusted warriors charged with training his daughters for battle was seducing one of them.
Now barely discerning the couple through the thick brush, she surmised they were again fully occupied with each other, leaving ample time for her to take the next step with her raven before they again joined her.
She dismounted and raised her sword, a signal for her raven to return. The large bird swooped toward her like a dark shadow. She lifted an arm on which the bird landed. Its midnight-black plumage contrasted sharply with her fair skin and gold braided hair. On the threshold of womanhood, she felt closer to this creature than to many of her own kind. Still, she hesitated connecting with the bird.
A few years back, she had told her father of her ability to see the present and future through the Raven’s eyes. She desired to be a Druidess. He denied her request to be trained in the spiritual order, saying, “I have decreed that no one in my family can use the powers of the Ancient Druids.”
When she asked why, he responded with a grim frown. “The magic is too unpredictable and often alters in deadly ways. Foresight is not a gift but a curse in our family.”
The king’s answer confounded Catrin, but she dared not defy him openly or get caught when she secretly practiced her new mystical ability that the Raven had shown her.
The Raven first sought me out, she reasoned in favor of using her newly discovered powers. I must heed the Raven’s warning. If I am to assess the danger the ships pose, I need to study them up close.
She had to hurry, though. The fire between her sister and Belinus would soon cool.
Catrin lifted her arm and looked to the Raven, considering her decision. “What do I have to fear from you? I am a Cantiaci warrior.”
The Raven cocked its head and gawked at her, as if ready to answer her question.
She asked, “Did the sun god send me an omen about the warships oﬀshore?”
When the Raven mumbled some gibberish, she tapped its beak. “What does that mean?”
The Raven screeched, bobbing up and down. She smoothed its ruﬄed feathers. “Do you know why the ships are here?”
The Raven grew still on her arm. She winced, recalling the image of the blood moon in her dream. She asked, “Do they plan to attack?”
The Raven nodded excitedly, as if in response. Encouraged, she asked, “If I saw through your eyes, could I learn who they are and the reason they’re here?”
The creature tilted its head sideways, the signal for her to enter its mind.
She hesitated. “What if Father learns that I've taken this next step? Will he punish me for disobeying him … for ignoring his warning?”
The Raven shrieked and arched its wings. She chuckled. “That is right. He did say to study the enemy before each encounter, but never hesitate in battle. That’s what I’m doing—exactly what my father expects. I’m finding out if enemies are aboard the ships, but to do so, I must see through your eyes.”
Catrin again hesitated. Once before, when she had melded and disconnected from her raven guide, she lost consciousness. It took awhile for her head to clear after that episode. If that happened again, it could spell disaster so close to the precipice.
She stepped away from the cliﬀ ’s edge and stared into the Raven’s eyes, which glowed like amber gems. The bird’s talons emitted a bolt of electric heat into her arm. A light flashed in her mind, and the Raven’s essence permeated her core being. She knew that she had entered the Raven’s prescient mind.
The landscape appeared blurry until she adjusted to the Raven’s eyesight. Brightly colored wildflowers dazzled her with purple hues that she was unable to detect with her human eyes. A thrill rushed through her veins as she sensed the bird’s breast muscles contracting to flap its wings. When the Raven began its thrust into flight, she felt the misty air lift its outstretched wings.
When the Raven soared toward the channel, she could see her human form standing as motionless as a statue on the emerald hilltop clasped to the jagged precipice. The sheer chalk cliffs formed an impenetrable wall against the crashing waves. Beyond the cliffs, there was a sparsely vegetated shoreline toward which several ships were sailing and where other vessels were moored. Armored infantry-men were disembarking, wading to the shore, and marching across the beach. On higher ground, soldiers set up tents in a square encampment. One of the guards had a lion’s head covering his helmet. In his hands was a pole with a silver eagle on top. She assumed it meant powerful animal spirits were guiding them.
A palatial tent in the center of the encampment caught her eye. Its outside walls were made of twined linen sheets, violet and red, brocaded with eagles. Surrounding the central structure were crimson banners, each emblazoned with the sun god in a horse-driven chariot. At the tent’s flapped entrance were two foreign noblemen attired in purple-trim white togas. Another man, towering over the foreigners, wore a rustic toga and plaid breeches—garments that nobles from her kingdom typically dressed in. From the back, he looked familiar, his thick coppery hair draped over his shoulders like a lustrous wolf pelt.
