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Literature / The Realm Of Albion

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The Realm of Albion, by Marcus Pitcaithly (author of The Hereward Trilogy), is a work of Historical Fiction set in pre-Roman Britain. It tells the story of Penarddun, wife of King Lear.


The Realm of Albion contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Falyse stands out, but all three of Llyr's daughters and several of the Forest Hold women are competent warriors, and by the end of the book Penarddun has racked up quite a bit of combat experience and learned a lot.
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  • Adaptation Expansion: The action of the play seems to last less than a year; the book covers six and a half.
  • Aerith and Bob: There are characters called Penarddun, Imanuentius... and Morgan.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: YMMV. The chapters where Regan and Euroswydd tell their own stories certainly go some way to explaining their bitterness, and they both suffer quite a bit before their unpleasant deaths.
  • The Alliance: The coalition built up by Cordelia and the Demetian brothers.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Maglor, the equivalent of Shakespeare's mild-until-pushed-too-far Duke of Albany, turns out to be a ruthless Machiavellian bastard.
  • Ancestral Weapon: Excalibur, wielded by the Penteyrnedd but handed down the line of the Lady of the Lake.
  • Animal Motif: Many tribes and other groups have animal symbols: notably the viper of the Silures, the fox of the Cornovii, and the dragon of Avalon.
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  • Antagonistic Offspring: Goneril and Regan to Llyr, obviously; in a less active sense, Ardian.
  • Arranged Marriage: The starting point of Penarddun's story.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: Word of God says:
    When faced with a name that shows obviously the wrong linguistic roots (Greek, Latin, French, English), I have usually translated it to a Welsh near-equivalent: but where such roots are not immediately apparent, I have generally kept the name as it has come to me. Many characters therefore have names that would not pass a philological investigation: but given that even the genuinely Celtic names are a hodge-podge of ancient Britannic (as filtered through Latin sources) and modern Welsh, which despite their lineal relationship do not look much alike, I hope that the inauthentic names will not stand out too badly.
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  • Artistic License – Religion: Word of God again:
    Students of Celtic Mythology may have noticed that I have played around somewhat with the mythological backstory here... There is a simple reason for this: the myths of the British Celts survive only in late, fragmentary, heavily Christianised forms. We can strip away the accretions of romance that overlay them, work in what little we know from archaeology and Greek and Roman sources, and (more usefully) search for parallels in the closely related and much better preserved mythology of Ireland: but ultimately we still see only glimpses of the tales the Britons told. For the purposes of fiction, I have had to undertake some reconstructive work, drawing on those later romantic additions as well as on ancient sources and Irish analogues, in order to give a sense of cohesive mythological belief to the society I have depicted.
  • Ascended Extra: The point of the book - Penarddun is just a name in The Mabinogion, and the author wanted to tell her story. Euroswydd and Falyse are also notable examples.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Penarddun receiving Llyr's torque; Cordelia being formally installed as Lady of the Lake.
  • Badass Gay: The unshowy Perillus may not be a standout badass in a world filled with Proud Warrior Race Guy s, but he's a highly competent fighter. Falyse is a female example.
  • Badass Preacher: Hafgan.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Euroswydd learns this the hard way when he meets Penarddun in combat.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Many characters who have impossible non-Celtic names in the sources Pitcaithly used are given new names that refer to their old ones, but in Welsh. This doubles as a Genius Bonus, since the reader would need to know the sources AND understand Welsh to get the significance.
    • Picell and Achlesydd play roles in the plot equivalent to Shakespeare's Edgar and Edmund - and their names mean "Spear" and "Protector" respectively, as do the Old English suffixes "-gar" and "-mund".
    • Similarly, Shakespeare's Oswald has become Rheol, which, like "-wald", means "Rule".
    • Gweledydd is loosely based on the character Sebile in Literature/Perceforest. Both names mean "Prophetess".
    • Malebranche ("Evil Branch") from Perceforest is now called Cangen (which just means "Branch", but he's still evil).
    • Lyriope from Perceforest is called Delyn, meaning "Lyre".
    • Fraze from Perceforest is called Mefus, meaning "Strawberry" (playing on her original name's similarity to the French word "fraise").
    • Awel is partially inspired by Zephir from Perceforest. Both names mean "Breeze".
  • Bastard Bastard: Achlesydd is based on Shakespeare's Edmund, so what do you expect? The Celts didn't really have much concept of illegitimacy, so he becomes the son of a slave.
  • Breakout Villain: Euroswydd's enmity to Llyr comes from a throwaway line in the Welsh Triads. Barely more than his name has survived in the sources, but here he's a major antagonist.
  • Cain and Abel: Regan murders Goneril.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Perillus makes a habit of this. It seldom ends well.
  • Canon Foreigner: An inevitable result of drawing from such disparate sources as Perceforest, Amadis, the Mabinogion, and King Lear is that characters from each story find roles to play in the others. For example, Urganda (from Amadis) is now Cordelia's aunt and a close ally; Amadis' father Perion is the brother and co-ruler of Pwyll; the young Bran the Blessed is in danger from his half-sisters Goneril and Regan; and so forth.
  • Celtic Mythology: Penarddun's name comes from the Welsh Triads, and her children will go on to become major characters from The Mabinogion. Pwyll, Rhiannon, and Hafgan make their appearances.
    • There's also constant reference to the mythical history of Celtic Britain and its gods. The author identifies the giants of Historia Regum Britanniae and similar medieval literature with the Fomorians of Irish myth, and makes them a vital part of the characters' belief system.
  • Composite Character: Several:
    • Penarddun herself incorporates elements of Sarra, a minor character from Perceforest.
