From the Author
When I was still on Twitter, I posted something like, "What you won't find in Sons of Britain: knights, magic, grail quests, tournaments, damsels in distress." Because reader expectations are huge in genre fiction, and I planned to ignore some very specific expectations surrounding Arthurian legend. How dare!
So why dare, or even bother? Simple: it's a rich legend with lots of room for interpretation and origin stories. I had two main goals for Sons of Britain: to write a version of Arthur's story that was more realistic than fantastical, and to create a story someone could read and then think, "I can see how those characters and events could--over centuries--become the legend we know."
To give the story a realistic feel, I set it in 6th-Century Britain. The earliest mentions of Arthur came from what is now Cymru/Wales. It made sense to me that Arthur might be raised in a mountainous region, so the early books are set in the area now known as Eryri/Snowdonia. Knights didn't exist in post-Roman Britain, but a man living in that time period and place might be trained as a warrior by necessity, to defend his land from the tide of settlers from the Continent. Ideals of chivalry and courtly love came to the legend later in the middle ages. In the so-called Dark Ages, survival was a much higher priority than ivory-tower behavior. So this Arthur is a warrior, living and fighting under a warlord's authority.
Which brings me to my second goal. "Wasn't Uthyr Arthur's father?" you might ask. In many accounts, yes, and among the accounts we know best, almost always. But I wanted the freedom to take a different approach. To do so, I decided to use the spirit of the legend, not the letter of it. So my Uthyr isn't Arthur's father, but he fulfills much of that kind of role: he's the ultimate authority in Arthur's world, he trains Arthur to his vocation, Arthur looks to him for validation and, eventually, will be faced with the prospect of leading people in a way similar to Uthyr's leadership.
"But wait, wait, wait," you say. "What about Uthyr and Igraine? That's in everything!"
To me, the most important thing about that part of the legend is that Uthyr felt something toward the woman who became Arthur's mother, and those feelings made him do extraordinary and questionable things. And I will explore that story in this series. In fact, it'll have its own book down the line. *is coy*
So I've taken some liberties. (*understatement*) Among them: my Arthur was raised by his birth parents, not fostered; Cai is his biological brother; Gwen is Uthyr's daughter; Bedwyr is Uthyr's son; the Myrddin (Merlin) is a titled role in society, not a name; and Lancelot...well, that's an author's note for a future book. *is coy again*
Of course, Sons of Britain explores another big thing I haven't mentioned yet: queer relationships among Arthurian characters. Many scholars agree that hints of queerness exist in the legend; one story they point to often is Gawain and the Green Knight, in which Gawain must give to Sir Bertilak anything he receives over a three-day period, including a succession of kisses from Bertilak's flirty wife. The queerness in the larger legend has been explored here and there by modern authors. But I saw an opportunity to merge two things: relationships on the queer spectrum and the bonds that develop between and among fighting men. These two ideas will come together strongly later in the series, when Arthur begins to gather trusted warriors around him.
Finally, a few words about Bedwyr...
Man, has this guy gotten short shrift in legend, especially after Lancelot was introduced in the 12th Century (upstart latecomer!). By that time, Bedwyr had become Sir Bedivere. But in the earliest Welsh tales, he was Bedwyr, Arthur's most trusted fellow warrior, a good friend of Cai's, notably good-looking, and very loyal. He was also often portrayed as having one hand or one arm. I've kept all of these traits because yowza, what a lot of opportunity for conflict. Though Marked by Fire introduces my version of the story, giving readers a new Arthur, I'd argue that this is very much Bedwyr's book. To my mind, the changes he has to undergo are the greater ones and ultimately require courage on a level no other character in the book must show. And who doesn't love a strong, quiet guy?
So Bedwyr will get his due in this series, along with characters you may be more familiar with, including Gwen, Cai, Gawain, Agravain, Palamedes, Uthyr, Merlin, and even Lancelot (sort of).
I hope you enjoy this new take on an old but loved story.