To confirm her suspicions that she knew this tall, brawny man, Catrin directed the Raven to circle around, so she could get a closer look. When the man’s ghostly, disfigured face came into view, her heart wrenched. She recognized her half-brother, Marrock.
Grotesque images of ravens pecking tissue out of his face flashed in her mind. For seven years, she had believed herself safe from him, but there he was—a specter arisen from the cold ashes of her nightmares.
Why has he returned with an army?
A sense of doom crawled all over her when Marrock’s head tilted back, as though he knew her essence was flying overhead. His blue-green eyes began glowing and changed to the same amber-gem color as her raven whenever she harnessed its magical power. The Raven’s muscles suddenly paralyzed, freezing its wings. A strong force pulled her through a crevasse in the Raven’s mind and hurtled her into a tunnel of brilliant gold light.
She plummeted, tumbling out of control, toward a black portal in the center of a rainbow-colored arch.
Chapter 2: Secret Magic
Just before Catrin burst through the portal, she found herself lying on familiar, yellow-flowered grass on the cliﬀs. Above her, the Raven’s wings disappeared into a gray haze. A shiver of panic as sharp as needles prickled down her back.
Was this what my father meant about the magic being unpredictable?
With the landscape settling around her, she inhaled the briny air and felt her own world again. Still, a burning tingle lingered in her arm as questions barraged her mind.
Did Marrock do this to me? Did he somehow sense I was spying on him by using my raven’s eyesight? Did he put me into another world? Is this the deadly magic my father warned me about—the double-edged blade that others who detect my raven-sight can do me harm?
A woman’s shrill voice startled Catrin. She rolled on her back to find her sister, Mor, looking down at her, the reins of her bay horse in hand. Gusty wind swirled Mor’s ebony tresses around her face, which was etched with concern.
“What happened?” asked Mor. “Your horse was loose. From a distance, I saw a raven on your shoulder as you collapsed.”
“I slipped and fell,” Catrin said, trying to wrap her mind around what had just happened. “Help me up.” She grasped Mor’s extended hand and pulled herself to her feet. Still light-headed, she teetered while brushing the chalk from the cliﬀ stones oﬀ her leather chest armor.
“Did that raven do something to you?” Mor asked. “Before you collapsed, you appeared frozen; your arms twisted over each other like broken wings. It was as if you left this world and became some-thing else. A wraith or a soulless corpse comes to mind.”
Catrin glanced around, thinking it odd that Belinus was not with her sister. Assuming he was nearby, she looked beyond Mor, but there was no sign of him.
“Why don’t you answer me?” Mor snapped. “This is the second time I’ve seen this happen to you this week. You know what Father said. You are not to do magic with that raven.”
The image of Marrock with the foreign troops flashed in Catrin’s mind, and she blurted, “I saw warships oﬀshore. Marrock is leading them!”
Mor scanned the ocean channel, now thick with rolling fog. “I don’t see anything.”
Catrin pointed northward. “Look beyond the cliﬀs.”
Mor shielded her eyes with a hand to search again. A moment later, she gave Catrin a dubious frown. “There is too much fog to see clearly. When did you see Marrock?”
“A bit ago—” Catrin suddenly realized it could have been quite some time since she had been in the Raven’s mind.
Mor gripped Catrin’s arm and pulled her closer. “Did your raven cast a spell on you, and you imagined this? People say your raven makes you mad!”
Catrin bristled. “That is utter nonsense! I only connect to the Raven when I need its help and have complete control over it.”
When Mor’s jaw dropped, Catrin realized she had let her secret slip out. She bit her lower lip, but it was too late to take the words back. Upon further consideration, she didn’t know how to convince Mor of the threat posed by Marrock and the foreign army unless she disclosed her use of forbidden magic. She finally admitted, “When-ever I need help—like … like seeing something in the distance—I can enter the Raven’s mind and see through its eyes.”
“Explain exactly what happens when you see through its eyes,” Mor said. “Do you shape-shift into a raven?”
“My human vision turns oﬀ when I switch to the Raven sight. I can see below me when it flies. The Raven also sends me dreams of the future. Last night, I dreamt the moon turned into a bleeding skull. I took this as an omen that our kingdom is in grave danger. When I saw Marrock with foreign soldiers, I confirmed this was true.”
Mor paused, as if trying to absorb what Catrin had just said. “Merchant ships are always sailing near the coastline. How could you even tell they were warships from the distance?”
“Armed soldiers were disembarking from vessels moored on the beach beyond the cliﬀs—”
Mor interrupted. “Nobody can see that far, even through raven eyes.”
