After Rome

Written by Morgan Llywelyn
Review by Ilysa Magnus

The Romans have left Britannia. What remains on the island are disparate fragments of Roman British settlements and cities, roaming hordes of barbarians and local tribes – the confused remnants of a government that once ruled with authority and direction. In what direction does Britannia go now?

Llywelyn tells this story from the perspective of two cousins, Cadogan and Dinas. Cadogan is the disinherited son of the once-great magistrate of the once-great city of Viroconium, destroyed by the Saxons. He saves a small cadre of residents and leads them to his own fortress in the forest, a house he has built with his two hands after leaving his authoritarian father, Vintrex, as a young man. There they build their own community with Cadogan as their unofficial head.

Dinas is the wanderer, never content to settle down, even with his soul mate. He wants to be a king. As he puts his dreams into action, he welcomes disenfranchised men into his realm. Through these two characters, Llywelyn creates the tapestry of the life of Britons after Rome abandoned it – still wedded in some respects to the old Roman, Christian ways but inexorably moving toward a melting pot of assimilated tribes. Even the once marauding Saxons are settling down, building towns and raising their children as Britons.

Llywelyn deftly captures the instability and brutality of life in post-Roman Britain in this wonderful book, moving in alternating chapters between the stories of the two cousins. Cadogan and Dinas are magnificent, thinking, feeling characters – Cadogan becoming what he never wanted to become, Dinas never seeming to become what he dreamed to become. As the once-ruling classes of Roman Britannia are killed or displaced, they are forced to face that life as they knew it will never exist again in their homeland.