Saturday, 28 August 2010

Novels Set In Roman Britain

I did this list for an archaeology forum but thought it might be fun to post it here. I've asterisked my personal Top Ten. Do let me know if I've missed any.


NOVELS SET IN ROMAN BRITAIN


GILLIAN BRADSHAW

Island of Ghosts (Sarmatian cavalry on Hadrian’s Wall, late 2nd century. Plenty of atmosphere and authenticity)*

Dark North (North African troops in Britain in the reign of Septimius Severus)


AMANDA COCKRELL

Legions of the Mist (what happened to the Ninth Legion, but probably not)


LINDSEY DAVIS

The Silver Pigs (first Falco mystery, partly set in 1st-century Britain. Wryly amusing with lots of authentic detail)*

A Body in the Bathhouse (Falco is sent to investigate murder around Chichester and Fishbourne Roman Palace)


WILLIAM DIETRICH

Hadrian’s Wall (set in 4th century. Implausible characters doing implausible stuff and the subtitle A Novel of Roman England doesn’t inspire confidence in historical accuracy)


R S DOWNIE (RUTH DOWNIE in USA)

Ruso and the Disappearing Dancing Girls (USA: Medicus)*

Ruso and the Demented Doctor (USA: Terra Incognita)*

2nd-century mystery series about an army surgeon based in Deva who becomes a reluctant sleuth. Perceptive, atmospheric and often wryly amusing.


ALFRED DUGGAN

The Little Emperors (Britain and the fall of the Roman Empire)


ADAM FERGUSSON
Roman, Go Home! (Roman noble and British princess at end of Roman Britain. Nice touch of humour in Roman Empire-British Empire parallel, if I remember rightly.)


JANE FINNIS

Aurelia Marcella mysteries set in c. 100AD on the road to York – Aurelia runs a mansio.

Get Out Or Die, A Bitter Chill, Buried Too Deep


PAULINE GEDGE

The Eagle and the Raven (from Caradoc to Boudica via Cartimandua, historical romance.)


DOUGLAS JACKSON

Claudius (Claudian invasion of Britain, the one with the elephants)

Hero of Rome (Boudica again but from Roman side for a change)


JOHN JAMES

The Bridge of Sand (set during the governorship of Agricola, c 80AD, with Juvenal (yes, that Juvenal) as a junior army officer sent on a mission)


MARY MACKIE

People of the Horse (Boudica, again but not too much romance)


ANTHONY RICHES

Empire: Wounds of Honour

Empire: Arrows of Fury.

Roman military adventure series set on Hadrian’s Wall late 2nd century


JOSEPH E ROESCH

Boudica, Queen of the Iceni


ROSEMARY ROWE

Libertus mysteries set in Roman Gloucester in late 2nd-century:

The Germanicus Mosaic, A Pattern of Blood, Murder in the Forum, The Legatus Mystery etc.


SIMON SCARROW

Roman military adventure series of which the first 5 are set during and just after the Claudian invasion:

Under the Eagles, The Eagle’s Conquest, When the Eagle Hunts, The Eagle and the Wolves, The Eagle’s Prey

Lots of thud and blunder, effing and blinding. Spawned imitators (see RICHES, JACKSON)


MANDA SCOTT

Dreaming the Eagle, Dreaming the Hound, Dreaming the Bull, Dreaming the Serpent Spear (highly original take on Boudica, with lots of shamanic dreaming and complex relationships)


ANYA SETON

The Mistletoe and the Sword (Roman soldier and foster-daughter of Boudica. Good mix of adventure and romance)


GEORGE SHIPWAY

Imperial Governor (Boudica story from Suetonius Paulinus’s point of view. Solid soldierly stuff; author even made me sympathise with Suetonius)*


ROSEMARY SUTCLIFF

Eagle of the Ninth (quest to find Eagle standard of the “lost” Ninth Legion, soon to be a film)

The Silver Branch (Carausius)


The Lantern Bearers (end of Roman Britain. Full of atmosphere and impending tragedy)*

The Mark of the Horse Lord (gladiator on quest to Caledonia, 2nd-century, I think. Dark and moving.)*

Frontier Wolf (cavalry adventure on Hadrian’s Wall and beyond, 4th century)

Outcast (boy cast out by tribe, sent to Rome as a slave, struggles to get back to Britain)

Song for a Dark Queen (Boudica, from both British and Roman perspectives. Absorbing, elegaic)*

These are billed as children’s fiction but all of them make satisfying reads for grown-ups too, especially The Mark of the Horse Lord, Song for a Dark Queen and The Lantern Bearers (which foreshadows RS’s masterpiece, Sword at Sunset - written for adults – the definitive Arthurian novel, in my view).


ANNA TAYLOR

The Gods Are Not Mocked (Druid priestess and Roman lover in time of Caesar’s 55BC invasion)


HENRY TREECE

The Dark Island (Romans vs Caratacus. Brutal but affecting – great sense of “being there”)*

Red Queen, White Queen (Boudica)


PETER VANSITTART

Three Six Seven: The Memoirs of a Very Important Man (end of Roman Britain through the eyes of someone who doesn’t see it coming)


PAUL WATERS

Cast Not The Day (4th-century Britain)


JULES WATSON

The White Mare and The Dawn Stag (Tribal resistance to Agricolan campaign in 1st-century northern Britain, romance/fantasy.)

The Boar Stone (4th-century, same area, same genre)


DAVID WISHART

The Horse Coin (Boudica-lite, but interesting)*


Good sources of titles:

http://tinyurl.com/26khojz (searchable database by title or period)

Steven Saylor’s website: http://tinyurl.com/2953hpd

Historicalnovels.info: http://www.historicalnovels.info/Ancient.html#RomBrit

3 comments:

Carmen Bonnell said...

Thanks! This is a great list! I truly appreciate having the descriptions.

David Brodsky said...

Thanks for the list. I was looking for something exactly like this!

David Brodsky said...

Thanks for the list. I was looking for something exactly like this!