Duncan of the Britons

Written by Philip Kelly
Review by Steve Shaw

Duncan of the Britons transports us to Britain in the 1380s where we are plunged into the conflict between the Saxons and the Normans. Thirteen-year-old Duncan is a descendant of King Arthur and is the son of the Briton King Kane.

We are in the midst of a complex time in England’s history; there is a desire for the Saxons to join with the Britons to oust the current ruling Normans, who 300 years ago had defeated the then-ruling Saxons. There is no eager desire on the part of the Britons to make such an alliance, and when raving mercenaries (not to mention the chronicler Geoffrey Chaucer) are introduced into the milieu, it makes for a fast-moving and complex plot. Duncan is swept up, kidnapped, and finds himself traveling the known world and is finally reunited with his father.
The book is dense at times and is appropriate for advanced middle-school readers. There is a lot of history and character development to keep straight; a chart or two showing historical allegiances and “current” ruling lines would have been helpful, as would a map and possibly a timeline.

Altogether, this is a good read for someone already familiar with the time period. The descriptions are rich with detail, and the character of Duncan is likable enough (along with the tense fight scenes) to appeal to most readers. Reluctant readers could struggle with keeping up with the plot at times; this might be good for a young adult book club.