Readers of Rosemary Sutcliff have to expect to be spellbound in the tradition of storytelling that’s much older than reading and writing, when before the days of written records bards and minstrels were entrusted with the memory of a tribe. Rosemary Sutcliff is in this tradition; she says of herself that she’s ‘of the minstrel kind’. This in itself sets her apart from some of the more, apparently throwaway casualness of some contemporary writing. In these days, when we’ve learned to look closely at the constructedness of narratives, she will still say that she knows when a story is ‘in’ her and ‘waiting to be told’. The rest, she insists, is sheer hard work: research, planning the shape and the details of themes rather than plots. But the tale is there, entire, from the beginning … those who care for the company children keep when they read will see the relation between the events of now and the stories Rosemary Sutcliff writes to make heroic readers. The conflict of the light and the dark is the stuff of legends of all ages.