“Let me finish!” Catrin snapped. Mor’s lips clamped into a scowl as Catrin continued. “My raven flew over the bay, where I saw hundreds of soldiers setting up camp on shore. That is where I saw Marrock!”
“I find your tale truly hard to believe,” Mor said, shaking her head.
“I’m not a liar,” Catrin insisted. “We must heed the Raven’s omen. Soldiers would not be with Marrock unless he plans to attack us. We need to warn our father.”
“Warn him of what?”
“Marrock is back with a foreign army!” Catrin declared. “Remember, sister, Marrock swore to slay everyone in our family when Father banished him seven summers ago.”
“You’ve made a bold claim without proof.” Mor exclaimed. “I never saw Marrock with my own eyes and, for that matter, I never saw any warships. What if you’re wrong? You don’t have any evidence that he is plotting to attack our kingdom. Father will be furious when he discovers you used your raven’s magic. Besides, I want to stay here and finish training with Belinus.”
Catrin could feel her face flush with anger. Train with what—his sword? She pointed to herself. “I’ll accept the blame if I’m wrong, which I’m not. We must go back now!”
Mor put her hands on her hips. “I’m not leaving until I see these phantom soldiers and ships with my own eyes.”
Catrin, noticing her sister suddenly glance up, turned and spotted Belinus waving from the adjacent hilltop to signal weapons had been set up for practice. The last thing she wanted was for Mor to persuade him to stay so they could finish their tryst before slinking back home. Mor had lost all sense of propriety with a common warrior.
Of all days to practice, I should be warning Father!
When Mor pulled the reins of the bay and began walking away, Catrin yanked her by the arm to halt her. “What are you doing?”
Mor spun toward Catrin. “Belinus is set to go. I am getting your horse ready, so you can practice spear throwing."
Catrin wagged her head in disbelief. “Didn’t you hear what I just said? We must go now and tell Father what we have seen.”
Mor glared. “I don’t take orders from someone who practices black magic with a raven. You see things nobody else can.”
Catrin ripped the reins from her sister’s fingers. “I don’t care what you think. I’m going. If Father asks me why you are not with me, I will tell him about your little meeting with Belinus.”
“And what do you mean by that?”
Wordlessly, Catrin mounted her bay and stared at her red-faced sister.
“Answer me!” Mor shouted.
Catrin pointed to the spear on the grass. “Hand me that lance.
I’ll tell Belinus about what I saw. You can load up your weapons and join us.”
Mor flung the spear up to Catrin.
Catrin adjusted the weapon and kicked her horse into a gallop. Gale breezes from the channel stung Catrin’s eyes as she drove her horse near the cliﬀ’s edge and up the ridge to where Belinus was waiting. With thoughts running wild about a possible attack by Marrock, she ignored the perils of the precipice and the rocks below. With spear in hand, she clamped her legs against the horse and threw it.
The metal tip pierced the raven’s image on a shield that Belinus was holding. Clad in leather breeches and chain mail, he yelled, “Why did you do that? I wasn’t ready.”
Catrin halted in front of him. “We need to get back! Warships have landed; Marrock is leading them!”
Belinus gave a shocked look. “Marrock? Warships? Where?” Catrin pointed northward. “In the nearby bay.”
Hearing horses approaching, Catrin turned and found her sister riding the black stallion and leading a pack horse.
Mor huﬀed. “Why didn’t you wait for me? You’re lucky I don’t have to scrape your smashed bones and flesh oﬀ the rocks.”
“No time to argue!” Catrin snapped. She ordered Belinus, “See to the weapons. I’ll explain everything to you on our way back to the village.”
Mor blazed at Catrin as Belinus packed the weapons. After he mounted his horse, he told Catrin, “With the coming fog, it may be diﬃcult to see the ships on our way home. Ride with me and tell me more about what you saw.”
Catrin rode with Belinus on the pathway while Mor followed them. As they descended the grassy hilltop, Catrin told Belinus about the warships and Marrock's return. Belinus appeared alarmed, glancing all around. He asked Catrin more questions and suggested they take a closer look at the seashore.
They directed their horses into a darkening forest in the valley. When they rode out of the woods and approached the beach, thick fog was swallowing the ships in the bay and marching out of the haze were soldiers heading their way.
Catrin glanced back at Mor. “See … there is the danger.”
Mor’s shoulders stiﬀened. “Keep riding.”
Belinus rode ahead and kept his hand on his sword’s pommel. “Follow me. Don’t look scared. These are Romans!”