For award-winning, internationally-acclaimed author Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92). By Anthony Lawton: godson, cousin & literary executor. Rosemary Sutcliff wrote historical fiction, children's literature and books, films, TV & radio, including The Eagle of the Ninth, Sword at Sunset, Song for a Dark Queen, The Mark of the Horse Lord, The Silver Branch, The Lantern Bearers, Dawn Wind, Blue Remembered Hills.
Sadly (and perhaps remissly) Katherine Rundell – winner of the Blue Peter book award 2014 for best story – did not include any of Rosemary Sutcliff’s characters in her recent ’10 of the best orphans’ at The Guardian’s children’s books site. She might have chosen Beric in Outcast, Jestyn in Blood Feud, Randall the dog-boy in Knight’s Fee, Hugh Copplestone in Brother Dusty-Feet. (And what are the others I have forgotten?).
Mowgli, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Cat Chant, Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
Anne, Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery
Alex Rider, Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
Harry, Harry Potter by JK Rowling
Lyra, His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
Sophie, The BFG by Roald Dahl
Peter, Peter Pan by J M Barrie
The Fossil Sisters, Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield
Knight’s Fee, originally published by Oxford University Press in 1960
These are three of Rosemary Sutcliff’s most acclaimed works. Warrior Scarlet is set in Bronze Age Britain. It is the story of Drem, a boy with a withered arm, who dreams of slaying a wolf and earning his place amongst the warriors of the tribe. The Mark Of The Horse Lord is a darker story, of revenge. Knight’s Fee tells the story of the boy dog handler Randal, who rises from this low position through a mixture of fate and his own abilities and character.
Ah the joys of Google and Amazon, and random discoveries of past writings! In 2000 one Mel Saxby reviewed Rosemary Sutcliff’s Knight’s Fee, urging people to read an “underrated” novel:
Knight’s Fee is one of the four or five books I’ve read in my life which alway make me cry. Though written for children, it’s completely unpatronising, always crediting the reader with intelligence and imagination, and is beautifully written. It tells the story of Randal, a half-Saxon half-Breton lad in Norman England, an orphan left to fend for himself as a dog-boy in Arundel castle, and details his gradual rise to knighthood and freedom, at a terrible price. I have only ever seen this book in hardback, in an Oxford Childrens Library edition, never in paperback, which is a great pity, as it is a vastly underrated book by this author, far better I think than her more well-known stories of Roman Britain, and deserves to be much more widely read.
The things you learn with Google alert, which is sometimes a year or two late …! Rosemary Sutcliff’s Knight’s Fee was being read in 2007 around this time by author Garth Nix. Described by the promoters, Jarrold department store, as one of the world’s great fantasy writers”, he will in fact be signing copies of The Violet Keystone in Norwich today!
A full-time writer since 2001, he was born in 1963 in Melbourne, Australia. He has worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, and bookseller. His books include the award-winning fantasy novels Sabriel, Lirael and Abhorsen; and the cult favourite YA SF novel Shade’s Children.
And Knight’s Fee? In short, the story is set against the violent and turbulent backdrop of Norman England. A young ill-treated boy who is wagered and won in a game of chess between a lord and a minstrel …
Rosemary Sutcliff’s Knights Fee – a historical novel for children and young adults – is set against the violent and turbulent backdrop of Norman England. It tells the story of a young ill-treated dog-boy Randall who is wagered and won in a game of chess between a lord and