Dan is a schoolboy who has been transported back in time and has become an heroic warrior. Ursula, picked on at school, becomes a fierce magician-warrior when transported back in time. They have just escaped from Roman Britain and find themselves in Arthurian Britain a few centuries later. They become involved with Arthur, leader of a war-host which is holding back the Aenglisc who are threatening to overrun the country. Along with Taliesin who has also travelled forward, and who takes the role of the druid Merlin, and Dan’s loyal young squire Bryn, they support Arthur in battle and in his political manoeuvring.
You really need to have read Warriors of Alavna to understand a certain amount of this book, especially at the start. Once you’ve sorted things out, the book moves forward, but sluggishly. The children’s characters are quite solid, although a certain amount of their thought is dominated by the mechanics of the (magical) change they have just undergone. Dan and Ursula are truly immersed in the place and time in which they find themselves, rather than remaining disinterested observers. This gives their characters much greater weight than is the case in the alternative convention of having the children stay apart and only interfere occasionally, and even by accident. Given that, it’s easier to swallow the odd mixture in the characters of modern teenagers wanting to get home, and hardened and legendary warriors of almost supernatural prowess.
The Arthurian side of things is pretty run-of-the-mill: Arthur as War Duke aided by more-or-less magical druid accomplice who gains the name Merlin; wife called Gwynefa; best friend called Larcius. If you’ve ever read any other novel based on Arthurian characters, this one won’t surprise you much. Larcius – the Lancelot of this book – is something of a womaniser, and he and Gwynefa, Arthur’s wife, are fairly openly lovers. The magic which takes the characters through The Veil is of a definitely pagan flavour, and without much explanation. There is not too much of it in this book. At various points, certain of the characters employ some mystic technique to allow their soul to leave their body in the form of a bird.
Tim Golden is a computer programmer living in London. He is also the editor of the goodtoread website.