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Sword at Sunset [Paperback]

Rosemary Sutcliff
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2008
For fourteen centuries the story of Arthur was a legend, misted over by the tradition of romantic hero-tales. But he was real -- a man of towering strength, a dreamer and a warrior -- who actually lived, fought, and died for his impossible dream.

The man whom legend calls Arthur of Britain combined the best of Roman civilization with the fierce dedication of his Celtic ancestors. Down through the generations his passionate determination to preserve the values of decency and freedom against the darkness of barbarism has been a clarion call that speaks to the best in humankind.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 495 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; Rep Una edition (May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556527594
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556527593
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 14 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 359,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rosemary Sutcliff was born in Surrey, the daughter of a naval officer. At the age of two she contracted the progressively wasting Still's disease, and hence spent most of her life in a wheelchair. Her first children's book was published in 1950, and from then on she devoted her time and talents to the writing of children's historical novels, which have placed her name high in the field of contemporary children's literature. Rosemary received an OBE in the 1975 Birthday Honours List.

Rosemary Sutcliff's novels about Roman Britain have won much critical acclaim. The best-known of these is her The Eagle of the Ninth trilogy, of which the second book in the trilogy, The Lantern Bearers, was awarded the 1959 Carnegie Medal.

Sadly, Rosemary died in 1992 at the age of 72.

Product Description


A masterpiece --Chicago Tribune

King Arthur is a living presence who moves in a brilliantly lit and fantastic landscape... Rosemary Sutcliff is a spellbinder. --New York Times

Rosemary Sutcliff was the first, the greatest and the best. She showed the rest of it how it was done with her Roman fiction, but it's with Arthur that she came into her own. Her novel, Sword at Sunset is simply the best evocation of the Arthurian myth ever to grace the page. It's impossible to read it and not to be blown away by the power and clarity of the narrative, by its sheer grounded elegance, by the wonder of the time, by the sense that this is the living Arthur and everything else is a pale shadow. Her writing shines with a lucidity and beauty that seers the mind. I defy you to read this and not to be able to smell the moors, taste the wind, feel the power of the horse warriors, and weep at the doomed king. --MC Scott --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Rosemary Sutcliff wrote more than 40 historical novels for young adults - including the classics The Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, The Lantern Bearers, The Sword and the Circle and Black Ships Before Troy. She died in 1992. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
85 of 85 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is the best story yet written on the Romano-British cavalryman and leader whose deeds gave rise to the legend of King Arthur. In the days of my youth Rosemary Sutcliff's fiction for children opened the wonderous world of the people of Roman Britain. Sword At Sunset is NOT A JUVENILE FICTION BOOK despite including characters and continuing a story line from an earlier novel: The Lantern Bearers. MS Sutcliff brilliantly weaves what little actual knowledge we have with fictional details in a manner that brings Arthur out of legend and into life.
The story is that of Arthur's struggle to lead the Britons, both Celtic and Roman, against the invading Saxons.
It is the story of the warrior brotherhood known as his 'Companions' as they battle to preserve the light of the dregs of Roman civilization in Britain against the darkness of the barbarians who would destroy it.
The battles are realistic and the reader practically feels the blood, sweat, fear and courage of the fighting men.
It is also a story of love, loyalty, betrayal and a horrible unspeakable sin, the consequenses of which could destroy all that Arthur holds dear.
The story includes realistic events that would seem to explain an archeological mystery of the era and other events that give rise to important elements of the medieval legend.

