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04 December 2013

Guest Post: Jordan Jacobs, author of Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen

A huge "thank you" to Jordan for guest posting today! Tomorrow, you'll be able to read my review, but in 2 words: Loved it!

I’ve always loved a good story...especially if it’s something that actually happened. Or maybe happened. 

As any archaeologist will tell you, history is not to be trusted. Historical accounts are known to leave out details, smooth away complications, or invent things entirely from scratch. Archaeology--we archaeologists like to think--is a much more reliable way to look into the past.  After all, potsherds and projectile points have no agenda to promote.

This is, of course, an oversimplification: my own prejudice, laid bare. It’s in my fiction, too. Samantha Sutton’s archaeologist uncle Jay likes to tease his niece for “thinking like a historian” whenever she's too quick to commit to a theory or fall for a rumor or legend.  But Jay and I would both admit that archaeologists also have their biases. And we would both be quick to agree that history serves a purpose, regardless of its absolute truth, and that the two approaches to studying the past are powerful when used together. One just needs to be careful about it.

With Boudica, the Warrior Queen, that’s where things get tricky. 

Boudica lived and died in a newly Roman Britain--if she lived and died, at all--and it was through Roman writers that her story was passed down. And oh, what a story it is!  

As the wife of a Celtic British king who’d sworn allegiance to Rome, Boudica was long as her husband lived. In special deal worked out by her husband, Boudica and her children were to retain some power even after the death of the king. But when the king did die, the Romans broke the agreement, and met Boudica’s objections with brutal violence. So the Warrior Queen did what any great character would do: she raised an army, united the neighboring tribes, and burned many of Rome’s young colonies to the ground. For a while, it seemed as if the Empire might lose, and would have to abandon the island altogether. But at last Boudica was defeated in a bloody, final battle, and Roman rule continued in Britain for more than three hundred years.

Pretty gripping stuff, right? Betrayal? The meek against the mighty? Victory and defeat? It’s got all the makings of classic revenge tale, stamped with history’s seal of authenticity.  Because why would the Roman historians want to tell this story, if it’s not what actually occurred?

Considering their audience, they would have had their reasons. A female leader? By Jupiter! That defied the natural order! And there were other lessons in the story, too: the price of betrayal, the limits of power. Chaos is what would follow if Rome went soft, wheeling and dealing instead of establishing Roman law and order.

So, then. Did it happen? In writing Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen, that’s what I wanted to explore. And while it’s not a question that archaeology can handle very well, that hasn’t stopped archaeologists from trying.

Because archaeologists love stories, too.

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