HENGIST launches November 1st!

I’m very excited to announce the upcoming release of my newest historical fiction work: HENGIST. Let me tell you a little about it and how the story came to be.

Book Cover

This will be my fifth published work. Hopefully you’ve read The Retreat to Avalon and The Strife of Camlann, the first two novels in my historical fiction series, The Arthurian Age. I’m currently working on Three Wicked Revelations, the third book in the series and the prequel to The Retreat to Avalon. It will explore the struggle of the Britons, newly free of Rome, and the rise of Arthur.

I also have a pair of short stories published: A Handful of Salt, one of the stories in the famed Janet Morris’ anthology, Heroika: Skirmishers. It’s based on the Anabasis of Xenophon, but seen through the eyes of the Greeks’ opponents. The other, The Letter, I donated to Alex Butcher’s Stand Together – A Poetry and Prose Anthology for Ukraine. The Letter is historical fiction about an unlikely spy and based on a historical incident related to the battle between the Britons and the Visigoths in 470 A.D. that is portrayed in The Retreat to Avalon. My newest book, HENGIST, is a fascinating historical fiction piece for several reasons.

The Arthurian Age historical fiction series

As I’ve discussed before, the early Welsh legends of Arthur were mostly about the struggles of the Britons against internal strife and foreign invaders. According to some of the earliest surviving writings about the time, such as The History of the Britons and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, the wars between the Britons and the Anglo-Saxons really began with a man named Hengist.

Hengist was from Germania and was thought to have been a Jute, but may have actually been an Angle (different Germanic tribes from the area of Denmark). There is evidence that Germanic people had settled in Britain prior to Hengist’s arrival around 428 A.D., but this was likely during the time when Britain was part of the Roman Empire, and it was not unusual for the Romans to settle “barbarian” mercenaries in locations where they needed to bolster their defences against other “barbarians”.

Hengist, however, represents a bridge between that time and the end of the Britons ruling Britain. According to ancient sources, Hengist arrived in Britain nearly 20 years after the Britons had expelled the Roman government for failing to protect them from barbarian raids. Things had not gotten any better, and it is no surprise that a British leader might use the Roman precedent to hire some foreign mercenaries for protection. That leader was Vortigern, and while the relationship started off swimmingly, it eventually resulted in the Britons cursing Vortigern for opening the door that resulted in the Britons becoming the Welsh and losing what became England.

Hengist book launch

I knew about this when I started writing my series, but what I didn’t know was that one of the greatest authors of all time, J.R.R. Tolkien, had discovered some surprising details about Hengist (or Hengest, as he spelled it). You see, Tolkien was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University and was intimately familiar with Anglo-Saxon and Arthurian legend and history.

Tolkien closely studied ancient Anglo-Saxon writings such as the epic poem, Beowulf. In Beowulf, there is a point when a scop sings about a battle in a Frisian king’s hall. That king was named Finn, son of Folcwald, and he shows up in other ancient records, as well. One such record, a piece of an otherwise lost poem is called The Finnsburg Fragment, and it describes other details of the same battle described in Beowulf.

Finnsburg from Hengist by Sean Poage
Finnsburg, illustrated by Tim Skipper for me, All Rights Reserved.

Both of these poems reference a warband leader named Hengist. Tolkien gave a number of lectures presenting evidence that the Hengist portrayed in The History of the Britons, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Beowulf, and The Finnsburg Fragment all refer to the same man, and that he was a historical person. These lectures were later collected, edited and expanded upon by Prof. Alan Bliss and published in the book, Finn and Hengest.

As I read Finn and Hengest, a vivid image of Hengest and why he came to Britain formed in my mind. Not only did I see a very plausible chain of events that led Hengist to sail to Britain, but also a startling parallel between his actions at Finnsburg and another event that the Britons claim Hengist perpetrated.

Those details will have to wait so that I don’t spoil HENGIST for you, or Three Wicked Revelations. I am so excited that I have written something that gives me a literary connection to Prof. Tolkien, and I hope he would approve of my adaptation of his theory, as Geoffrey Ashe approved of my adaptation of his Arthurian theories.

From E. Parrott’s Pageant of British History (1909)

HENGIST is a novella, only 75 pages of story broken into three acts. After the story, I’ve included, as with my other novels, another 30 pages of cool extras, including the cast of characters (I only invented five minor characters), glossary, terms, locations and more. In fact, I include a free look at the first chapter of my work-in-progress, Three Wicked Revelations, because of the connection it has to the story of Hengist.

HENGIST is available for pre-order now on Amazon (click this link) and will be coming to other retailers soon. Besides eBook and print versions, I am planning to release an audiobook version in the future. If you pick it up, I’d love to hear what you think. And as always, I love comments and questions here. Cheers!

The Arthurian Age Book 1

4 thoughts on “HENGIST launches November 1st!”

  1. Always been interested in Hengest. Read Swords in the Dawn years ago and still have a copy. Not a very politically correct tome but of its time.


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