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Tros    by Talbot Mundy order for
by Talbot Mundy
Order:  USA  Can
Buccaneer, 1995 (1925)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Tros is the first volume of a series about a Celtic hero of legendary Samothrace. He is the son of a prince of that mystic island, wandering the world's oceans ' like the wind that blows' in the time of Caius Julius Caesar, who happens to be his arch-enemy. There are four books in all: Tros, Helma, Liafail and Helene, and they are unfortunately all hard to get hold off, though used copies are available, especially in Britain.

The opening quote of the Druid Taliesan in 55 B.C. Britain is striking - 'But I tell you, Liberty is alertness; those are one; they are the same thing. Your liberties are an offence to the slave and to the enslaver also. Look ye to your liberties!' - and apt, since Tros has come to warn the Britons against the invasion of the cruel Romans, who hold his father Perseus hostage against his return. He encounters tribal politics, makes a friend of Caswallon and his wife Fflur of the Second Sight. Gwenhwyfar, the woman scorned, becomes his enemy. Tros plays a dangerous game, pretending to help Caesar in order to save his father, while secretly working against the Romans.

This is an unusual hero whose desire to follow the non-violent philosophy of his homeland fights against his own feelings and need for revenge against the Romans. He warns his one-eyed servant Conops that 'It is a coward's act to kill if there is any other way', but cheerfully tosses enemies overboard, declaring after they drowned that 'I gave them leave to swim!' He steals Roman pay-chests in an exciting act of piracy and develops a clever plan to save his father, involving a Phoenician trader, a treacherous Norseman and a tale of smallpox. Tros then openly declares himself the enemy of Rome, setting the scene for further adventures with Caesar's words ringing in his ears 'Neither Rome nor I forgive!'

This series is one of the earliest and one of the greats of epic fantasy, a timeless classic, which deserves to be much more widely known. But until someone has the sense to re-issue it, we will just have to keep rummaging through the second-hand piles for copies, which is a great shame.

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