Another Pile of Books includes Rosemary Sutcliff | Song for a Dark Queen

First, chronologically speaking, in my big pile of Roman-setting (Rosemary) Sutcliffs : the tragic, doomed story of Boudicca (Song for A Dark Queen).   I’d read this before several times, but I re-read it recently.   It’s very dark, especially for a children’s book – she doesn’t pull her punches, everything in Cassius Dio’s not-really-very-contemporary-but-best-we’ve-got account is there: the rapes, the casual violence of the Romans, the torture and sacrifice of Roman women by Boudicca’s forces.

Boudicca is horrifying in this, but the writing is fabulous, and for me, it really works.  Even though Boudicca ends up doing horrifying things, I felt that I ended up caring for the character and feeling a sort of understanding for her.

via bunn – Another Pile of Books.

Song for A Dark Queen music by BBC Radio 2 folk musician of the year John Kirkpatrick

Song for a Dark Queen, the Rosemary Sutcliff award-winning historical novel about Boudicca (Boadicea) was dramatised as a play in 1984 at The Vic Theatre in Newcastle-under-Lyme, adapted and directed by Nigel Bryant. British accordion and concertina player  BBC Radio 2 Folk Musician of the Year 2010, John Kirkpatrick  Read More »

Rosemary Sutcliff’s award-winning historical novel Song for a Dark Queen reviewed in The Times in 1978

Rosemary Sutcliff was astonished but delighted when her novel about Boudicca (often wrongly spelt Boadicea)  – Song for a Dark Queen -won The Other Award for fiction. It was an award for books which were determinedly egalitarian and respectful of women. She was not sure what those responsible for it would have thought of her Telegraph-reading Tory politics. Read More »

Queen Boudicca of the Iceni Tribe

Rosemary Sutcliff was absolutely passionate about ancient Britain. In her classic children’s novel Song for a Dark Queen, she writes about Queen Boudicca, the leader of a British tribe called the Iceni, who famously led a revolt against the invading Roman army in 47 AD.

I’m reading Song for a Dark Queen at the moment and as always, Rosemary Sutcliff’s storytelling is impeccable. She captures the time and the people so vividly that you really feel she was there .

The story is told by Boudicca’s harpist, Cadwan. Cadwan is the bard of the Iceni, he witnesses the battles and decisions of the tribe and writes songs, that will be passed down through the ages. Being a musician myself, I’m fascinated by how songs could be used as a form of record for a pre-literate culture. It makes me wonder if any ancient songs from this time might exist in a folk song, somewhere in Britain.

I’m early on in the book, but am intrigued about the historical evidence of Queen Boudicca and the Iceni. In preliminary research, I’ve discovered that the Iceni occupied Norfolk and North West Suffolk. describes the tribe as “a monarchic society state, geographically separated from their western neighbours the Coritani by uninhabitable fenland. They were bordered to the south by the Atrebates.”

Archaelogical evidence has been found in the form of large gold coins, which are believed to have been worn round the necks of the Iceni. has some fascinating information on the coins of the Eceni.

The Iceni minted their coins from about  50 BC until the Roman conquest in 43 AD. These were usually silver coins with a patterned face on one side (obverse), with a horse on the reverse. The Icenian hoard of coins found at Eriswell in Suffolk also included a number of clay moulds which the Iceni used to mint their coins. Several of the coins found have legends such as ECE, ED, EDN and ‘ECEN’ (possibly the tribal name, or a personal name, or perhaps these were the names of mint sites), and also ‘ANTED’ believed to be an abbreviation of (king) Antedios ruler of the Iceni AD 25 – 48…..

This is just the beginning of my research and as I write this, I’m discovering incredible facts about the Iceni, Queen Boudicca and The Celtic people. More posts are to follow, and any information is greatly appreciated!

Interesting views & titles already from collecting on Twitter and Website views about eminent writer of children’s literature and historical fiction Rosemary Sutcliff‘s best books of fiction & re-telling

Rosemary Sutcliff’s Best Books

So far almost twenty of Rosemary Sutcliff’s books of children and young adults fiction and historical fiction have been cited either here or on Twitter (#BestRosemarySutcliffBook) after my call for choices and rationales. Some people snuck in more than one choice.

Of those, some raised possible distinctions between reading and re-reading, reading as a child and as an adult, reading novels written for adults and those written for children, and those books of fiction versus her re-telling of saga and legend

A Little Dog Like You (first published 1987)
Blood Feud (1976)
Brother Dusty Feet (1952)
Dawn Wind (1961)
Frontier Wolf (1980)
Simon (1953)
Song for a Dark Queen (1978)
Sword at Sunset (1963)
The Armourer’s House (1951)
The Eagle of the Ninth (1954)
The Flowers of Adonis (1969)
The High Deeds of Finn MacCool (1967)
The Hound of Ulster (1963)
The Lantern Bearers (1959)
The Mark of the Horse Lord (1965)
The Shining Company (1990)
The Silver Branch (1957)
The Witch’s Brat (1970)
Warrior Scarlet (1957)