How does a legend begin? It’s a story that’s passed down from person to person. Over time, it becomes grander and more embellished until no one’s quite sure what’s true and what isn’t. But a legend lasts forever. The power of stories and how they shape history is one of the main themes explored in James Wilde’s Pendragon. The historical novel is set during the Roman occupation of Britain and lays the foundations for what will become the legend of King Arthur.
Beginning in the winter of AD 367, the story focuses on Roman commander Lucanus. As the leader of the Grim Wolves, his job is to scout the wilds and protect the small community he watches over. But when the child of a friend goes missing, Lucanus sets out into the wilderness to return the boy to his mother. The wilderness if filled with hostile warriors and superstition seeps out of the pages and into the reader’s mind.
The Celtic period is one of my favourite historical settings and Wilde captures its essence in the book. Ancient Rome might have been a superpower in Europe, but there’s a sense of the Romans in Britain being as isolated as the people who inhabit the island. The Celtic religion has been wiped out and Christianity is starting to take over the Ancient Roman beliefs as well. All the characters are outcasts in a world that’s on the brink of change. Religion is explored in depth, with Christianity being portrayed as a violent consumer that takes away from other religions and adds to its own legend.
As Lucanus travels further from his home, he becomes swept up in a struggle for determining the next king of Britain. He finds out that Druidism is alive and well and the Druids trying to change the course of history. Lucanus’ bravery is one of the greatest aspects of his character. He doesn’t know what to believe and his perspective is constantly challenged by what he experiences. Over time, he transforms from a Roman general into a warrior who wants to secure the future of Britain.
Wilde’s attention to detail is one of my favourite parts of the book. He’s skilled at creating landscapes, from sinister swamps, to the sprawling vistas of Rome. His cast of characters are colourful and you’re never quite sure which side they’ll take.
Pendragon is an impressive novel that blends the power of legends and the danger of religion together. Fans of the Ancient Roman period will definitely enjoy this book so I’d recommend it. You can buy it on Amazon now.