Introduced by Philip Reeve
Illustrated by Felix Miall
A stirring tale of vengeance and honour, from the finest historical novelist to write about Roman Britain.
'Take my place, Phaedrus, and with it, take my vengeance … '
In the cut-throat arena of second-century Corstopitum, Phaedrus, ex-slave and gladiator, wins his freedom in bloody combat. But he soon finds himself caught up in a battle even more fierce and vital. Assuming the identity of Midir, lost king of the Dalriad tribe of Northern Britain, he must unite and lead the Horse People in rebellion against Liadhan, the traitorous queen who has usurped the throne. For Phaedrus the adventure is one of self-discovery; tattooed with the Mark of the Horse Lord he comes to learn the true nature of leadership and heroism, loyalty and sacrifice.
'Sutcliff opened golden windows through which I could climb out of my dull, everyday life … into wild landscapes and times of high adventure'
Rosemary Sutcliff is heralded as one of the finest writers of historical fiction for young people, but like all good children's authors has always been enjoyed by adults alike, satisfying W. H. Auden's dictum, 'There are good books which are only for adults … but there are no good books which are only for children.' In his introduction, Carnegie Medal-winner Philip Reeve celebrates Sutcliff’s unparalleled talent for bringing history alive for her readers, asserting that Sutcliff, whose career was forged during a golden age of children's literature, was 'one of its brightest stars'. A master of storytelling, Sutcliff weaves together well-chosen images – from ‘the skeleton shadows of the spear-stacked arms-racks' and the 'stink of the wild beasts' den' in the arena to Phaedrus decked in 'an ancient clashing necklace of river-gold’ and 'riding at the head of a fiery cloud of horsemen' during his King-Making ceremony – to evoke a past rich in detail and character.
Felix Miall’s brush-and-ink drawings, full of verve and atmosphere, were carefully researched for historical accuracy. His portraits of the Caledonian Chieftain in battle, and the ritual hunt across the bogs of Earra-Ghyl, convey all the spirit and energy of Sutcliff’s prose, while the binding design features Phaedrus as the Horse Lord in all his glory. Quieter vignettes – Phaedrus’s gladiator gear, discarded for the last time, and his war-brooch, which he wears as the Horse Lord – trace his personal journey from circus sword-fighter to leader of the Dalriads.
Rosemary Sutcliff was born in Surrey, England, in 1920. At the age of two she was struck by Still’s disease, which left her in a wheelchair for the remainder of her life. Her first novel, The Chronicles of Robin Hood, was published in 1950, but it was not until 1954 and the publication of The Eagle of the Ninth, which drew on her passion for Roman history, that she began to receive a wide audience and fame. A prolific author, she published more than fifty novels in her lifetime, and is widely regarded as the finest writer of historical fiction for children, although she claimed to write for readers ‘from nine to ninety’. She was awarded an OBE for services to children’s literature in 1975, which was promoted to a CBE in 1992, the year of her death.
Philip Reeve trained as an illustrator, working for many years creating cartoons and illustrations for the Horrible Histories and Murderous Maths series before turning to writing. Mortal Engines (2001), his first novel, received the Smarties and Blue Peter prizes; A Darkling Plain (2006) won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize; and Here Lies Arthur (2007), Reeve’s telling of the Arthurian legend, won the Carnegie Medal. He is currently working on the critically acclaimed Railhead trilogy, and collaborating with illustrator Sarah McIntyre to create highly illustrated books for younger readers, such as Oliver and the Seawigs (2013) and Pugs of the Frozen North (2015).
Felix Miall is an Edinburgh-based illustrator originally from Devon. After studying Art and Design at Falmouth University, he moved to Scotland to study Illustration at Edinburgh College of Art, graduating in 2016. He works primarily by traditional means, using brush and ink, and more recently pencil and crayon. His focus lies in tonal mark-making, character and composition. Miall has created artwork for both commercial briefs and his own writing, which he currently self-publishes.
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