Today I am thrilled to be bringing you all a guest post that Penny Ingham, author of The Saxon Wolves, has written.
Britain 455AD. The Roman Empire has fallen. As the daughter of a king and a priestess of the sacred grove, Anya’s life in Germania is one of wealth and privilege – until she dares to speak out against the high priest’s barbaric human sacrifices. Her punishment is exile. Forced to leave her homeland, she sails to Britannia, to an island that is sliding into chaos and war, as rival kingdoms vie for power. Alone and far from home, Anya must learn to survive amidst the bloodshed, treachery and intrigue of fifth century Britain. Can she find a place to belong – a home, a hearth, a welcome?
Penny’s father, a journalist, instilled her with a love of history from an early age. Family holidays invariably included an invigorating walk up an Iron Age hill-fort whilst listening to his stirring stories of the Roman attack and the valiant defence by the Britons. Consequently, Penny has a degree in Classics and a passion for history and archaeology. She has enjoyed a varied career, including BBC production assistant, theatre PR and journalism, but her ambition was always to write historical fiction. Her first novel, The King’s Daughter, was awarded Editor’s Choice by the Historical Novel Society. Penny has worked on many archaeological excavations, and these ‘digs’ and their evocative finds often provide the inspiration for her books. Penny’s research also takes her to the many spectacular historical sites featured in this novel, including Hadrian’s Wall and Tintagel.”
Twitter - @pennyingham
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Website - pennyingham.wordpress.com
**Thank you so much for taking the time to write this post for my blog.**
The Saxon Wolves was inspired by a series of spectacular archaeological discoveries including the Sutton Hoo ship burial, the mysterious Tamworth hoard and most recently, the excavations at Tintagel, Cornwall.
Post Roman Britain is often referred to as The Dark Ages because so few written records survive for the period. All we really know for certain is that the Roman Empire fell. The Roman legions and bureaucracy gradually departed and somehow, over the next two hundred years, the Anglo Saxons became the dominant force in England. Quite how this happened is still being hotly debated by historians. Some talk of small numbers of incomers, of peaceful migration. Others talk of much larger numbers, of hostile invasion.
‘On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain’ written by Gildas, a Christian monk, is a rare contemporary account of fifth century Britain. He tells us that a British warlord invited a Saxon warband from Germania to fight for him against the Picts, a warlike, northern tribe. All went well for a time, until the mercenaries rose up against him. Gildas writes of fire and slaughter; of letting wolves into the sheep pen. There’s probably a grain of truth in this version of events, because the idea of using mercenaries was nothing new. The Romans had used barbarian mercenaries to supplement their legions for centuries.
And so I decided to use Gildas’s account as the framework for The Saxon Wolves. But there is still so much we don’t know and as a writer, this was a wonderful opportunity to use my imagination to fill in the gaps: What was life like in post-Roman Britain? How did the Britons survive without the infrastructure of the Roman occupation? What was their relationship with the incoming Saxon settlers/invaders? At what point did the ‘fire and slaughter’ stop, and assimilation begin?
In the novel, Anya falls in love with Silvanus, heir to the throne Dumnonia (modern day Cornwall). Silvanus’s stronghold is the clifftop fortress of Tintagel, one of my favourite historic sites in the British Isles. Today, the constantly buffeting wind on the clifftop smells of salt and fish and seaweed, just as it did fifteen hundred years ago. The clifftop has long been associated with the legendary King Arthur and while we will probably never know for certain is Arthur actually existed, the recent archaeological excavations at Tintagel have proved there was a thriving, high status settlement on the clifftop during the fifth century; the exact time a real Arthur would have been fighting the invading Saxons.
Tintagel might seem isolated and ‘cut off’ to us today, but in the fifth century, the sea was the motorway of its day, connecting Cornwall to the trading routes of the Mediterranean and the Byzantine world. The people of Dumnonia sold their tin in exchange for the luxury goods, amphorae of olive oil, wine, fine pottery and glassware, all of which have been found at Tintagel during the recent excavations. And it was these finds which helped me build a picture of what life might have been like in Silvanus’s stronghold.
I love the fact that archaeology is beginning to shed light on The Dark Ages; beginning to prove there might be some truth in the legends our ancestors have passed down to us. Perhaps they are not legends at all, but dimly remembered folk memories of a time when the cliff top of Tintagel was the stronghold of a Dark Age warrior-king.
Please do go and take a look at all the other amazing blogs that are featuring on this blog tour. They are all listed below.