West Briton Story
Rhuadrac, the main character and narrator of Tom O’Rourke’s fantastic debut novel West Briton Story, is an old man (only around 60, but that’s ancient – and lucky – in an age that lives and dies by the sword) when the book opens, looking back on his tumultuous life in 6th century Britain. The Romans have been gone for over a century, and the Saxons continue to make inroads against the West Britons. In the tale Rhuadrac tells, he and his brother Cormac are soldiers in the forces of the West Briton king Farinmael, and through battle and unexpected mercy, the young man Rhuadrac meets and falls in love with Ulla, the daughter of the Saxon king.
The Venerable Bede once commented that no book of any length could chronicle all the tales worth telling, and O’Rourke has almost casually proven this by plucking one group of lives from a now-forgotten corner of Dark Ages history and transforming the result into the finest historical novel of medieval setting since Alfred Duggan’s The Right Line of Cerdic. Thrilling battle sequences, deadpan and intensely human dialogue, and expertly drawn character studies … West Briton Story has all of these things in abundance. This is exactly how historical fiction should be written. Enthusiastically recommended.