Sword at Sunset

by Rosemary Sutcliff

Reviewed by Coral


Okay, so apparently I read this book not realizing it was the fourth book of a series called Eagle of the Ninth. Wow. Nowhere on my copy did it ever mention anything about the other books and I certainly didn't feel as those I was missing huge chunks of the picture, or anything like that.

Hey, another Arthur book! It seems like it's been awhile since I read one of these. Been even longer since I've read a good one. In this one, our setting is more Romanesque than, say, any of Fay Sampson's books, which, hey, a big plus for that!

So, Artos, bastard son of the late Utha, raised by his uncle Ambrosius, High King of Britain, though they are father and son in all but name. Knowing that he can never stand as Ambrosius' heir, Artos makes it easier for the king by taking a small squadron of men to guard the country from Saxon raids.

But things are never so simple. His tactics and his insistence that the villages and churches that he protects, feed and care for his men, earn him many enemies among his own people. But they aren't the only enemies he needs to worry about. Ygerna, another bastard child of Utha, has learned hate since her first breathing moments, to hate the father who abandoned her mother, to hate the half-brother who was raised in privilege while she and her mother struggled in poverty. She will stop at nothing to destroy Artos, even if that means conceiving a child with him.

As Artos is unexpectedly named king after Ambrosius' death, he finds enemies on all sides, but who will destroy him first? The Britons he's angered? The grown son whose soul is as twisted as his mother's? Or the Saxons, who keep pouring in numbers onto Britain's shore?

It was really, really hard to write the plot summary of this book, because you have to try and pick out the interesting features so that people both want to read the book and understand what's going on inside of it. The problem here, is that I really didn't find the book all that interesting and the plot wasn't always clear. I mean, sure, I know that Artos was battling Saxons and that, one day, his son would be showing up to cause him problems, but it didn't seem to have much of a bigger picture. Even the romance between Guenhumara (Guinevere) and Bedwyr (Lancelot) seemed to come out of nowhere.

I can't really pinpoint anything terribly wrong with the book, it was just kind of lacking some captivating spark.

I will say, at least, that I loved that there was a gay couple among Artos' troops and that neither of the characters were tired old clichés. Of course, that only made me more disappointed when one of their actions was compared to something a "woman might of done". Just disappointed.

Grade: C