An Accidental King

Written by Mark Patton
Review by Alan Fisk

Cogidubnus, once a Celtic priest, but now appointed Great King of Britain by the Romans, receives an important visitor to his sumptuous palace at Fishbourne in Sussex on a rainy day in 79 A.D.

Cogidubnus’ briefing to his visitor sets off a trail of memories that take us around southern and eastern Britain and beyond as far as Rome, bringing in many historical characters both British and Roman, including Vespasian, Agricola, Cartimandua, and Boudicca. The atmosphere and culture of both the time and the place are convincingly described.

There are many changes of period back and forth, and once or twice I got lost and had to backtrack to reorient myself. Places are all given their modern names, which is reasonable, except for only one strange exception: the island of Andium, which turned out to be Jersey, after a little online research.

I liked the admiring picture of Cogidubnus, who is often represented as a Quisling who was made a client king and given his palace as a reward for treachery. The story is colourful, exciting, and unpredictable. Fans of Rosemary Sutcliff and George Shipway (an odd pairing, I admit) will enjoy this one.