King Arthur book.

I read a novel in the early/mid-'80s that was an attempt to place King Arthur in a more historically accurate setting. No “knights in shining armor” here; Arthur wears Roman leather armor. I don’t remember much about it. I don’t even remember if there was any magic in it; or if Merlin was just some sort of advisor. I remember that Arthur’s brother was named Kay, and that mention was made that he often used the Romanized “Kaius” (or “Kayius” or “Caius” or something like that). The title Fire King comes to mind, but when I google it I get a bunch of links to glassware.

Does anyone remember this book?

Could it be one of Mary Stewart’s Arthurian books - The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, or The Last Enchantment? Merlin in those books is an advisor to Arthur, a talented seer with a strong power of persuasion, but not at all a typical “sorcerer”. And Arthur, IIRC, is a post-Roman leader with many Roman influences - tactics, armor, culture, etc.

IIRC, the book was written by a woman. Those titles, one of which may indeed be the book I read, don’t sound familiar though.

OK, do you remember if Lancelot was a character in the book? Because Ms. Stewart specifically left him out of her writings, saying that she found no references to any “Lancelot” in her research of the historical Arthur. (Lancelot appears to be a medieval French addition to the Arthurian myth).

Two possibilities spring to mind

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, (a gal) or
The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell (a guy, but thhere was a lot of Roman armour, a non magical Merlin)

I don’t remember. I’d probably recognise the cover of the printing of the paperback if I saw it.

Hence the links :wink: - they’re both pretty distinctive

I first thought of ARTHUR REX by Thomas Berger but that doesn’t seem to fit.

The Pendragon Cycle by Stephen Lawhead?

TD: Sorry, I didn’t click on the links before. The Winter King has a ring to it, but the description doesn’t really match what little I remember. Neither of the covers match my memory; which is not surprising, since covers tend to change with printings.

Your description sounds a lot like Mists of Avalon, which was made into a not-terribly-awful mini-series. And there’s a prequel that I haven’t read.

The book is Firelord by Parke Godwin - not sure if the author is male or female (“Parke” is a new one on me, and not much info about the author is given). I rather liked the novel. The author’s treatment of Merlin was an interesting take (I won’t spoil it here, since it’s really unique…), and there was no magic to speak of since every effort was made to root the story in history. If you like that treatment of the legend, then Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles might be a good read for you. The first book is called The Skystone and concerns Arthur’s grandfathers serving together in the Roman Legions.

Godwin also wrote a pair of Robin Hood novels that were more realistic than the usual treatement - Sherwood and Robin and the King which did a pretty good job of setting that legend into a likely “real world” framework as well.

Oh, you beat me to it! I’m sure Firelord is the one the OP is talking about too. I bought a copy at a library book sale about a year ago and read it during a long plane trip. I’d never heard of it before, and I enjoy Arthurian novels. Interesting take on many characters, especially Morgana le Fay.

Oh, I thught Parke Godwin was a man, but now that I think again I couldn’t swear to it. A quick Google isn’t turning up the answer. I read one other novel by him/her years ago, Waiting for the Galactic Bus, which is a pretty funny science fiction book about heaven and hell, the surprising origins of mankind, and preventing the conception of a kid who’ll probably be worse than Hitler. Featuring the ghost of John Wilkes Booth!

I think you’re thinking of The Skystone : The dream of eagles Vol 1 by Jack Whyte. I liked the first few books but they lost my interest later on.

The Skystone was what I first thought of with the OP, too…and I agree with Grey’s take on them…

I was going to suggest it might have been Sword at Sunset by Rosemary Sutcliffe. Good book, anyway.

I am pretty sure it was Firelord, since Sword at Sunset had Arthur in chain mail (which is historically accurate for the period) rather than leather. Firelord was an excellent book…so was Sword at Sunset, for that matter.

It’s not The Winter King – I just finished reading that a few days ago and it doesn’t sound like what the OP is describing. There’s no magic, true, but Arthur doesn’t seem very Roman, Merlin is not so much an adviser as someone working on his own who commands fear and respect from everyone, including Arthur, and Kay is called Cei and is barely mentioned. I haven’t read the other books mentioned.

There was another book, some years back, also by a woman (I think) that told the tale from mostly Mordred’s point of view. Arthur was very much a roman wanna-be, Guinevere was a sheltered girl (but more spunk and brains than the Mists of Avalon version), Merlin was a mildly deranged catamite. There was a good bit of magic in that book, as Mordred saves Guinevere from a underworld lord whose name I have forgotten.
Sound familiar to anyone?

(Quick disclaimer: I’m Rysler’s friend with no account of my very own; this post in no way represents her rather different views.)

But, one book that I thought of while reading the OP that no one has yet mentioned is Catherine Christian’s The Pendragon, which is told from Bedivere’s point of view and takes place post-Roman occupation–thus, Caius; Arthur as a half-Roman (I’m almost certain); and Bedivere as his second in command in a Roman-style hierarchy. Published in 1979.