In A.M. Linden’s ‘The Oath,’ Readers Are Transported to Tumultuous Eighth Century Britain [EXCERPT]

Will Caelym survive the crowds who threaten to burn him alive? (Photo courtesy Canva)

We love reading novels that introduce us to lesser-known periods of history we are unfamiliar with. A.M. Linden’s brilliant novel, The Oath, is one such book. In it, she transports us to 8th-century medieval Britain, where a handsome Druid healer swears to save the life of a young damsel in distress even as blood-thirsty Christians nip at his heels. We hope you enjoy this captivating excerpt The Oath.J&H

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From Chapter 1, “The Clearing”

A torch touched the dry tinder and the fire sprang to life, flaring up in a ring around the condemned man. At first the bound figure was just a silhouette against the night sky, but as the fire spread around the stake he was illuminated in its glow, his dark hair shining as golden red as the flames. Even bruised and bloodied, he was handsome, tall, lean, and fit—his features so fine and noble that it was hard to believe the crowd surrounding him was screaming for his death instead of pleading for his life.

Looking through the flames, he could see the shifting shapes of the mob, men with spears, women with cudgels, and children waving sticks. They were cursing him, calling him a sorcerer. If he could have made himself heard, he would have told them that he was not a sorcerer, he was a physician who could have given them the gift of healing, a singer whose songs could have soothed their rage, a bard who could have told them a thousand stories about splendid heroes from days when the world was fresh and new. If they would just stop shouting and listen, he would tell them that he’d been the last of the disciples to sit at the feet of the three greatest Druid masters of their time. He would tell them that by killing him before he could pass on what he had learned they were destroying an ancient heritage of wisdom that could never be recovered, condemning themselves to suffering and ignorance.

Their taunts and jeers seemed to fade away, lost in his longing for a swallow of water to sooth his parched throat, a bite of food to ease his aching hunger, and, above all, to die unbound. It was the fire that granted his last wish—burning through the leather cords so that, for a moment, he was free.

Instead of leaving the fire to be torn apart by the frenzied mob, he raised his arms up towards the moon like a child reaching up to his mother. A sudden breeze fanned the fire and the flames soared, engulfing him and forcing his attackers to fall back as his body turned to a soft, feathery ash that was gathered up and carried off by the wind, swirling up and away into the star-filled sky.

The crowd’s angry curses quieted to grumbling complaints, and those changed to the hooting of owls and the croaking of frogs as Caelym woke up to find himself whole again, lying beside a decaying, moss-covered log at the edge of a clearing.


He’d fallen asleep in a thicket of alders, worn out from his desperate race to escape a real mob of raging Saxons. Choosing death by drowning over burning at the stake, he’d dived headlong into a river that carried him out of their reach and far out of his way. It had taken most of a day to make his way back along the river’s edge to the turn in the road where he’d been discovered. From there he’d limped on, continuing the quest he’d begun the day after learning that the long-lamented Priestess Annwr, sister to their chief priestess, was alive, that Ossiam, Grand Oracle and Master of Divination had seen her in a dream . . . Imprisoned in a high tower, her golden hair blowing in the wind and tears streaming down her cheeks, crying out for someone to save her from the bestial Saxon king who comes to ravish her night after night.

It was Feywn herself, in the privacy of her bedchamber, who’d told Caelym about Ossiam’s vision, and as she spoke the image of her weeping sister had seemed to hover in the air between them. Dropping to his knees, he’d sworn an oath on his life to rescue Annwr and kill the Saxon king, making with that his fifth impetuous vow since entering the room, which was—even for Caelym—a new record.

Taking his ceremonial dagger, along with a satchel of hastily gathered supplies and a map drawn for him by the shrine’s eldest priest, he’d spent the next two months following hints and rumors, guesses and omens, until finally reaching the stronghold of the Saxon war band that had carried Annwr off fifteen years before—only to learn that she had never been a mistress to the king but merely a nursemaid to the king’s daughter, that the king was long dead, and that his daughter had left the palace and gone to a convent, taking Annwr with her.

Now, against all odds, he’d found the convent. Getting up, he stepped over the log and pushed a low-hanging branch out of his way to gaze at the cluster of roofs above a high wooden stockade. From where he stood, he could have thrown a stone and bounced it off the side of the compound’s outer wall.

Before he’d fallen asleep, he’d circled the edge of clearing that surrounded the convent, searching for some way to get in. Now, looking up at the dark towers that loomed over the top of the wall, he could make out the shapes of windows and suddenly saw what he had missed before—that one of the windows was open. Still half dreaming, he thought he saw a beautiful, golden-haired woman there, reaching her arms out to him. He blinked, and the vision vanished.

