Sword at Sunset
In this, her only book targeted toward adults, Sutcliff once again employs her beautiful prose to astounding effect. Here, however, the story is not primarily mythical but rather centers around the origins of the famous myth. This book is in essence a retelling of the central story of King Arthur, yet told as it likely actually happened — Arthur, a warrior chieftain during the waning years of Rome, defending his people against the inevitably advancing barbarian hordes from across the sea. Arthur’s heritage is both British and Roman, and he is caught between the two worlds. Sutcliff portrays Roman Britain brilliantly and realistically, as both the fading glory of Rome and the mystical secrets of the Celtic world blend in her depiction of the society. On a smaller level, too, her writing is brilliant — through her descriptions, the reader can sense the world she describes in its beauty and earthiness.
The plot follows the Arthurian story at its most basic, including Arthur’s illicit relationship with his half-sister, his marriage, his wife’s unfaithfulness and his best friend’s betrayal, and his son’s eventual treachery. The book also contains a lot of military material, in that Arthur’s primary role is that of military defensive chieftain. Morally the book is quite acceptable. The immorality in which several of the characters engage receives its just deserts, of course, according to the traditional story, although it is not treated as forcefully as in the traditional manner.
In basic content-wise warning, the book does contain several sex scenes which, while not overly graphic, are definitely sensual enough to label this book adult material. There is also some violence.