Sword at Sunset

Sutcliff, Rosemary. Sword at Sunset. NewYork: Coward-McCann, 1963.

The fifth century is not always the easier time period to lose yourself in, but the writing of Rosemary Sutcliff is the exception. Her vivid imagination combined with great storytelling brings Artos the Bear to life. I will admit, I am not an avid reader of Arthurian tales. I do not have the details of the legend down-pat and would not know where Sutcliff takes artistic liberty. Probably the best part about Sword at Sunset is the personality of its hero, Artos the Bear. His complex character as a warrior and companion is crystal clear and believable, and dare I say, attractive? I think I would date him…In times of battle all of his decisions are calculated and fair. I especially liked his reaction to Minnow’s news that he must leave the company to marry a merchant’s girl who is with child. His reasoning is just. I also liked his treatment of animals, particularly his taming of a fallen commander’s wolfhound. The scenes of battle are appropriate and gut-wrenching. And speaking of gut-wrenching, the final betrayals by Bear’s best friend and son are tragic. I won’t say more because, unlike myself, you’ve always known how it ends.

Quotes to ponder, “The taste of vomit was in my very soul, and a shadow lay between me and the sun” (p 53). I think this was fancy way of saying “dread.” More quotes: “To go into battle drunk is a glory worth experiencing, but it does not make for clear and detailed memory” (p 200), “In war and in the wilderness one easily loses count of time” (p 256), “A wonderful thing is habit” (p 328), and one more, “Silence took us by the throat” (p 443). I especially like that last line the best.

Reason read: Legend has it King Arthur was born in December. If that isn’t true, Rosemary Sutcliff was born in December as well. So, read in someone’s honor.

Author fact: Rosemary Sutcliff’s website (blog page) is a pleasure to peruse.

Book trivia: Sword at Sunset continues the story where The Lantern Bearers leaves off only The Lantern Bearers is not on my list.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in two chapters; the first called “King Arthur” (p 136) and the second called “My Own Private Dui” (p 166).

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