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Reviewed by Carine Engelbrecht for Readers' Favorite
Maroboodus by Alaric Longward is based on the real life figure of a Germanic king who lived in the early part of the 1st century AD. The tale begins when Maroboodus is a youth, deeply envious of his berserker cousin's glory in battle and frustrated by the honor code his politically sensible father clings to. It seems too much like cowardice to the young hot-blood. With the unexpected death of a clan leader comes an inevitable shift in the power dynamic and new opportunities and perils arise. There are hard choices for young Maroboodus, but also for his kin. Add to that the beautiful young Svea princess captured in a raid with the allure she holds for the young man and the political intrigue that results from her very presence. The glossary of people and places is a valuable inclusion for readers that may get lost. The story is framed as a memoir told to a young Roman scribe when the main character is an aging exile of the empire.
What blew me away about Maroboodus by Alaric Longward was the depth of characterization. The world of the first century Gothic warrior is sometimes violent and crude, but yet the author also includes fascinating nuances in clan relationships, particularly the way each character is an individual finely attuned to and motivated by his own role in the complicated social hierarchy. Although some definitely behave in ways we would term thuggish, no character is merely a thug. Taunts are sometimes as sharply aimed as spear strikes. Bonds, such as that between the brothers Hulderic and Bero, are built with multiple layers of complicated back history.
In the case of the main character himself, the story captures the angst, awkwardness and anger of a teenager struggling to assert himself better than many YA books do. Yet, Maroboodus is also wholly a product of his time and his era. You never get the feeling (as so often happens with historical fiction) that the viewpoint character is merely a 20th century insert, rising above his peers because his values and ideas happen to match and reflect ours. No, Maroboodus is the real deal - and for this reason he may occasionally make you feel uncomfortable. The setting - 1st century Germania - also feels solidly authentic. You never think to yourself, Oh-oh, really? No, it seems one hundred percent believable. A well-executed opening to what promises to be a very exciting series.