MS Sutcliff takes us through Arthur's challenges as he strives to mount his men on the horses of his dreams, which he believes are the key to victory against the foot-bound Saxons.
We follow him as he meets and befriends the men who will be his sword brothers as well as his meeting with the lady he grows to love, Guenhemara.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sword at Sunset 22 Oct 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Since I read this book as a teenager it has been for me the definitive telling of the Arthur story. It is quite simply how it must have been. A book so good everyone should read it once, so laden with impending doom it is almost impossible to re-read. It is extraordinary that it is has been out of print so long, especially now there is a revived interest in the Arthurian legend and her other books are being re-issued.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book by a great writer 3 Sep 1999
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is one of the most magnificent re-tellings of the Arthurian story, thrilling, moving tragic, authentic, it must at last be described as high and noble. All Rosemary Sutcliff's work is splendid, but this is the pinnacle.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Seems like lots of people are doing the "King Arthur thing" nowadays; every time
I visit the bookstore I see a few more novels about Arthur, or Guinevere, or even
Mordred. But for me, the single best Arthurian novel out there, barring the
"originals" like Mallory and company, is Rosemary Sutcliffe's "Sword at Sunset".
The story is dark and compelling, the characters familiar from legend but fully-
fleshed in their own right. It's hard to create a new story when the outcome is
pre-determined; yet Sutcliffe accomplishes it. She goes back to the archaeological
and historical evidence, and creates a vision of a Romano-British civilization
desperately holding out against the inrushing barbarians, thirty years after
the Roman Legions left Britain for the last time. There is no magic, no Merlin,
no Round Table, no Excalibur; Artos is crowned Emperor by drunken soldiers
after a battle. The glory of the story, such as it is, comes from the characters'
determination, not from medieval trappings of castles and shining armor.
Sutcliffe writes (wrote - she died last year) with a real sense
of place and time: you smell the campfires and hear the clash of battle. It is
this immediacy that makes the story utterly compelling and
convincing. I am convinced that if Arthur existed, this is what his story must
have been like.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incomparable 8 May 2010
I have the greatest admiration for Rosemary Sutcliff as an author, and for this wonderful novel. I bought it when I was 17 and the imagery, immediacy and powerful story has remained with me. I still have a copy - not the original one I purchased when I was so young, but one I paid a lot of money for when it was out of print. I'd re-read the three Aquila family novels - Eagle of the Ninth, The Silver Branch, and The Lantern Bearers and longed to re-read Sword at Sunset in which the Aquilas soldier on as minor characters, and was dismayed to find it out of print. Rosemary Sutcliff did not write many books for adults, but those she did create are most sensitively written and this is the best - the best of all that she wrote. For me King Arthur can only be the Romano British Comes Britanniorum,the war-leader Artos Aurialanus, who is declared Emperor by his troops after a decisive victory.There is no better version of the story. I love it as much now that I'm in my 60s as I did when I was that 17 year old buying the book with quite a large percentage of her monthly earnings who read it mainly for the romance. Now I better understand its depths, the story of brotherhood in war and sacrifice and doom.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best historical treatment of Arthur EVER! 31 Jan 2010
I first read this novel when I was in high school, and I was absolutely blown away by it. It portrays King Arthur, the figure of medieval romance and legend, as he might have been in historical reality. There has been much speculation and debate on the real man behind the legend, if there was one. The real Arthur may have been a single man, or conversely, the legendary Arthur may, in origin, be an amalgamation of several real figures; we will likely never know. All that it seems safe to say is that, like nearly all legends, this one probably has a seed of truth from which all the stories later grew. In "The Sword at Sunset" Rosemary Sutcliff tells a story of what the real Arthur might have been like. As such, it is a very, very different tale than the one with which most people are familiar. There is no Camelot, and no round table. There is no Merlin, for this is not the mythical, magical Arthurian story. There is no Grail Quest. And there is no Lancelot du Lac (who, after all, wasn't introduced until the 12th century by French writer Chrétien de Troyes). No, this is the story of Artos, a Romano-British war leader. His men, called "the companions" or "the brotherhood," not "knights" as that term would be anachronistic in early 6th century Britain, are basically late Roman cavalry troopers. The weapons, armor, and warfare are all those of late antiquity, not the high middle ages, which is the setting for the legends. Ms. Sutcliffe does such an outstanding job in portraying the world in which Artos lives, the daily life of his men, the hardships they faced on campaign, and the world in which they lived -- a combination of Roman civilization and British Celtic culture -- that the novel really transports the reader back to the 6th century. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Was a bit hard going at times but worth it.
Published 24 days ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars WHY USE ONE WORD WHEN 50 WILL DO?
Published 4 months ago by R. Parsons
5.0 out of 5 stars Typical Sutcliff
Another excellent story set in Britain after the Romans had departed. For children and adults, it's an enthralling read like her other works.
Published 4 months ago by Jane Berry
5.0 out of 5 stars The best
All Rosemary Sutcliffe's "Roman" books merit re-reading as an adult but Sword at Sunset remains the best. An excellent read.
Published 5 months ago by valerie
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real King Arthur
A realistic view of who Arthur might have been and great storytelling from Sutcliff. No Lancelot as he was a much later addition to the story.
Published 5 months ago by A. Crockett
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully evocative
This story is on a par for me with such writing as Tolkein in its evocative creation of another world. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Parklife
5.0 out of 5 stars worth the read
great story line - will need some concept of history and geography to keep knowledge of events in early british period
Published 6 months ago by cliff walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless Mastery
I was first captured by Rosemary Sutcliff as a young bit, now she transports me into another world, some 40 years later.
Published 6 months ago by Peter Danby
5.0 out of 5 stars Britain in the throws of being united
This is a long book and has many names that are not as we know them both for people and places so at first it is difficult to sort out what and where things are happening but it is... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Lt Col Val
5.0 out of 5 stars Top read for historical novel people
I read Rosemary Sutcliff's original Legion of the Ninth when I was a kid, not that long after it was first published and I loved it, and remember wondering at the time why there... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Sirius Dogstar
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