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The Mark of the Horse Lord

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“There was a smell of blood mingling with the smell of burning that still clung about scorched timber and blackened thatch, and a great wailing rose from the watching crowd. The old High Priest dipped a finger in the blood and made a sign with it on Phaedrus’s forehead, above the Mark of the Horse Lord.”

So began the ceremony that was to make young Phaedrus, ex-slave and gladiator, Horse Lord of the Dalriadain. Phaedrus had come a long way since the fight in the arena that ...

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Overview

“There was a smell of blood mingling with the smell of burning that still clung about scorched timber and blackened thatch, and a great wailing rose from the watching crowd. The old High Priest dipped a finger in the blood and made a sign with it on Phaedrus’s forehead, above the Mark of the Horse Lord.”

So began the ceremony that was to make young Phaedrus, ex-slave and gladiator, Horse Lord of the Dalriadain. Phaedrus had come a long way since the fight in the arena that gained him his freedom. He had left behind his old Roman life and identity and had entered another, more primitive, world—that of the British tribes in the far north. In this world of superstition and ancient ritual, of fierce loyalties and intertribal rivalry, Phaedrus found companionship and love, and something more—a purpose and a meaning to his life as he came fully to understand the significance of the Mark of the Horse Lord. First published in 1965 but long out of print, The Mark of the Horse Lord has been acclaimed by many readers as the finest of Rosemary Sutcliff’s many novels, imparting true insight into the nature of leadership, identity, heroism, loyalty, and sacrifice.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Although Sutcliff's story was first published in 1965, this Front Street edition remains a timely and compelling read, especially for those interested in historical fantasy fiction. Set in Britain during the first century, the novel follows Phaedrus, an enslaved gladiator who earns the Wooden Foil and is granted freedom after killing his best friend in a particularly emotional bout. Unsure of where his new life might lead, he accepts an offer from the leaders of a northern tribe to impersonate Prince Midir, a rightful heir to the Scottish throne who was blinded and robbed of his rule by the current leader, Queen Liadhan. Phaedrus, as the displaced King of the Scots, engages in several battles in the attempt to regain control of the Scottish Kingdom from the Picts. In the process, he learns much about his adopted people, among them Midir's best friend, Conory, who alone recognizes the deception, and Murna, Liadhan's daughter, who he comes to love. Like Phaedrus, readers experience and come to more fully appreciate a world rich in allusion, myth, and imagination. Violent and beautiful, descriptive and fast-paced, this novel wields a sort of give and take that lures readers in and pulls them along, educating and entertaining them in the process. 2006, Front Street/Boyds Mills Press, Ages 12 to 18.
—Wendy Glenn, Ph.D.
From the Publisher

“The total assurance of the writing indicates an author fully in command of her power.”  —Times Literary Supplement

“All that has been so much admired in Miss Sutcliff's writing—her concern with the nature of courage, the marvellous ease with which she moves within an historical situation, the power and beauty of her style—flower together to produce a single astonishing experience. . . . Here is a story that unfolds perfectly, scene by marvellous scene, in a sort of controlled mounting storm of narration, great tenderness and great savagery (there are wonderful battles) twining together under the story’s superbly colored and sensitive surface.”  —Guardian

“Miss Sutcliff has told one of her most powerful stories. Always her protagonists are strong, believable characters; but Phaedrus stands forth with exceptional brilliance, an unforgettable hero.”  —Horn Book

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932425628
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 289
  • Age range: 17 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Rosemary Sutcliff wrote more than 40 novels for young adults, including Black Ships Before Troy, The Eagle of the Ninth, and The Wanderings of Odysseus; five adult novels, including Sword at Sunset; and several books of nonfiction.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 3, 2011

    Excellent book for teens and adults alike

    I first read this book in my twenties, and it remains in my top 10, no matter the intended audience. Her historical fiction is amazing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2010

    I searched for this book for years..

    I read "Mark of the Horse Lord" when I was in middle school, and it became my idea of perfect historical fiction. Rosemary Sutcliff make ancient Britain move and breathe. You will find yourself rooting for Phaedrus as if he were a younger brother.

    Details of daily life along with a spellbinding story combine to create a trip to the past from the comfort of an armchair. The ending is perhaps a little sad for a younger child, but it's perfectly in keeping with the realities of those times. This story defines a hero as a hero should be defined -- not as the smartest or most beautiful or luckiest person, but as the leader that puts the good of his group above his own. A great message in our times where greed is admired over truth.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2008

    heartbreaking tale of Roman Britain

    This is a wonderful book my children, wh are all now in their twenties, tell me they still remember vividly the summer that I read this book aloud to them, and that they wept when I read the ending (the ending will break your heart). It is the story of Phaedrus, a half-Briton, half-Greek slave who is sold to a gladiator school in Roman Britain when he is a teenager, and who wins his freedom in a gladitorial contest where he must kill his best friend. When he is given the Wodden Foil, he has no idea what he can do, now that he is free, because he has been a slave all his life. He is sought out by a group of Chiefta from the northern part of the British island, who are Irish Gaels in what will become Scotland. Phaedrus is almost identical in appearance to the former prince of the tribe, Midir, who was deposed by Lidiane, a ruthless Queen who had Midir blinded so that he could not be her successor. The chieftains are plotting her overthrow, and they coach Phaedrus to impersonate Midir and take over the tribe, to become the Horse Lord. He goes north, and learns to love his adopted people as he leads them, and he falls in love with Murna, Lidiane's daughter, who is forced to marry Phaedrus/Midir, but who gradually comes to love him as well. He leads the tribe in battle, and wins, and then disaster strikes. The story is fast-paced, and wonderfully researched. Sutcliff vividly recreates Roman Britain around 200 AD. You really feel that these people lived, and you come to know them as complex characters. Phaedrus especially remains in your memory long after the book is finished. A great book for both children and adults!!

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    Posted July 2, 2011

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    Posted November 17, 2011

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