The Retreat to Avalon: Volume 1 (The Arthurian Age)

Written by Sean Poage
Review by Linnea Tanner

Sean Poage tells the tale of King Arthur in a realistic historical light. The prologue sets the stage, when in 469 AD the Roman Emperor Anthemius attempts to save what remains of the Western Empire by seeking the aid of King Arthur, known as Rigotamos, “Highest King.” The story centers on Gawain, a horse trainer who lives in the shadow of his warrior brother and longs for glory in battle. At a feast, he learns that King Arthur is seeking aid from local kings to join the Roman war against the Vesi, who are threatening to invade Gaul and Britannia. Gawain’s father unexpectedly asks him to lead the contingent from his family and to join King Arthur’s forces in an unknown land from which he might not return. The story realistically depicts the training of Briton forces into a singular unit and their epic battles in Gaul. Renowned as a cunning and courageous warrior, Gawain ultimately joins King Arthur’s inner circle as they defend the Western Empire in the midst of betrayal and political intrigue.

The author admirably describes the location in each scene and portrays the everyday life of the Britons and the battles they fought, based on historical events and archaeological findings. The illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, the maps, and the list of characters are added bonuses. The story is told from an omniscient point of view, often jumping back and forth between multiple characters. The mythic storytelling and character development are sometimes lost in the day-to-day details.

The Retreat to Avalon is recommended for readers who would enjoy a more historically-based story of King Arthur with vivid descriptions of everyday life of Britons and epic battles.