by Jack Whyte ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 1, 1996
A first US publication for Canadian poet and filmmaker Whyte: an earnestly heroic tale set at the turn of the fifth century A.D., during the twilight of the Roman occupation of Britain. Here, a retired Roman centurion, now an ironsmith, and his former Commander conquer their enemies and establish an independent community in Britain: Along the way, the smith will discover the secret of the mysterious ore-bearing stones ""from the sky"" and forge a link to a legend born two centuries later--with the arrival of King Arthur. Gaius Publius Varrus, recovering from his latest battle as a Roman soldier, is befriended by General Caius Britannicus, whose life he had saved in Africa. After Varrus returns to his home in Colchester, in Britain, the paths of the two continue to cross. Varrus is determined to find more of the miraculous ore--of a blinding brightness--from which his grandfather had made the splendid sword now in the possession of the new Military Commander Theodosius. It's when Varrus is on the run from the Senecas--a Roman family conducting an ancient feud against the Britannici, one of whom he had outwitted and outfought--that he is forced to escape to Bath, and Britannicus' estate. There, he discovers, thanks to the observations of his future wife, Britannicus' sister, a new source of the stones that once fell from the sky. Meanwhile, groups of Romans in Britain are becoming disgruntled with Rome--taxes, government interference, rottenness at the top, and so on. To plan for ""their continued, structured existence in advance of a time of chaos,"" Britannicus calls for a new community. There are handshakes all around with the native Chief ""and his Druids."" And at the close, Varrus, who's drained a lake and hauled stones, exhibits his skystone--now made ""Lady of the Lake."" Old-timey manly sentiments, some battle grue, info about smelting iron, and a modestly clever Arthurian-linked gimmick. Beyond the entertaining anachronisms, a busy, boyish saga, inventive and good-hearted.
Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1996
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995
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