Select one of the keywords
Sword at Sunset    by Rosemary Sutcliff order for
Sword at Sunset
by Rosemary Sutcliff
Order:  USA  Can
Chicago Review Press, 2008 (1963)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

The late Rosemary Sutcliff was a prolific writer from the 1950s through the 1970s, publishing a number of children's and YA books, including the Eagle of the Ninth series and Arthurian novels, as well as over twenty other children's books on historical subjects. She also penned nonfiction works and adult fiction, including Sword at Sunset, originally published in 1963 and recently re-released. The new release features an introduction by Jack Whyte, Canadian author of the successful Camulod Chronicles, a nine-book historical fantasy series beginning several generations before Arthur was born. Whyte freely admits that when he first discovered Sword at Sunset it changed his life, which becomes more clear when one has read both authors.

In Sword at Sunset, Sutcliff takes readers to a time when the Roman legions have left Britain, yet the sense of Rome remains strong, especially in the noble characters of Ambrosius and Artos the Bear. They retain not just the armor, style of combat, and the Roman military organization, but a superior, almost arrogant sense of belonging to something that was once great and could be again. Sutcliff's early medieval world is not as dark age as is normally depicted in fiction, but thrives with trade and reflects a societal infrastructure across Europe that is still seemingly intact. Artos the Bear spends the beginning of the book traveling to southern France. There he looks to purchase strong breeds of horses to bring back to Britain and create a strong cavalry force, in order to fight against the invading Anglo Saxons and maintain British control and rule.

While it is not completely clear how Artos the Bear has risen to such great prominence, he nevertheless has the backing of the people, which spurs him on to defeat the Saxons in many battles. Sutcliff introduces many familiar characters from the Arthurian world. Though there is no Merlin or Lancelot (the latter an addition to the legend by Chrétien de Troyes in the twelfth century), an important appearance is made by Arthur's incestuous sister Medraut (or Morgan). Sword at Sunset reads like a historical military text with its calculated and descriptive battle scenes that make the world come alive, to the point where the reader may indeed believe such events transpired in the fifth century, leaving the common storylines of romance and chivalry out of the picture completely, much as they were in the original time of Arthur.

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