N.M. Browne,
Warriors of Alavna
(Bloomsbury, 2002)

While Dan and Ursula are on a school field trip, they wander through a sudden yellow mist that somehow transports them to Roman Britain -- or a world resembling Roman Britain -- in the first century A.D. The fight for Britain's freedom from the shadow of the Romans, here called Ravens, still rages. Adopted by a Celtic tribe, they find themselves caught up in the fight.

Faced with the enmity of both their adopted tribesmen and the Ravens, Dan and Ursula must adapt themselves to their new environment in order to survive. Dan is shocked to discover that the quiet intensity that allows him to be an exceptional runner, here makes him an exceptional warrior -- a berserker who, when the battle rage descends on him, doesn't know friend from foe. But Ursula's discovery is stranger yet, for while she is training to be a warrior like Dan, she finds that there is magic singing through her, magic that will change her very being.

Warriors of Alavna wastes no time getting into the action. There is none of the usual set-up, nothing to establish right off the bat that Dan and Ursula are just ordinary kids caught in extraordinary circumstances. From the first sentence, the reader is caught up in the events, which hardly let up until the end of the book.

This is not a saccharine-sweet, pixie-dust fantasy, but grim and bloody, realistic for the time in which it is set. It may be a little too dark for some of the target audience (mid-grade to young adults), but it is nevertheless very compelling.

- Rambles
written by Laurie Thayer
published 31 January 2004

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