The Shieldmaiden’s Pride – locations

It’s two weeks until release of “The Shieldmaiden’s Pride” – the adventures of a young half-Iute girl in eastern Britannia at the fall of the Empire… It’s been a while since I spent such a significant amount of story time in Londin and its immediate neighbourhood. All the familiar places and faces are coming back – some, perhaps, for the last time…? But with so much focus on Britannia Maxima, I can dive into this part of the island in more detail, and visit some regions that until now have only been mentioned in passing.

WERLAM – Verulamium, St. Albans, Hertfordshire

The capital of Catuvellauni, and a city which at times wished to rival Londinium for primacy over the entire province. It grew to renewed prominence when relics of St Alban were ‘found’ here by Germanus of Auxerre, and the modern town grew around the mighty cathedral that holds them.

DORCIC – Dorchester-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

A tentative name, one of the few proposed for the fortified town guarding an important crossing on the upper Thames, future Dorchester’s main claim to fame is that it’s purported to be the original settlement of the Gewisse tribe, who would later come to rule Wessex, and eventually all of England. It boasts some of the earliest Saxon settlement remains outside the coastal areas.

SPINIS – Speen, Berkshire

Now a tiny village in Berkshire, it was once the place where the Ermine Way, the main highway from Corinium to Londinium, met the road from Aquae Sulis.

DUROLIPONS, DUROBRIWA, DUROWIGUT – Duroliponte, Durobrivae, Durovigutum – Water Newton, Cambrige, Godmanchester

A confusingly similarly named cluster of settlements in what is now Cambridgeshire, strewn along the road to Lincoln astride the borders of Britannia Maxima and Britannia Secunda.

BELGIAN WENTA – Venta Belgarum, Winchester

Once a capital of the Belgian civitas, it suffered severe decline after the end fo Roman rule – only to be rebuilt as the capital of Wessex, and the heart of Anglo-Saxon England, centuries later.

CLAWSENT – Clausentium, Southampton

We last saw Clawsent when young Ash visited it searching allies against Aelle, in the Saxon Might. It hasn’t changed much since then – still a backwater harbour, dreaming of its ancient glories. It will remain thus until the Saxons build a new market town of Hamtun, on the other side of the estuary – later renamed Southhampton.

LEMAN – Portus Lemanis, Lympne

A Saxon Shore fort, a navy base, and the second largest harbour of ancient Kent after Dover, though the current village of Lympne has little in common with its predecessor except the name.

CORIN, GLEWA, SULIAN WATERS – Corinium, Glevum, Aquae Sulis – Cirencester, Gloucester, Bath

The three great cities of Western Britannia, surviving the longest against the Saxon onslaught of later centuries. We know they were sometimes grouped together as one powerful cluster, since they are recorded to have all been lost to Ceawlin’s West Saxons after the Battle of Dyrham in 577.

The Shieldmaiden’s Pride – Map Reveal

“The Shieldmaiden’s Pride” – Book One of the new trilogy, The Song of Madron – is now in the final editing and proofreading stages, with the release scheduled for July 1st – but I can’t wait to show off the maps that will be in the book. Keen-eyed readers will recognise I used one of the earliest maps from Saxon Might as base for this one, but with added detail and some changes in political geography in the 25 years since the period of that book.

BARBARIAN SETTLEMENT IN BRITANNIA, 475 AD

The Villas of Song of Britain

In “The Shieldmaiden’s Pride”, the story returns to mainland Britain, as seen by the natives of this land. The characters journey through the island, from hillfort to fortress, from town to villa – so it’s a good moment to run through some of the real-life villas of Roman Britain that have popped up throughout the series so far, and that will appear in the next book.

THE SAXON SPEARS:

ARIMINUM – Beddington Park, London

The one that started it all – the Beddington Park villa, near which I lived for a few years in London, and which inspired me to start writing The Saxon Spears.

QUINTUS NATALIUS’s VILLA – Crofton, Orpington

Ten miles due east from Ariminum, a crumbling villa belonging to Pascent’s neighbour, Quintus Natalius – where Ash and Eadgith last saw each other before parting ways for years.

THE SAXON KNIVES:

WORTIMER’S VILLA IN ROBRIWIS – Cobham Park, Kent

Rhedwyn ruled a settlement of Iutes and Britons here for a while, when the villa‘s grounds were confiscated during Wortimer’s brief exile.

CATUAR’S VILLA IN NEW PORT – Brighton, Sussex

A small villa to which the Regin Comes moved from his palace in Bignor as his wealth and importance diminished. Later, Rex Aelle took it for residence, when setting up the South Saxon capital in New Port.

