November Book: Sword at Sunset

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Announcing Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliff, 1963 as the November pick for the Tabletop Roleplayer's Book Club. The plan is to read this book in November, and discuss in December. We're delaying things by a month because of the change of venue.

I should probably say a few things about this book and this month before starting. The plan this month was to talk about something Arthurian, and I guess the reason I'm managing this is because I've written some published Arthurian RPG material (Age of Arthur, and the Logres supplement on Saxons for Mythic Britain). My take moves closer to a dark-ages post-Roman world than the invented Late Medievalism of some of the myths (exemplified in terms of novels by T.H.White's Once and Future King sequence, though such arguably goes back to Mallory).

One part of my research was reading a few novels. It's a tough job. There's some great partially historical takes on Arthur out there...for example Mary Stewart's Merlin novels, beginning with the Crystal Cave, and Bernard Cornwell's trilogy, beginning with Winter King.

But Sword at Sunset is self-contained rather than part of a trilogy or series, and a rare foray for the author into an adult historical novel rather than one aimed at children (though I do love her novels on Roman Britain, beginning with Eagle of the Ninth, which are aimed at younger readers). I also haven't read Sword at Sunset for ages, so I'm looking forward to it.

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Comments

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    Also, I initially posted this in the wrong place, and had to use my moderator privileges to move it to the right category, but I'm sure nobody will notice if I don't say anything.

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    I downloaded a couple of her ... I guess you would call them juvenile or ya fiction ... retellings of classic stories that are offered on Audible. I just started listening to Beowulf: Dragon Slayer and it's quite good. It's only about 2 hours long as an audiobook. I'm looking forward to Sword at Sunset.

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    Am I right in understanding this is also the October book, we're just getting longer to read it what with everything else going on at the moment?

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    > @NeilNjae said:
    > Am I right in understanding this is also the October book, we're just getting longer to read it what with everything else going on at the moment?

    Yes!
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    Sorry- I should have clarified that rather than just changing the month.

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    Hm, this is available via Hoopla at a nearby library. I'm not normally an Arthurian or an e-book fan, but I want to make sure the change of venue works!

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    edited October 2018

    I'm pretty sure I read this in my Arthurian phase! That was after my Black-on-Black phase, but before my Rainbows & Unicorns phase.

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    I want to know what books you read in your Rainbows & Unicorns phase. (It's obvious you were reading Neil Gaiman in your black on black phase.)

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    I have gone down the dark path and checked out an ebook.

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    I had to do that for a few books in the past. Don't worry - the stain comes off your fingers after a while.

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    @Ray_Otus - The Hungry Hungry Caterpillar; Goodnight Moon; Into The Night Kitchen; One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; Go, Dog, Go and many others.

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    RtGRtG
    edited October 2018
    My go to with writers I’m unfamiliar with are the great Sf and Fantasy Encylopedias edited by John Clute, Peter Nicholls, John Grant, Brian Stableford and others, now entirely available online.

    Here is their entry of Sutcliff: http://sf-encyclopedia.uk/fe.php?nm=sutcliff_rosemary

    Excited to check this one out! Will pop over and pick up a copy for my Kindle.
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    I just finished her retelling of Beowulf, "Beowulf, Dragonslayer." It was VERY good, in my opinion. Her language is often nicely imagistic and lyrical. Though it's a kind of young adult (but not too much so) rendition of Beowulf in prose, it seemed to respect the tradition well. I could "hear" bits of the original poem in the story. One interesting choice she made is to strip the story of any of its Christian bits. (Which makes since, sense those were almost certainly later/foreign additions anyway.)

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    Rosemary Sutcliff had an extremely good voice in my opinion, and a gift for conjuring up imagery and mood. I don't think she's quite up there with (say) Tanith Lee or Ursula Le Guin, but she's still to me impressive.

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    This is wonderful reading, but it's going slowly! Probably because I have too many other irons in the fire, but also because you have to pay attention. Good stuff. Great voice. Neat/different storytelling.

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    That’s partly why I suggested bumping it back a month - so there’s lots of time.
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    Oh, it doesn't have to be done Oct 31? Sweet. Yeah. I really do want to enjoy this one. It is a quiet evening by the fire kind of book. The opening is brilliant.

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    I found this very cool site devoted to all things Arthurian. There are articles, a mailing list, a journal, links to maps, and links to Arthurian books, fiction and non-fiction. So many rabbit holes!
    arthuriana.org/

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    For anyone who has got to chapter 29 (Badon Hill) here is a map, and selection of pics of the White Horse and surrounding terrain, including Uffington Castle, all taken from when I walked The Ridgeway a little over three years ago. Most of the things you see are rather older than the time of the book (but then, Arthur and his men knew that), and a little distance each way along the Ridgeway there are some seriously older remains.
    The isolated hill shaped like a truncated cone is called Dragon Hill.
    One of the curious things about the horse - and there are some who dispute that it is a horse at all, pointing out numerous differences with other chalk horses - is that it is almost impossible to find anywhere on the ground from where you can see the whole thing. I picked out the two clearest ones from my collection - the head is reasonably OK, but you struggle to get a good perspective view unless you are quite a few miles north (or flying). There's a good aerial view at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uffington_White_Horse








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    Love it! Thanks for the perspective.
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    Thank you, Richard! This is cool! :smiley:

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    Well, I started reading this today via e-book. We'll see how it goes!

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    Sorry, I'm out of this one. I got 200 pages in and realised I was skipping over chunks of pages at a time. A book that was just not able to hold my interest.

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    > @NeilNjae said:
    > Sorry, I'm out of this one... A book that was just not able to hold my interest.

    I had times like that but persevered and got to the end in the end. But certainly I had times of wondering if I was going to stick with it.
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    I don't blame you, @NeilNjae .

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    I'm away this weekend, but I'll post up the discussion questions on Monday 3rd December.

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    @dr_mitch said:
    I'm away this weekend, but I'll post up the discussion questions on Monday 3rd December.

    I'll be interested to see what you come up with!

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    edited December 2018

    I really liked this book when I read it age 10 or so, but I had so much trouble this time I just couldn't make it. Read it right up to Friday, but only made it half way. Surprised the hell out of me. It was like dragging a semitrailer with the brakes on. I constantly was thinking that I could be reading this other thing, or writing that game. I have no idea why.

    It just didn't work for me. It may be me - I famously got about a quarter of the way through The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and threw it down in total revulsion, pissed that I had purchased the whole trilogy at once on the recommendation of a friend. I picked it up years later and laughed my ass off.

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    @clash_bowley Sometimes, you need to be in the right headspace to read a book. I understand completely.

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    @dr_mitch FYI, I think it would work best to make each question its own single thread in the discussion category for this book. Let me know if you've got a different plan?

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