Rosemary Sutcliff is most famed for Eagle of the Ninth, but there was much more to her than that. In the 1950s, historically-minded children found her books a magic carpet into the past. I began with Brother Dustyfeet (1952) and The Armourer's House (1951), and never looked back an insatiable interest in history has remained the backbone of my life.

In 1954, Eagle of the Ninth introduced Marcus Flavius Aquila, a young Roman who chooses to stay in Britain after the legions leave. Seven subsequent books follow his family's fate, usually directly. The odd book out is the fifth, Sword at Sunset, now published in a new edition to celebrate its 50th birthday. In 1963, it was firmly announced to be for adults, and given the (for their time) graphic and violent scenes of sex and slaughter, it deserved to be.

It is also unusual among Sutcliff's books in that it is told in the first person. Artorius, devoted nephew of the High King Ambrosius, has a bit part in the fourth Aquila book, The Lantern-Bearers, but now takes centre stage. He recalls on his death bed how he was charged by the ageing Ambrosius with leading a crack fighting force known as the Companions against invaders from Saxony, Jutland and Norway.

Sword At Sunset -

Sword at Sunset | Rosemary Sutcliff

Posted by 2018 article