Arthur yearns for battle. He is desperate to fight so he can obtain the tattoo that signals his passage into manhood. And if he’s being truthful, he wants to impress Bedwyr, the tribe’s best warrior and son of Uthyr. Yet when the chance to prove himself finally comes, Arthur forgets his training and in a moment of rash foolishness, he costs Bedwyr his sword hand.
Now both men are ostracized from the tribe, Bed because he is no longer a warrior and Arthur because of the shame he carries. Now, burdened by guilt and with a desperate need to see Bed returned to his former glory, Arthur decides to bully the man back to life. Through stubborn tenacity and genuine love, Arthur and Bed find their way out of the darkness. But Bed must prove himself still a warrior in order regain Uthyr’s good graces and he can only do so with Arthur at his side. With nothing to lose, Arthur and Bedywr must risk everything to make their mark in the world.
Marked by Fire was an amazing novella that perfectly captured the beginning of the Arthurian legend with realism and true emotion. The story of Arthur, his round table, and the creation of Camelot were the stories of my childhood. They were the tales that fueled my love of history and folklore and, as a result, I’ve always been partial to Arthurian retellings. But rarely have I seen them done so well as in Marked by Fire. Despite its shortened form, this early scene from Arthur’s life is excellently written and does away with the fantastical elements of the legend to give readers a believable retelling. Arthur is nothing more than a gangly young man in Marked by Fire, in love with the Chief’s son, a man he can’t have, and desperate to prove himself. And in doing so he nearly gets his fellow warrior killed and is left looking a fool. He is far from a great king and little more than a puppy desperate for the affections of those who have proven themselves to be men. Bedwyr steps off the page as a man who has lost everything and clings to life as a matter of course rather than from any real interest. We can’t help suffering with him and as he slowly returns to life, we champion his strength and determination. Arthur and Bed work as a couple because there is a comfortable honesty between them. They are warriors and shield mates and there is the sense that their lives have been bound together by forces neither of them can fully understand.
There is something thrilling in the slow reveal of characters we have so long known from the Arthurian legends, despite their changes in circumstance. Uthyr is now a tribal chieftain, but we still recognize his arrogance and brutality. In Arthur we see the shadow of the man he will become, but his youth is both credible and relatable. There are plenty of other legendary incarnations evident and given this is the start of a series, we can only assume other characters will reveal themselves in the future. If you don’t know anything about the Arthurian tales you will still love Marked by Fire, but I do believe there is an added layer of enjoyment for those who know the legends well.
Marked by Fire was an excellent novella and a wonderful start to new retelling of the Arthurian stories. The characters are vibrant and emotive and the author does an amazing job of drawing you into the story. Despite being a novella, the plot is well developed and complete and the pacing is incredibly strong. I can’t recommend this one more highly!