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Synopsis banner
A.M. Linden's THE OATH, The Druid Chronicles, Book One
She Writes Press

In the wake of a betrayal that threatens an end to their way of life, the last members of a secluded pagan cult send the youngest of their remaining priests in search of Annwr, their chief priestess’s sister, who was abducted by a Saxon war band fifteen years ago. With only a rudimentary grasp of English and the ambiguous guidance of an oracle’s prophecy, Caelym manages to find Annwr living in a hut on the grounds of a Christian convent.

Annwr has spent her years of captivity caring for the timid Aleswina, an orphaned Saxon princess who was consigned to the cloistered convent by her cousin, King Gilberth, after he assumed her father’s throne. Just as Caelym and Annwr are about leave together, Aleswina learns that Gilberth, a tyrant known for his cruelty and vicious temper, means to take her out of the convent and marry her. Terrified, she flees with the two Druids–beginning a heart-pounding adventure that unfolds in ways none of them could have anticipated.

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“Linden’s well-researched tale eloquently brings to life a lesser-known period of transition in Britain…The author has created a strong foundation for her series with well-developed characters whom readers can embrace…[a] layered, gripping historical fiction…”

—Kirkus Reviews

“A fantastic well-crafted, well-written historical novel, about early medieval Anglo-Saxon Britain and with great characters! 5 stars.”

—Readers’ Favorite

“Linden uses a fairy tale-like style almost as though this story has been passed down orally over the centuries. Though the kingdoms are fictional, Linden’s tale draws on meticulous historical research, especially in her dramatization of the Christian persecution of the druids.”


“The story rolls along at a lively pace, rich with details of the times and a wide cast of characters…. Those interested in goddess-worshipping religions will be drawn to the novel. Any reader curious about 8th-century Britain will enjoy Linden’s innovative focus on the little-known Druids as well as early medieval Christians. Her plotting, shifting points of view of the three engaging protagonists, and evocative writing style make The Oath a pleasure to read. Highly recommended!”

Historical Novels Review

The Oath urges readers along on a richly textured quest among the Saxons and Celts of 8th-century Britain. Young and rather humorously naïve Druid priest-healer Caelym swears to ‘rescue’ a damsel in distress who turns out to be neither a young damsel nor in distress. With a feminist slant, this engaging tale brings the conflict between Druids and early Christians to vivid life through sympathetic and well-rounded characters. I particularly enjoyed the ironic voice of the aging midwife Annwr. Brava!”

Sara Stamey, author of The Ariadne Connection

“Thrilling historical fiction with heart and soul.”

Tim Pears, author of The West Country trilogy

The Oath will appeal to a wide-ranging readership, reflecting Linden’s rich imagination and gift for weaving tales within tales evoking the romance of medieval Britain. Vibrant, determined, and relatable characters with disparate ethnic and religious identities discover their own strengths, and each other’s, as the intricate and engaging plot unfolds.”

Anne Marie Tietjen, PhD, clinical psychologist and instructor at Western Washington University

“Linden’s knowledge and passion for history is soaked into every word of The Oath, combined with an obvious skill at storytelling. Linden succeeds at every level, but the world building is truly spectacular. Historical fantasy is hard to do well, but Linden makes it look easy. What could be dry details are presented so effectively that the world is elevated to almost being a character of its own. And in a cast of characters as well drawn as these, that’s saying something. I can’t wait to see what else this skilled author comes up with!”

Bishop O’Connell, author of the American Faerie Tale series
About the author banner

Ann Margaret Linden was born in Seattle, Washington, but grew up on the East Coast before returning to the Pacific Northwest as a young adult. She has undergraduate degrees in anthropology and in nursing and a master’s degree as a nurse practitioner.

After working in a variety of acute care and community health settings, she took a position in a program for children with special health care needs where her responsibilities included writing clinical reports, parent educational materials, provider newsletters, grant submissions and other program related materials.

The Oath is the first installment of The Druid Chronicles, a five-volume series that began as a somewhat whimsical decision to write something for fun and ended up becoming a lengthy journey that involved Linden taking adult education creative writing courses, researching early British history, and traveling to England, Scotland, and Wales.

Retired from nursing, she lives with her husband, dogs, and cat in Bellingham, WA.

By A.M. Linden
336 pp. She Writes Press. $17.95

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Two readers will win copies of The Oath & The Valley by A.M. Linden!

The giveaway is open to the US only and ends on July 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter.

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Order The Oath direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, Target, or Walmart.

The Valley is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for A.M. Linden's THE OATH and THE VALLEY

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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