Heroic Fantasy in Dark Age Wales by Sarah Woodbury

Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Ancient Wales, Featured Book, Historical Tidbits | 1 comment

He is a king, a warrior, the last hope of his people—and the chosen one of the side…

Writing heroic fantasy set in dark age Wales combines the need for research typical of historical fiction with the world building of mainstream fantasy. That’s partly because it brings in the world of the sidhe—the gods of the Celtic world—but also because there’s a true paucity of information about the early middle ages in Wales.

My dark age historical fantasy series, The Last Pendragon Saga, tells the story of Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon (Cade) who was a real king of Gwynedd. His father, Cadwallon, was killed in the battle of Catscaul or “Cad-ys-gual”, the Battle of the Wall (Heavenfield, near Hexham) in 634 AD. A usurper, Cadfael, proceeded to place himself on the throne of Gwynedd, but he himself was overthrown in 655 AD by the twenty-two year old Cadwaladr, Cadwallon’s son, who’d been raised in exile until he could return to claim his birthright.

Thus, Cade is a ‘hero’ in the epic sense of the word. He is heir to the throne of Arthur, and some historians speculate that his story provides the basis for many of the legends of King Arthur. Like Arthur, he was a flawed human who was the last and best hope for his people.  The fantasy element in The Last Pendragon Saga lies in adding meat to the bare bones of history, particularly in the inclusion of Rhiann, the bastard daughter of Cadfael, and the sidhe. By combining fantasy and history, the tale delves into Welsh mythology and adds a mystical element that historical fiction generally does not include but creates an atmosphere that feels appropriate for the world of fifteen hundred years ago.

I was inspired to write The Last Pendragon Saga by the myths and legends that have been passed down to us through the centuries. Geoffrey of Monmouth immortalized Cadwaladr as the heir to the throne of Arthur and the last of the Pendragons. It is through Geoffrey’s writings, along with the songs of the bard, Taliesin, that Cade comes alive as a man—and yet also as a war leader who conversed with the gods and was able to lead his companions from our world to the world of the sidhe and back again. The Last Pendragon Saga is the story of Cade and Rhiann, but is also about the very human choice between good and evil, the cosmic battle between life and death, and the willingness to sacrifice oneself for another.

Legend of the Pendragon, the 8th and final installment in The Last Pendragon Saga, was released on March 7, 2017.

Sarah Woodbury, May 8, 2017

One Comment

  1. With the latest King Arthur film hitting the theaters on May 12th, this should be a good time to promote “Legend of the Pendragon”.