cover image After Rome: A Novel of Celtic Britain

After Rome: A Novel of Celtic Britain

Morgan Llywelyn. Forge, $24.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-765-33123-6

Irish author Llywelyn (The Horse Goddess) presents an exceptional novel of 5th century Brittania, weaving impressive historical detail with enlightened and evolving characters. In C.E. 410, the Roman army deserted Brittania (modern-day Great Britain), leaving behind an organized central government, educated elite, and a culture that mimicked Roman fashion, food, architecture, and education. However, many of post-Roman Brittania's civil servants had only "a veneer of Latin sophistication" to go with a Celt's "impetuous temperament." They struggled to govern without Roman leadership; violent Saxon warriors, Picts, and Scoti took advantage of the leadership vacuum, resulting in lawlessness, violence, and death. Llywelyn's narrative follows dissimilar cousins, Cadogan and Dinas, brave, resolute men transformed by hardships caused by larger historical forces. Each man seeks freedom and order within a collapsed society. Cadogan, thoughtful and steady, becomes a reluctant leader with "unasked-for responsibilities," shepherding urban refugees to the forest after their town was burned by Saxons. Rootless Dinas, ambitious and passionate, is a "[l]eader, warlord, wild man," who recruits his own warriors; he dreams of kingship, but becomes a pirate and mercenary. Llywelyn's fine treatment is a tribute to man's survival, personal growth, and resilience in the face of anarchy. (Feb.)