Celtic fantasy and historical novels

When I read Rosemary Sutcliff as a child, she formed my taste for historical fiction. Even though YA, it's worth going back to reread some of her books, such as *A Sword at Sunset*, *The Mark of the Horse Lord*, & *The Lantern Bearers*.

I second Svalbard's recommendation of *A Shadow of Gulls* & *The Crow Goddess* by Patrica Finney. I love the scene in the first book where the Celtic bard, Lugh Mac Romain, is visiting a Roman camp and is asked the usual question: "How do you remember all those stories?" He replies that it's a question of training and constant performance ... sometimes he adds something new ... he was very taken by one of their epics ... Then he picks up his harp and begins with "Arms and the man I sing".

*Island of Ghosts* by
Gillian Bradshaw is another interesting novel set in Roman Britain.

I have just finished reading The Crimson Chalice trilogy by Victor Canning. I first read them back in the early 90s and was thoroughly enthralled. On the re-read they have dated quite a bit bit still worth a go. They can be downloaded pretty cheaply on kindle.
Though not strictly Celtic (it is certainly very English, though), I recommend "Conquest" by Stewart Binns.

It's essentially about the struggle for supremacy in England between the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans. It culminates with the Battle of Senlac Ridge, near Hastings, in 1066 when King Harold II was killed and William the Conqueror (or William the *******) came out victorious and ushered in the Norman phase of the British Isles. The protagonist of the novel is Hereward of Bourne (based on Hereward the Wake, an important resistance leader during the Norman conquest) who is supposed to be the prototype for the legacy of the legendary outlaw.

The novel gave me a good feel for what it meant to be English (in the sense of Anglo-Saxon heroism) and the ferocity with which they opposed conquest by the French.
Last edited:
The Last Companion by Patrick McCormack is the first in a trilogy set about 20 years after King Arthur's death. The reason it comes to mind is that the author lost his publishing deal after the 2nd book and I recently came across an entry on Goodreads where it said McCormack released the 3rd book as a free download which I am now reading at the moment. It is a constant source of amazement to me how much rubish gets published and high quality (which it is) work such as McCormack's does not. Credit to the author for releasing the third book for free.

A couple of posters have mentioned Henry Treece and Rosemary Sutcliff. I second them as brilliant writers in this genre.
Unfortunately, my last e-mail remains unanswerd...

I'm afraid no email was received - but you're welcome to post a link after Curt's post.

The anti-spam filters will automatically put the post into moderation, but a moderator (or myself) will be happy to approve any such link, so long as it's appropriate to the discussion.

Hope that helps!
Just finished reading a re-issued Omnibus edition of John James' s Votan, Not For All the Gold in Ireland and Men Went To Catreath.

Absolutely stunning books written by a writer on top of his game. He has lovely turn of phrase, a sly wit that would remind you of Robert Graves or Alfred Duggan.
This is a bizarre erratic shuffling zombie thread
I don't think Steven Lawhead was mentioned. He should be!
I have other Modern writers Celtic related fantasy too.
I enjoyed some of his books, especially Byzantium and the early Arthurian ones. Morgen Lewllyn should also get a mention and Nikolai Tolstoy for his bonkers book set in Arthurian Britian, The Coming of the King.
Actually I enjoyed The Coming of the King and read it recently. I'd not thought of it as especially Celtic though. I'd not heard of Nikolai Tolstoy before, only the other one.
He is a distant cousin to Leo and a wrote a book called The Coming of the King set in Urien of Rheged's court in late 6th century Britain.
Historically, I'd mention The Last English King by Julian Rathbone, which is about events leading up to the Norman Conquest.

King-Arthur-wise I'd suggest The Acts of King Arthur and his Noble Knights by John Steinbeck. And I'd second the mention of Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock. I'm not sure that any of these are specifically "Celtic" (it's not a word that I usually associate with England, except for Cornwall) but they are very English.
I loved The Last English King, and seem to remember another boom by that author set during the French Revolution.

Mythago Wood is also excellent and Holdstock's last series The Merlin Codex was also pretty good.

As a self professed Arthurian nut I couldn't get into Steinbeck's telling, but I am in a minority on that one :)
A Machynlleth Triad Jan Morris/Twm Morys. This is a novella in 3 parts centred around the (real) ancient Welsh town of Machynlleth. The first part is speculative historical fiction set in the 14th century when Owain Glyndwr, the last prince of an independent Wales held his parliament in Machynlleth. The second part is set in the present day, and looks at the things which have changed and stayed the same since the time of Glyndwr. The third part is SF, set in a future when Machynlleth is once again the capital of Wales: a high tech, pastoral kind of place, with the parliament in a giant pavilion in a green field, government offices and foreign embassies occupying ancient medieval buildings and a huge tunnel linking this inland town to a port on the North Wales coast.
This thread is already a teenager so I'll just leave a videogame as my two cents: Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. Great indie game that explores a Celtic warrior with schizophrenia.

Similar threads