THE SAXON MIGHT:

EADGITH’S VILLA – Newport, Isle of Wight

The half-ruined villa on Wecta, from which Eadgith ruled the small Iute colony.

THE CROWN OF THE IUTES:

MUTUANTON VILLA – Barcombe Mills, Sussex

The white-washed palace on the hill near Mutuanton, where Aelle kept the Briton nobles hostage.

MUTUANTON ISLAND VILLA – Beddingham Sussex

The ruined villa in the marshes, where the Saxon force kept in check the Briton army on the hill fort.

THE SHIELDMAIDEN’S PRIDE:

SOUTH SHORE VILLA – Southwark, London

Recently discovered near the London Bridge, I used this lavish mansio as basis for the South Shore ‘entertainment’ villa.

PUBLIAN’S VILLA – Rutland, near Peterborough

Though not visited in the story itself, Publian’s house – and its Homeric mosaic – plays a crucial part in the plot.

DORCIC PRAETOR’S VILLA – Wittenham Clumps, Dorchester-on-Thames

Another villa only mentioned in the story – the Praetor of Dorcic prefers to live here, in the remains of a hill fort across the river from the town he governs.

Why is Kent?

(no, this isn’t about the politics 🙂 )

There’s Sussex, Essex, Wessex and Middlesex. There’s East Angles, split into Northern Folk and Southern Folk – and, once, there were even Middle Angles. There are counties and kingdoms with such undoubtedly English names as Surrey and Mercia. Why, then, in the middle of all this Germanic toponymy, is Kent not called something like “Jutland” or “East Jutia”?

Etymology will tell us that the name “Kent” comes from the Briton word for “edge” or “corner”, which in turn gave the name to the Iron Age tribe of Cantii. In Latin, it was variously rendered as Cantia, Cantium or Cantiacum. The Germanic settlers called it Centrige and Kentland. But etymology is not the same as explanation. After all, Sussex is not called “Reginland”. Essex is not “Trinovantia”. Norfolk is not “Ikenware”.

The Kingdoms of Angles, Saxons and… Kents?

Something happened in Cantium that was different from everywhere else. The myths and what little history we have written about the beginnings of “Anglo-Saxon” settlement in Britannia tell us that it all started there – with Hengist and Horsa, and his Jutes landing on the Isle of Thanet. It’s a convenient legend, but we know there is some truth in it. More, probably, than in the legends of Aella and his son Cissa conquering the southern provinces with his three ceol-fuls of Saxon warriors, or in the muddled origins of the Western Saxons, jumping about from the Welsh marches to Winchester and Salisbury with little regard to geography and chronology.

My books are a fiction, based on guesswork. Until we find some ancient copy of the lost Chronicles of the Kingdom of Kent, all we have to go on are those less precise tools of a Dark Age historian: myths, archaeology, toponymies and etymologies. After all, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was written in Wessex, hundreds of miles away and centuries after whatever events in Kent made it keep its Briton name when all the land around it took new names from the Saxons. It is a wonder that any rumour of what happened made it to the chronicle, even if only in form of a brief snippet of a legend of Wortigern and the two brothers.

Hengest and Horsa survey their muddy domain

That there was no “invasion” we know from archeological record. No great battles as described by the chroniclers, and no brutal conquest, wiping out entire native population. But I’d like to think there was something more to Kent’s good fortune. I’d like to think – and it is what I propose in my books – that Kent was a unique experiment in the early history of England. That in Kent, the Germanic settlers and the Briton natives not only lived side by side in peace, but dealt with the difficulties of that age of chaos together, that they shared the burden of the time of upheaval that ravaged the rest of Britannia, and the Empire beyond. That the reason why Christianity was welcomed first, and with such ease, in Kent – while other Anglian and Saxon kingdoms resisted and sometimes reverted to paganry – was because the Romano-Britons of Kent, the native Christian population, were not subdued and quashed by their new rulers, and did not turn to imitate them with the same eagerness as those under the Saxon rule. That they were allowed to live and rule in their towns even as the Jutes settled the countryside around them, allowed to keep their Latin names, with only small modifications to accomodate the Jute tongue: Dover for Dubris, Lympne for Leman, Rochester for (Du)Robrivae Castrum – and their capital, a Burgh of the Cants. Compare that with what little remained of the old names in the land of Saxons: gone is Noviomagus Reginorum (Chichester), no trace remains of Anderitum (Pevensey) – and we can barely guess whether their main harbour of Novus Portus was at Brighton or Shoreham. And, most importantly, unlike any other tribal pagus in southern Britannia, they were allowed to keep their ancient name: the Land of Cant.

