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Sword at Sunset (1963)

by Rosemary Sutcliff

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Dolphin Ring Cycle (5), Dolphin Ring Cycle - Publication order (6)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7061722,868 (4.08)1 / 83
This brilliant Arthurian epic cuts through the mists of pagan, early Christian, and medieval splendors that have gathered about the subject and tells the authentic story of the man who may well have been the real King Arthur—Artos the Bear, the mighty warrior-king who saved the last lights of Western civilization when the barbarian darkness descended in the fifth century. Presenting early Britain as it was after the departure of the Romans—no Round Table, no many-towered Camelot—the setting is a hard, savage land, half-civilized, half-pagan, where a few men struggled to forge a nation and hold back the Saxon scourge. Richly detailed, the story chronicles the formation of a great army, the hardships of winter quarters, the primitive wedding feasts, the pagan fertility rites, the agonies of surgery after battle, the thrilling stag hunts, and the glorious processions of the era. Stripped of the chivalric embellishments that the French applied to British history centuries ago, the Arthurian age here emerges as a time when men stood at the precipice of history—a time of transition and changing values and imminent national peril.… (more)
  1. 21
    Storyteller by G. R. Grove (Rowntree)
    Rowntree: Adventure in Britain a generation after Arthur. Hard to classify (well-researched historical fiction? magical realism?) but goes down very easily.
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» See also 83 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
I have kept this because I like the strong old-fashioned cover, and I love all things Arthurian. That said, Ms Sutcliff's Arthur is a bit of a sad sack. He lacks the charisma one expects from an "Artos", and the battle descriptions are tedious as well as gory (but then I find that with all historical novels).
Artos and indeed all the other characters spring fully-formed onto the page, and there is no personal development whatsoever. Mary Stewart's Arthur, on the other hand, and all her characters, are portrayed in a much more fascinating way. I wonder if Mrs Stewart read this and thought "I'll have a go at depicting a Dark Ages Arthur"; there are some interesting correspondences with some of the Sutcliff characters, particularly Ambrosius. 1963 for this book, 1970 for the Crystal Cave.
The scene-setting and description and action are brilliant though, as one expects from Ms Sutcliff. And note the reappearance of Aquila from "The Lantern Bearers", and the way the flawed emerald ring is handed on.
  PollyMoore3 | Jul 12, 2020 |
This novel is the sequel to the author's famous and wonderful Eagle of the Ninth trilogy. Although ostensibly written for a more adult audience, it is written in the same ageless and beautifully written style that can truly be enjoyed by readers of all ages. The narrative viewpoint changes from that of the Romans at the centre of the trilogy, to that of Artos (Arthur) the Romano-British leader fighting over several decades against the growing incursions of Saxon invaders, including Cerdic. Some of the classic elements of Arthurian myth are present, but this is very much a realistic and reasonably gritty historical novel (Sutcliff also wrote a more mythology-based trilogy on King Arthur). My only criticism would be that, at 500 pages, it is probably a bit too long, but with writing this good, it is a joy to read. ( )
  john257hopper | Mar 8, 2020 |
In spite of being a huge Rosemary Sutcliff fan, and a lover of King Arthur stories, I didn't care for this book. I couldn't get past 50 pages. The first person narrative grated, the total unfamiliarity and complicated names didn't grab me. It is quite possible that it was not the right time in my life to attempt this read, so don't hold this comment against the book. ( )
  MrsLee | Aug 20, 2018 |
This is a realistic account of the life of Arthur told from his perspective. Realistic in that is devoid of the magic, myths, and legends that surround his story, though superstitions abide. The politics of tribal infighting and Saxon depredations in post-Roman Britain are detailed as if they are current events. This is the best account of the life, loves and politics of Arthur (Artos the Bear) that I’ve come across. ( )
1 vote varielle | Jul 1, 2018 |
A realpolitik version of King Arthur that is battles, soldiers camping and alliances and betrayals between the various people of Britain. The writing is beautiful and the book makes you want to walk through the heathered hills of England but it was ultimately too much of one thing, battle after battle and I found my attention wavering by the end. ( )
  ltfitch1 | Jun 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rosemary Sutcliffprimary authorall editionscalculated
Arno, EnricoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
D'Achille, GinoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
García Lorenzana, FranciscoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, Kevin EugeneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Now that the moon is near to full, the branch of an apple tree casts its nighttime shadow in through the high window across the wall beside my bed.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This brilliant Arthurian epic cuts through the mists of pagan, early Christian, and medieval splendors that have gathered about the subject and tells the authentic story of the man who may well have been the real King Arthur—Artos the Bear, the mighty warrior-king who saved the last lights of Western civilization when the barbarian darkness descended in the fifth century. Presenting early Britain as it was after the departure of the Romans—no Round Table, no many-towered Camelot—the setting is a hard, savage land, half-civilized, half-pagan, where a few men struggled to forge a nation and hold back the Saxon scourge. Richly detailed, the story chronicles the formation of a great army, the hardships of winter quarters, the primitive wedding feasts, the pagan fertility rites, the agonies of surgery after battle, the thrilling stag hunts, and the glorious processions of the era. Stripped of the chivalric embellishments that the French applied to British history centuries ago, the Arthurian age here emerges as a time when men stood at the precipice of history—a time of transition and changing values and imminent national peril.

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