The only book I had ever read of Rosemary Sutcliff's before this one was Outcast (just remembering the plot now thanks to Wikipedia), which I must have picked up at a school book fair once upon a time. I hadn't realized how prolific and well-known a children's author (particularly on Roman Britain) she was until I read several mentions of her on other blogs/pages dedicated to historical fiction. But I did remember being captivated by her book when I read it as a child, so when I saw she had written an "adult" novel on King Arthur, I just had to check it out! 😁
Sword at Sunset is Rosemary Sutcliff's telling of the Arthurian legend, under the premise that he was a historical figure and imagining how that could have been. She places the tale a generation or so after the Roman Legions have left Britain, and with the Saxon invasions increasing in number and strength. In an interview with author Raymond Thompson in 1986 she said something which reflects how I feel on the matter:
"I always believed very strongly that there could be no smoke without a fire. A legendary hero almost always has a basis in a real person, around whom bits of legend and bits of other people's stories gather and collect, rather like amber collecting little bits of paper. I was convinced that there was a real man in the middle somewhere."
So who is her King Arthur?
Well, to start out his name is Artos, and he is NOT a king! At least not until the very end. He is still Uther's illegitimate child (not even a pretense of him marrying the mother after), but in this version he was acknowledged by his father and raised at court by his uncle Ambrosius the High King after his father died (unlike Uther's other illegitimate child Ygerna whom he left with the mother because she was a girl and thus of no interest).