It is, I repeat, only a guess; a neat setting for a work of fiction. But I feel like it’s as decent explanation as any for why, to this day, the most south-easterly county of England is called Kent, rather than, say, Jutrey. And at the very least, it makes for a good story.

Octa, son of Oisc, ponders his place in history

Release Day! – “The Wrath of the Iutes”

Today’s the day of another release in the Song of Britain saga – Book 5, “The Wrath of the Iutes” !

The long way back just got longer….

They were supposed to return home as heroes, basking in the glory and plunder of the victory at Trever… But fate decided otherwise for Octa and his band of Iutes. Chasing after Ursula’s captor, the renegade Haesta, they venture deep into the unfamiliar land of Armorica, where they unexpectedly discover an old ally seeking their help against a threat of invasion…

On their quest to help defend Britannia Prima, a province still ruled by the remnants of the old Roman power, Octa and his warriors will meet new friends, face new enemies and discover ancient mysteries, in this long-awaited second chapter of the Song of Octa: The Wrath of the Iutes.

Available in e-book and paperback, exclusive to Amazon!

The Wrath of the Iutes – Map Reveal

In 10 days, “The Wrath of the Iutes” will be released on Kindle – and on paperback around the same time – so it’s time to reveal the new map for the 5th book of the Song of Britain saga.

“The Wrath…” takes place in Armorica, Isles of Scilly and what is now known as Wales. It’s in Wales that most military action happens, with armies moving from fort to fort and ships going from port to port, so the one new map drawn for this book is one of Wales – or Western Britannia Prima.

Incidentally, this is my second novel that is partly set in Wales – so did my first book, the Shadow of Black Wings, and even the map was somewhat similar, if a fantasy version. I can’t tell myself if it’s just a curious coincidence or is there something special about Wales that makes me go back to it time and time again?

The Song of the Tides novella – FAQ

Coming out a month after Book 2 of The Song of Octa, “The Wrath of the Iutes” is a novella “The Song of the Tides“: a sort of an epilogue to “The Wrath…” – and it’s already out for preorder!

It’s an unusual publishing move, so I decided instead of the usual press blurb, I’ll do a short FAQ post explaining why you should preorder this if you’ve also preordered The Wrath of the Iutes – or read (and enjoyed) any of my books in the series.

Is it a standalone novella?

  • Not really – it’s best read after the Wrath, as it concerns the fates of characters we first meet in this volume. I tried my best to make it a standalone if somebody insists on reading it out of order, but at best you’ll have spoilers for the previous book – and at worst, you won’t have a clue what’s going on.

Why novella, rather than part of the novel?

  • Because it’s not quite a part of Octa’s story, at least not as I want to tell it. Though told through Octa’s eyes, and though he and Ursula play active parts in the plot, it’s the conclusion of the stories of the characters he meets in the Wrath, and attaching it at either the end of Book 2 or the beginning of Book 3 would feel out of place. It also serves as a chronological stepping stone between the two volumes – the gap between the Wrath and the Crown is almost eight years, and there’s a story within that gap that needed to be told.

Isn’t it just a money-grabbing ploy?

  • Quite the opposite. The novella is 40,000 words long – a third of my usual novel length. Editing, proofreading and formatting of a text this long costs money. Adding it to one of the other books would increase their price accordingly. But because I don’t feel this is an essential part of Octa’s story, I wouldn’t feel right forcing the reader to pay for it. This way, everyone gets a choice.

What’s it really about?

  • At the most basic level, it’s a retelling of the ancient Breton legend of the Sunken City of Ys – though it’s as distant from that tale as the Song of Ash was from the real legends of Vortigern, Hengist and Horsa. It’s set in the years 461-462 AD, takes place almost entirely in Armorica, and introduces the new enemy who will become a much greater threat in “The Crown of Iutes” – the Goths of Tolosa. That’s as much as I can say without spoilers.
  • Should I buy it?

Yes! Not only is it as fun and exciting as my full length novels, it also features a certain important event in Octa’s and Ursula’s lives – you may want to read it just for this. And it’s only 99p!

The Blood of the Iutes – Map Reveal

It’s that time again – the premiere of the new volume is fast approaching, and the first marker of the book being ready for release is the map is now done.

There’s only one map this time – but one that shows more of the ancient world than any of the maps before – all of late Roman Gaul and Germania north of Augusta Treverorum.

This should tell you how much greater the scope of the story has become – the interests of Iutes are no longer confined to Britannia, they now enter into the power plays of the late Empire