Select one of the keywords
The Lantern Bearers    by Rosemary Sutcliff order for
Lantern Bearers
by Rosemary Sutcliff
Order:  USA  Can
Puffin, 1981 (1959)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Like many others of Sutcliff's works, The Lantern Bearers is set in the waning days of Roman Britain, in 450 A.D.. Aquila commands a troop of horse in the Auxiliary Cavalry at a time when 'there had been no regular legions in Britain for forty years'. He is enjoying a home leave with his blind father and beloved younger sister on their farmstead when he is suddenly recalled and 'For Aquila, though he could not know it, the world had begun its falling to pieces.'

When he learns that the last of the Eagles is being withdrawn from Britain, Aquila deserts and returns to his family. Saxon Sea Wolves attack, kill his father and leave Aquila for dead. He is taken as a thrall by another band of Saxon raiders, returns with them when they invade Britain and there discovers his sister again. She helps him to escape and he seeks Ambrosius, son of Constantine and last hope for Britain. Aquila becomes one of Ambrosius' Companions, meets his nephew Artos and watches him grow up along with his own son.

The author does a masterful job of moving her hero through historical events, in such a way that the reader has a first person perspective on them. She shows us Arthurian times as a very real world (with only hints of 'singing magic') and tells us what happens to its little people as the great engage in war and conquest. Above all Sutcliff gives us a story of conflicting loyalties as different races meld together to become a new Britain.

The Lantern Bearers is a thoughtful adventure story immersed in the history of a fascinating period, when a few people 'carry what light we can forward into the darkness and the wind.'

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Historical books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews