All Synopses

All Rosemary Sutcliff’s books

These are of most of Rosemary Sutcliff‘s fiction and non-fiction books, including all her historical fiction for children, young adults, and adults; also her autobiography. All dates are the date of first publication. (Many titles have links to other posts about them on this website.)

A Circlet of Oak Leaves (1968)

Gradually revealing the mystery behind the award for outstanding bravery to a humble horse-breeder Aracos, it tells the story of a daring expedition when Roman auxiliaries and legionnaires fought the Picts on the northern borders of England. Standing in for Felix, a legionary sick with fear before any battle, Aracos fights with great courage but then sees Felix receive the Corona Civica for what he has been through.

A Little Dog Like You (1987)

A woman whose beloved small dog has died finds him again when he is reborn in the body of a new puppy. Pippin is a tiny tan chihuahua who calls the woman Mommy. When nine, he dies, but convinces St. Francis in heaven that he must make the long journey back to Earth to be with Mommy. Mommy, meanwhile, believing Pippin will be reincarnated, bides her time and watches for the birth of chihuahua puppies on a specific date. In the spring, a puppy is born, and Pippin is reunited with his Mommy. She calls him Sebastian.

A Saxon Settler (1965)

Follows the early arrival of one tribe of Saxons in England.

Beowulf (1961)

Only Beowulf among the warriors has the courage and strength to fight Grendel the man-wolf. Beowulf feels he must help the Danish king Hroðgar, who himself helped Beowulf’s father pay weregild. Beowulf goes on a series of terrifying quests against Grendel and Grendel’s mother, the hideous sea-hag; and with the help of Wiglaf fights to the death with the monstrous fire-drake or dragon.

Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of the Iliad (1993)

Retells the story of the Trojan War, from the quarrel for the golden apple, and the flight of Helen with Paris, to the destruction of Troy. In the Guardian newspaper (Arts Section, p9, July 20, 1999), Peter Kingston summarised the story colloquially: “Priam and Hecuba are warned that their new nipper, Paris, will prove too hot to handle, so they dump him in the wilderness. Every parent gets this urge, but learn from the Trojan royals’ mistake. Paris pinches Helen from her hubby, the Greeks launch their task force and start building a precision wooden horse. Rosemary Sutcliff retells Homer in good taut prose”.

Blood and Sand (1987)

Based on real events, this novel is set in The Ottoman Empire – the ‘Sick Old Man of Europe’. Scot Thomas Keith, a former apprentice gunsmith from Edinburgh, is a young soldier in the Napoleonic wars, with the 78th Highlanders. He  is captured in 1807 in the Nile delta by Turkish forces led by the Egyptian viceroy. With no reason to rejoin the English forces, he is persuaded to become an officer in the viceroy’s army. Training for desert warfare and witnessing the fellowship and piety of the Bedouin troops he converts to Islam and eventually rises to be Emir of the holy city of Medina, in a society which is subtle but violent. The story moves between the dignified simplicity of the Bedouin camp and the scheming, scented ante-chambers of the Viceroy’s palace in Cairo in a novel that explores the loyalty between men that helps to make warfare bearable.

Blood Feud (1976)

Sold into slavery to the Northmen in the tenth century, a young English man becomes involved in a blood feud which leads him to Constantinople and a totally different way of life. According to the Washington Post in the USA: “Sutcliff’s gift is to recreate an era, in this case the 10th-century voyages of the Northmen and the rise of Byzantium, so convincingly that her readers accept without question the different mores of another time. The violence of the blood feud between two families set off by an accidental killing seems inevitable. No writing down here, no anachronisms, just a glorious sense of history, a sense of knowing how it was. Exciting Reading. “.

Blue Remembered Hills (1983)

An autobiography , covering her life up to the point when her first book was published in 1950. Rosemary Sutcliff was born in 1920, the only child of a naval father and a beautiful, manic-depressive mother with much charm and a wild imagination. As a child Rosemary suffered from the juvenile arthritis known as Still’s Disease. It burned its way through her, leaving her permanently disabled, yet Blue Remembered Hills is the complete opposite of a misery memoir. It is a record of the growing up and making of a writer and story-maker; it is full of poetry, humour, affection, joy in people and the natural world, and the deep understanding that can come from hard experiences. In some ways, hers was an enchanted childhood, lived among the vivid sights and sounds of the dockyards, which would later inform her books.

When her father retired from the sea the family moved to Torrington in North Devon, and aged fourteen Rosemary went to Bideford Art School. She became a skilled miniaturist. In time, however, feeling cramped by the small canvas of her paintings, isolated in the country and wounded in love, she turned to writing. In doing so, she brought the past vividly to life for generations of children and adults, and herself found fulfilment and success.

Bonnie Dundee (1983)

In seventeenth-century Scotland, the Covenanters who want religious freedom from the dictates of English rule are gathering strength. Hugh Herriot, fresh from a Covenanting background, finds himself working for red-coat Colonel Claverhouse and his Lady Jean: first as the stable-lad and in later years as galloper to Claverhouse. The tension mounts between the two sides of the divided country. Claverhouse, with Hugh always by his side, leads his troop in bloody battle against the Covenanters, through village and valley, forest and town, victory and loss.

Bridge Builders (1960)

A short novel about the building of Hadrian’s Wall, a defensive fortification in northern Roman Britain which was begun in AD 122.

Brother Dusty-Feet (1952)

Along with his faithful dog Argos, eleven-year-old orphan Hugh Copplestone decides to leave his Aunt and Uncle’s house after one beating too many, and marches off to Oxford to seek his fortune and the New Learning. When he meets a group of strolling players along the way, Hugh joins them and becomes part of their acting troupe. He walks “with his legs straight and his shoulders back as the Players taught him”.

Hugh starts a new life meeting jugglers, puppet players, quack doctors and ballad singers starts as the Players travel the country, and, as one of the Dusty-Feet, Hugh also experiences the freedom and fellowship of life on the road. All this before he is set back on his path to university.

Chess Dream in a Garden (1993)

Godmund, the White King and Hrosmunda, his Queen, live in warmth and peace with their people in the garden. But one day a coldness arises between the King and the Queen, which allows the enemy, the Red Horde, to invade the garden, led by a serpent with the head of a man. Then the chessboard at the centre of the garden becomes the battlefield for the battle to end all battles.

Dawn Wind (1961)

The last Roman-British wearer of the dolphin ring, Owain is the only survivor of a Viking raid and the great battle of Aquae Sulis. Just fourteen years old, his father and brother die at the battle but he eventually makes his way to a peaceful Saxon settlement where he is made thrall to a Saxon family. Travelling there he meets a half-wild girl whom he cares for but is forced to leave behind when she falls ill. They meet up again after many years apart, still so in tune with each other that they are able to understand each other’s wordless messages. During his years of service he discovers understanding and even friendship, and loyalty for the people who were once his enemies. His freedom earned, he shoulders the weight of the Saxon household rather than betray a promise to his former master.

Eagle’s Egg (1981)

A story with an amusing twist and a romantic background. Quintus is a young standard-bearer for the Roman Ninth Legion based in Eburacum (York), in Britain in the 2nd Century AD. He has fallen in love with a local girl Cordella, but to marry her he must succeed in being promoted, and achieve the rank of Centurion. The story tells how a hard boiled duck’s egg and a legion’s standard help to quell rebellious troops and earn the longed-for promotion.

Eagle’s Honour (1995)

Omnibus of both The Circlet of Oak Leaves, and Eagle’s Egg

Flame-Coloured Taffeta (1986)

A tale of smuggling and adventure. In a rural community near the southern coast of England in the eighteenth century twelve-year-old Damaris Crocker and her friends become involved with smugglers. One night the smugglers bring ashore not just contraband, but a mysterious, wounded young man, who may be a spy, and who brings adventure, romance, and danger into Damaris’s life.

Frontier Wolf (1980)

In disgrace after a mistake that had lost a fort and cost the lives of half his men, and as punishment for his poor judgment, a young, inexperienced Roman army officer Alexios is sent to Castellum in Northern England to assume the command of a motley, savage group known as the Frontier Wolves.  There he slowly begins to build a new place for himself and form new friendships. Unfortunately, the troubled times make everything tenuous and fragile.

Heather, Oak, and Olive (1972)

Omnibus collection which includes three stories: The Chief’s Daughter, A Circlet of Oak Leaves, and A Crown of Wild Olive (originally The Truce of the Games).

Heroes and History (1966)

A collection of stories about the lives of great figures from the histories of England, Scotland and Wales. It covers Caratacus, Arthur, Alfred, Hereward, Lewellin, Owyn Glyndr, Robin Hood, William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and Montrose. Illustrations by Charles Keeping

Is Anyone There? (1978) (with Monica Dickens)

A collection of short stories and essays by authors who were invited by Rosemary Sutcliff and Monica Dickens to explore  issues of suicide and emotional problems for young people. The proceeds went to the UK charity, The Samaritans. (In fact, I proposed the book!)

Knight’s Fee (1960)

Set against the violent and turbulent backdrop of Norman England, this is the story of a young, ill-treated dog-boy Randall who and won in a game of chess between a lord and a minstrel. Events are triggered when he drops a ripe fig from the battlements on the nose of his Norman Lord’s horse. He is adopted by the family of a slightly older boy, Bevis, who is destined to become a knight. Interwoven with treachery and witch-hunting, and the plot against Rufus and the Old Religion, is the boys’ developing friendship and Randall’s burgeoning appreciation of beauty, demonstrated when he sees a flock of goldfinches and steals Bevis’s treasured piece of red amber. Eventually he comes to his own Manor, and his own grown strength, and cleaves de Couchy ‘to the chine’.

Lady in Waiting (1957)

The lady ‘waiting’ is Sir Walter Raleigh’s wife, Bess Throckmorton, who shared her husband with his ‘bright, devouring dream’. From their first meeting when she was very young, to their secret marriage in the face of Queen Elizabeth’s displeasure, Bess was the one who had to stay home as he travelled the world’s oceans. It was she who glimpsed the treachery of Cecil. She could do little during Raleigh’s many years in the Tower of London and was alongside him when, after Elizabeth’s death, there was intricate plotting under King James, and when he attempted suicide. His trip with the ship Destiny spelled death for their son Watt, and ultimately Raleigh was beheaded. This was Rosemary Sutcliff’s first novel written expressly for adults.

Little Hound Found (1989)

A little dog has to try very hard to make himself accepted in the household where he has gone, where there are already two very well-established dogs.

Outcast (1955)

When a great storm blows up, a Roman trading vessel is wrecked on the treacherous coast of southwest Britain. The infant son of a Roman soldier is the only survivor. Beric grows up with a Briton tribe, but to his foster people he remains an alien, one of the Red Crests. Sickness and death come to the tribe, whose members believe it is because of Beric, who has brought down the anger of the gods. The warriors of the tribe cast him out. Alone without friends, family or tribe, Beric faces the dangers of the Roman World. Rejected by the only life he knew, the boy turns to his own people, but Rome too rejects him. Lost, bewildered, a captive in his father’s land, he escapes from slavery, only to be captured again and condemned to labour for the rest of his life on the rowing benches of a galley of the Rhenus fleet.

Rudyard Kipling (1960)

A monograph about the English writer who was a major influence on Rosemary Sutcliff.

Shifting Sands (1977)

When Blue Feather was twelve years old, she was promised to Long Axe, Chief of her People – but is the cruel Chief as powerful & sacred as his people believe?

Simon (1953)

All of England was taking sides for the King of Parliament in the 1640’s. In the west country the division was bitter as Cromwell gathered his forces for the final, great campaign. The clash of personal loyalties, the severing of friendship, and the bitter strain of the English Civil War of 1642-1660 are reflected in the story of Simon Carey, the farmer’s son who enlists with the Parliamentary forces – the Roundheads, and Amias Hannaford, his boyhood friend, who fights for the Royalist cause. They had the same schoolmaster, went away to the same school, and expected to return home, Simon to help his father farm, and Amias to be apprenticed to his doctor-father. But they parted when King Charles raised his standard in Nottingham, Simon to join the Fairfax Horse in Cromwell’s New Model Army, and Amias to be in the Royalist Foot. It is a story of competing loyalties in a Civil War. In the USA, the Washington Post and Times Herald (April 4th, 1954) wrote: ‘it is a colourful story…..(and) Miss Sutcliff’s interest in character makes even the minor characters interesting….she is adept too at communicating a sense of the Devon countryside”.

Song for a Dark Queen (1978)

“I suppose if she has the victory tomorrow, they’ll make a song about her to sing for a thousand years…”  wrote the young Roman, Julius Agricola, on the eve of the great battle which was to change the face of the future for Britain. ‘She’ was Boudicca, defiant queen of the Iceni, who had already led her small British tribe in rebellion against the dark might of the Roman invaders. She summons the War Host together, from all over Britain, determined to lead them towards the light and to freedom.

Sun Horse, Moon Horse (1977)

Set in the Iron Age, and based on the White Horse of Uffington on the Berkshire Downs, the story of Lubrhin Dhu, who feels that his unusual talent for drawing sets him apart from the rest of his tribe.

Sword at Sunset (1963)

Grounded in classic Arthurian legend, in Rosemary Sutcliff‘s version of the story, Arthur is Artos, the bastard son of a long-dead Uther, but raised by his uncle, Ambrosius, as a cavalryman to lead the Roman-British fight against the invading Saxons. He is a man of towering strength, a dreamer and a warrior who  combines the best of Roman civilization with the fierce dedication of his Celtic ancestors.

The story is of Artos’s struggle to lead the Britons, both Celtic and Roman, against the invading Saxons. It is the story of a warrior brotherhood, 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.  It is also a story of love, loyalty, betrayal and a horrible unspeakable sin, the consequences of which could destroy all that Artos holds dear. Artos challenges his men to the horses of his dreams, which he believes are the key to victory against the foot-bound Saxons. He meets and befriends the men who will be his sword brothers as well as his meeting the lady he grows to love, Guenhemara. Artos confronts a ghost from his past who he knows will try to destroy him but whom his own honour will not allow him to destroy.

Sword Song (1997)

(Rosemary Sutcliff’s last book)

Sixteen year old Bjarni Sigurdson, a young Viking swordsman, did not mean to kill the holy man who had kicked his dog but the horse-pond was near and Bjarni did not think the old man would drown in the short time he held him under. But he did and Bjarni was guilty of man-slaying. To make matters worse his Chief, Rafn, had sworn an oath that in his settlement the followers of Christ should be safe, so Bjarni had made his chief an oath-breaker.

Bjarni is given a sword and banished from the settlement for five years. He becomes a mercenary, making a life for himself as a swordsman. He travels from England to Dublin, and then to the islands off the west coast of Scotland where he finds a hero in a Viking seafarer. He proves himself in five years of adventure, fighting among the clan chiefs from the west coast of Scotland in bitter, bloody feuds; seafights are interspersed with the domesticity of harvests and weddings.

At last Bjarni’s five years are up and he decides to return to his own settlement. But there are more dangers in store for him. He is shipwrecked and becomes involved with a girl who is in danger of being killed because she is thought to be a witch.

The Armourer’s House (1951)

The novel is set in the time of King Henry the Eighth in England, in the period when he was married to Anne Boleyn. Following the death of her grandmother, Tamsyn is sent to grow up with her uncle, a famous armourer, and his family in London, dashing the hopes she had to set sail with her seafaring uncle.  She would have preferred to stay in Devon, watching her uncle’s ships. She was homesick until she discovered that a cousin, Piers, shared her feeling for the sea, and they became close friends.

The Best of Rosemary Sutcliff (1987)

A collection which includes three titles:  Warrior Scarlet, The Mark of the Horse Lord, and Knight’s Fee.

The Capricorn Bracelet (1973)

In the time of the Roman occupation of Britain,  from the fall of Londinium to the building of Hadrian’s Wall, and the final departure of the Romans from Britain, the story  the fortunes of a Romano-British family over three hundred years. They are all soldiers, linked by the Capricorn bracelet, which is worn first by the centurion Lucius for distinguished conduct, and  then handed down through the generations—six short stories of a  family from the Boudiccan Rebellion to the end of the Roman occupation.

  • Death of a City, 61 AD:
  • Rome Builds a Wall, 123 AD
  • Outpost Fortress, 150 AD
  • Traprain Law ,196 AD
  • Frontier Scout, 280 AD
  • The Eagles Fly South, 383 AD

The Changeling (1974)

In ancient Britain a small tribal group, the Epidii, lives along “the flat coastwise strip below the place where the Glen of the Chariot-Crossing opened towards the Western Sea.” The Chieftain’s wife has just become the proud mother of a baby boy who is the seventh born to the families living in the Chieftain’s big house. Long ago before the Epidii came, the “little Dark Folk” had been been the only people living in the glen. The Epidii know that when it’s time for the Dark People to sacrifice a child to their gods, they sometimes steal a seventh child from the Epidii to sacrifice instead, leaving their own child with the Epidii in its place.When Tethra the changeling becomes old enough to think for himself he  makes a life-changing decision.

The Chief’s Daughter (1967)

A boy who has been a captive since an unsuccessful assault by Irish raiders is set free by Nessan, the daughter of the clan chief, whose friendship for the boy is stronger than her fear of being offered as a sacrifice to the Black Mother in her place.

The Chronicles of Robin Hood (1950)

Recounts the life and adventures of Robin Hood who, with his band of followers, lived as an outlaw in Sherwood Forest dedicated to fight against tyranny.

The Eagle of the Ninth (1954)

The ninth legion marched into the mists of northern Britain and they never came back. Four thousand men disappeared and the Eagle standard was lost. Marcus Flavius Aquila, following in the steps of his father (supposed dead when the legion disappeared ten years earlier) has joined the Roman army, given his oath to Mithras and taken command of his first cohort in the southern part of Britain. He dreams of commanding a legion of his own and of an early retirement to a farm in the Etruscan hills that once belonged to his family. But in his first battle he is seriously injured and forced to leave the army.

During his long and painful recovery, Marcus hears rumours that the Roman eagle from his father’s lost legion is being worshipped by one of the pagan tribes up in the north. Eager to to discover what happened to his father and the Ninth Legion, restore his reputation, and recover the eagle that could be used as a rallying symbol against the hated Roman invaders should a revolt ever break out again among the barbarians, Marcus and his British slave, Esca, travel north. All through the summer, they criss-cross the unknown wild regions beyond Hadrian’s wall that keeps the untamed tribes from the Roman world – in search of the eagle. The quest is so hazardous no-one expects them to return. But he is successful, but not before battling with the Seal people and a desperate chase South to Hadrian’s Wall to safety with the eagle.

The Flowers of Adonis (1969)

A novel of the Peloponnesian War: the tale of Alcibiades, his relationship with Athens, and the dreadful battle at Syracuse.

The High Deeds of Finn MacCool (1967)

Rosemary retells the tales of Finn and the grey dog, of Dearmid and Grania, of Oisin – Finn’s son- and all the other high deeds of the brotherhood of the Fianna.

The Hound of Ulster (1963)

The prophecy was that the boy who takes up the spear and shield of Manhood would become the most renowned of all the warriors of Ireland, men would follow at his call to the world’s end, and his enemies would shudder at the thunder of his chariot wheels. As the boy Cuchulain heard it, he went forward to claim the weapons of his manhood and became the great heroe – The Hound of Ulster.

The Lantern Bearers (1959)

The Lantern Bearers is set in the fifth century A.D., at the close of the Roman period in Britain, more than one hundred years on from The Silver Branch. Recalled to Italy, the last of the Roman army have set sail home and abandoned Britain to the threat of Saxon invasion and civil war.  Aquila, the young commander of a troop of cavalry, realises that his strongest loyalty is to his native Britain rather than to the legions and a distant empire he has never seen. He deserts and returns home. The decision is a bitter one,  made worse still when he returns to the family villa to find  that his father has been murdered and his sister Flavia kidnapped  by Saxon raiders. Aquila himself is made a slave, a thrall in a Saxon household.

Three years later, he and Flavia meet again in a Saxon camp, and Aquila discovers that she has married a Saxon and has had a child. Though she helps Aquila to escape, he cannot forgive her for her dishonourable surrender to the enemy. Although he finally escapes, he becomes bitter and joyless, consumed with hatred for the Saxons.

Seeking revenge, he travels north to joins with Ambrosius, the Roman-British warrior prince who is the last inheritor of Roman authority in Britain.  Over the fifteen years that follow, suffering years of self-imposed loneliness before he is able to make peace with himself and his world, Aquila takes part in the long campaign to throw the Saxon invaders back into the sea. In the end Ambrosius is victorious and is crowned High King of Britain–a final defiant lifting of the light of Romano-Celtic civilisation against the encroaching barbarian dark. And a chance meeting with Eugenus the Physician helps Aquila to see himself as part of a larger scheme of things, and understand better the choice his sister made.

The Light Beyond the Forest (1979)

A retelling of the adventures of King Arthur’s knights, Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad, Sir Bors, and Sir Percival, as they search for the Holy Grail.

The Mark of the Horse Lord (1965)

Phaedrus, an enslaved gladiator in northern Britain in the first century, earns his freedom by killing his best friend, a fellow gladiator, in a final fight to the death.

He is approached about a scheme involving the tribes to the North, in Scotland. He is made an astonishing and  dangerous offer: the chance to become king of a Gaelic kingdom. But what does a slave know about living as a free man? The king died seven years ago. His son, Midir, went missing; and Levin’s half-sister, Liadhan, seized the opportunity to bring back goddess worship and set herself on the throne. Phaedrus looks exactly like the missing Midir. Why not put him on the throne instead, and remove Liadhan from power? So Phaedrus pretends to be Midir, pretends to be King, and gets more than he bargained for as he begins to realise what being King means.

The Minstrel and the Dragon Pup (1993)

One fine spring day a down-at-heel minstrel finds a beautiful egg on the seashore. To help it hatch, he plays a tune on his harp. Out comes a dragon pup, no bigger than a kitten, and a special friendship is born. But when the minstrel’s adopted dragon pup is stolen by a wicked showman, his songs suffer. Writing in the Times (Nov 4th, 1993) Brian Alderson said: “One of Rosemary Sutcliff’s last stories … shows her exploring the possibilities of a quasi-medieval fairytale. Minstrel befriends small dragon, loses him to wicked wizard, regains him after curing king’s son.”.

The Queen Elizabeth Story (1950)

Nine year old Perdita is from the county of Devon – Devonshire. Her father was the rector of Broomhill, a quiet village with shady lanes and flowering gardens. Here, Perdita could nearly always find fairies or Pharisees. She had a friend called Adam.She told them that that her dearest wish was to seen Queen Elizabeth.  The next summer the Queen does come through the village, and she does talk with Perdita. (This was the first of Rosemary Sutcliff’s books to be published, but the second of the published books to be written after The Chronicles of Robin Hood. Originally OUP said this was for 8 to 12 year olds).

The Rider of the White Horse (1959)

(sometimes titled Rider of the White Horse or Rider on a White Horse)

Set in the Civil War in England, a story of Sir Thomas Fairfax and his wife Anne, and their little daughter Moll, who rode to war with her father and mother. For three years Anne trailed in the wake of her husband as his exploits on the battlefield become legendary, and she coped with the less than comfortable and exhausting lifestyle so that she could be with her husband when he needed her.

 The Road to Camlann (1981)

The evil Mordred, plotting against his father King Arthur, implicates the Queen and Sir Lancelot in treachery and brings about the downfall of Camelot and the Round Table

The Roundabout Horse (1986)

On Midsummer’s Eve, a magical time of year, a roundabout horse finally breaks free from its carousel.

The Shield Ring (1956)

In England  just after the Norman Conquest, high up among the fells of the Lake District is a secret valley where the Northmen (or Vikings as they are sometimes loosely called) have their last stronghold – or shield ring – struggling to keep the Lake District free. The Normans want to crush this last group of Northmen, so they build a castle in Carlisle and an army is sent north under Ranulf de Meschin. Frytha a young, orphaned Saxon girl seeks refuge in the valley after her home is burnt by the Normans. She witnesses the waning power of the Norse as she joins Jarl Buthar’s Viking band after her family are slaughtered by the Normans.

Bjorn, the Bear-Cub, is the foster son of the old harper. He  longs to be allowed to play the ‘sweet-singer’, the special harp owned by his foster father which is smaller than the hall harp and strung with Irish white bronze, not horse hair. The old harper realises that one day Bjorn will indeed be a harper and he starts to teach him how to play it.

Life goes on in the valley – lambing, shearing, spinning, harvesting, and singing and story telling in the great hall in the evenings. But always there is the need to prepare for a Norman attack and Bjorn has a secret fear. Several times in the past the Normans have captured Northmen and  tortured them to try to force them to reveal where the hidden valley is – but no Northman has ever betrayed the vital secret. Bjorn wonders how he would act if he were ever in that position and fears he would not be able t keep silent.

The outnumbered Northmen try to outwit the Normans by building the Road to Nowhere – a road which will lead the Normans into an ambush. But they also need intelligence about  the Norman army. They need to send someone into the Norman camp. Bjorn volunteers; he speaks enough Norman to get by, and a harper  can go anywhere. So Bjorn sets out for the Norman camp knowing that if he is found to be a spy he will be tortured – his secret fear from childhood. But he does not go alone. Frytha follows him.

The Shining Company (1990)

Set in A.D. 600, and based on The Gododdin, the earliest surviving North British poem, a story of adventure and survival against impossible odds. In northern Britain, Prosper becomes a shield bearer with the Companions, an army made up of three hundred younger sons of minor kings and trained to act as one fighting brotherhood against the invading Saxons. Life is secure until Prince Gorthyn arrives with his hunting party to kill the white hart. Prosper tries to save the unusual beast and, when found out, is surprised to learn that Prince Gorthyn admires his daring. Prosper askes to serve the prince, but it is not until two years later that he receives a summons: King Mynyddog is raising a war host of three hundred younger sons to fight the invading Saxons, and Gorthyn needs a second shieldbearer. Answering the call, Prosper sets out immediately to meet the prince and travel to King Mynyddog’s fortress at Eidin.

For a year the three hundred men – the Companions – and their shieldbearer train until they can think and act as one fighting brotherhood. And when word reaches them that the Saxon leader has taken yet another kingdom, they set out to attack the Saxon stronghold at Catraeth. It is here that Prosper must face his greatest challenge, as treachery strikes the Companions from an unexpected source.

The Silver Branch (1957)

Justin is a young army surgeon whose choice of career disappoints his father. Flavius is a centurion. They meet at a time when Rome’s power in Britain has weakened. Violence and intrigue are undermining Rome’s influence and the first forays of the Saxon invaders have started. The two young men are loyal to the Emperor Carausius, a powerful, visionary ruler who is fighting to preserve what is left of Roman civilisation.

The two young men uncover a plot to overthrow the Emperor and are caught up in a desperate struggle for power. While in fear for their lives on a spying mission in Saxon-occupied Britain, Carausius is murdered. Justin and Flavius pay the price of that loyalty: they are exiled and hunted, organising a tattered band of loyalists to fight for the dead Emperor’s beliefs. The two young men lead the collection of other outcasts and runaways, farmers and sailors, an ex-gladiator who always wore a rose into battle and Carausius’s fool from court, into the thick of battle in defence of the honour of Rome.

On commentator said : “… it’s basically a Second World War resistance yarn transposed to the fourth century”.

The Sword and the Circle (1979)

A retelling of the adventures and exploits of King Arthur and his knights at the court of Camelot and elsewhere in the land of the Britons.

The Truce of the Games (1971)

Two athletes from different ways of life discover the meaning of friendship as they compete against each other in the ancient Olympic games. (Also published as The Crown of Wild Olive).

The Wanderings of Odysseus  (1995)

The long siege is ended and Troy is in ashes. The black ships of the Greek war-host set sail for home – but for King Odysseus of Ithaca, the return voyage holds hazards far greater than any he faced in the Trojan War. Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey” is transformed into a traveller’s tale with a spectacular cast of magicians and monsters. A re-telling  from Homer which highlights the main episodes – visit to the Cyclops, the Island of the Dead, Circe  Alan Lee’s illustrations conjour up stormy seascapes, misty mountains and ferocious monsters – colours are hypnotic, deep-sea blues, greys and greens.

The Witch’s Brat (1970)

The knowledge of herbs and healing that once prompted the villagers to stone him out of town eventually becomes the salvation for a disabled boy in twelfth-century England. He finds he has a gift for healing pain and easing deformity; and is later involved in the building of St Bartholomew’s hospital and priory.

Three Legions (1980) (An omnibus edition)

A collection of three novels of Roman Britain. The Eagle of the Ninth is set in the early days of the Roman province. The Silver Branch is placed during the time when the rebel general, Carausius, is proclaimed Emperor by his British troops. It is a time rife with plots, assassinations, and spying. The Lantern Bearers takes place when the last Roman army has left, abandoning Britain to internal strife and the menace of invasion by the Saxons.

Tristan and Iseult (1971)

Rosemary re-tells the Celtic legend about the love between the warrior Tristan and Iseult, the wife of King Marc of Cornwall.

Warrior Scarlet (1957)

The story of Drem, a boy growing up in a bronze-age settlement on the South Downs in Britain.  Born with a withered right arm, Drem imagines that he will never be able to become one of the hunters of the tribe and win the right to wear the scarlet cloak of a warrior.  The book follows him as he grows to manhood, and learns to overcome his disability.

We Lived in Drumfyvie (1975) (with Margaret Lyford-Pike)

(These were originally radio scripts). A history of an imaginary Scottish ‘Burgh’, told through stories about its inhabitants over a period of 700 years. The folk of Drumfyvie tell their own stories – of castle and alehouse, of battlefield and workshop, of merchants waxing rich and beggars clapped in the stocks, of witch- hunts and Covenanters, of death at Flodden Field and devastation by the Plague.

32 thoughts on “All Synopses

  1. I absolutely love all Rosemary Sutcliffe’s books. She has a knack of putting you inside the main character so you see the world and the whole story through his or her eyes. I have a goodly collection of them, but there are still more to be purchased. Avenel Grace Adelaide South Australia.


  2. I’d really love it if someone could compile a family tree for the Aquila family. Just about to,listen to “Black Ships Before Troy.”


  3. I was due to visit Hadrian’s Wall with the London Region Arts Club of the Open University so re-read “Eagle if the Ninth”, last read in 1958 when my Latin mistress lent me her copy when I was 11. I loved it all over again then discovered it was part of a trilogy so read the next two books immediately. I have just finished “Dawn Wind” and found out that the hero Owain is the last owner of the dolphin ring. What I think would be extremely useful would be a family tree of Marcus Flavius Aquila to make it easier to trace his descendants through the different books. I loved “Sword at Sunset” but found it very sad as the ending is known as soon as you start any story about Arthur but loved Rosemary’s working of it. I wish she was still with us so that I could pass on my admiration for her works to her in person. I also loved “The Witch’s Brat” where a disabled person overcomes his affliction to help others and to find his own niche as a result. Just off to check which book follows “Dawn Wind” as I want to find out more about Aquila’s descendants. This is a great forum and thanks for the chance to post on it.

    Cathy Gillespie


  4. Thank a lot for this sites & information about the author Rosemary.
    I read all translated german books because I live in Austria – and the most of the others in the original language.
    Through this sites I found some new books from my favourit author Rosemary – I love best.
    …she was an is great…

    best regards



  5. Thank you very much for this excellent list description of Rosemary Sutcliff’s books. I read a couple of them when I was a teenager, revisited them recently as an adult and have now been able to read most of her books, thanks to your info! Some of the first ones are still my favourites (Eagle of the Ninth, Mark of the Horse Lord), but I’ve enjoyed reading her others.


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