    • Ardian is both Ardian from Amadis De Gaul, and Puignet from Perceforest.
    • Imanuentius is the historical Trinovantic king combined with Perceforest himself.
    • Diviciacus combines the real Diviciacus with Perceforest's Alexander.
    • Perillus is a half-example: a character from the original King Leir play, combined with Shakespeare's Kent... who was probably based on Perillus in the first place.
    • Awel is Lear's Fool combined with Zephir from Perceforest.
    • Llyr himself, even more than Perillus, is actually a RE-composite: the Leir / Lear of Historia Regum Britanniae and Shakespeare almost certainly derives from the Llyr of Welsh tradition, but their stories as they've come down to us are very different. Here, they are recombined.
  • Cool Sword: The actual Excalibur.
  • Crappy Holidays: Llyr's big falling out with his elder daughters takes place during the Winter Solstice celebrations.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Llyr was originally named after his late uncle Lludd, but was renamed in honour of the sea god.
  • Decomposite Character: Elements of Gloriande from Perceforest can be seen in Gloir, Urganda, and Cordelia.
  • Defector from Decadence: Perillus sees himself this way, having foresworn his Roman citizenship after witnessing a massacre in Spain. Scaliger is an involuntary example.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Although people are repelled by a lot of Darnant's practices, Human Sacrifice as such is not seen as a problem (though, by rigging his sacred combats, he is Doing It Wrong).
    • Slavery is similarly a fact of life.
    • Belin, in his backstory, is gratified when an enemy sends him his father's severed head - it's a respectful gesture.
  • Democracy Is Bad: From Penarddun's point of view, the Silurian clan chiefs' power to depose Llyr and elect a new King is exercised at the worst possible time in the worst possible way. But arguably, if the system were more democratic then they wouldn't have been too scared to do it earlier, and it wouldn't have been so easy for Euroswydd to secure election by winning over a faction within what is, after all, a narrow aristocracy. Cordelia explicitly argues that the next election should have a broader base, allowing four village headmen from each clan to vote as well as the chiefs.
  • De Mythtification: Of Perceforest, Amadis, and the Mabinogion. Both explicitly supernatural elements and anachronisms are purged.
  • The Dreaded: Darnant, the Crow Woman, and Cangen.
  • Elective Monarchy: Commonplace in the Celtic world. Both the Silures and the Trinovantes have a mixed elective / hereditary system.
  • Enemy Mine / Enemy of My Enemy: Goneril, Regan, and Euroswydd may not like each other very much, but work together against Cordelia, and Pwyll and Perion.
  • Evil Chancellor: Euroswydd turns out to be one of these.
  • External Ret Con: Of King Lear. Most obviously in providing the King with a living wife and extra children; also notably, the rejection of Cordelia is staged.
  • Five-Man Band:
  • The Fundamentalist: Dardanon; the Crow Woman.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: A literal war!
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Regan. Goneril's not a lot better.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Belgic invasion a generation earlier.
  • Handicapped Badass: We don't see much of him, but the hunchbacked warrior Llyfn certainly qualifies.
  • Heir Club for Men: Even though Celtic society is a-ok with female rule and he has three powerful daughters, Llyr would still rather be succeeded by a son. (But not Ardian.)
  • The Hero: Somewhat subverted: Cordelia would be a much more natural fit for this role than Penarddun.
  • Hero of Another Story: Imanuentius is based on the protagonist of Perceforest, but nearly all his adventures take place "offscreen".
    • The novel lampshades the fact that everybody is this, by giving six characters (Gloir, Regan, Perillus, Euroswydd, Belin, Urganda) their own chapters to tell their life-stories (and reveal to the reader things that Penarddun doesn't know).
  • The High Queen: Cordelia, although Penarddun herself comes close to this trope at times. Lydore gets the actual title at the end.
  • Historical-Domain Character: In the main story, Penarddun's brother Imanuentius really existed even if the rest of the family are legendary, as did the Belgic King Diviciacus. Those of the flashback chapters which intersect with Roman history provide more - notably Didius and the Crassus family in "Perillus' Story", and Teutobod in "Urganda's Story".
  • Historical Fantasy: The book flirts with being this through its mythological backstory and liberal application of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, but doesn't quite count.
  • Historical Fiction
  • Human Sacrifice: Darnant and his followers practice this, and several of them later end up being sacrificed themselves.
  • I Am X, Son of Y
  • The Jester: Awel is forced to become this.
  • Kill ’Em All: Didius' order that led to Perillus deserting the Roman Army.
  • Kill It with Fire: At Dardanon's suggestion, Twr has captured members of Darnant's gang burned alive.
  • Lady Macbeth: Regan to Henwyn.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Aptly enough, it's a quote from King Lear.
  • The Lost Woods: The Deepwood is widely regarded as this.
  • Love Ruins the Realm: Imanuentius' marriage to the low-born Ydorus temporarily costs him the succession, and while not actually precipitating the war with Clarvorus, certainly doesn't help.
  • Made a Slave: This happened to Gloir's mother.
  • Mama Bear: Llys is explicitly compared to this, though in defence of her lover Ardian, not a child.
  • Marital Rape License: Not the norm in Celtic society, which was more equal than most in Iron Age Europe: but Penarddun's circumstances mean she's at the mercy of both her successive husbands and does face this.
  • May–December Romance: It's stretching things to call it a "romance", but Penarddun is fourteen when she marries the aged Llyr. (Well, aged for Iron Age Britain - he's in his late fifties. One character actually points out that he wouldn't be considered old if he were Roman, but British life expectancy at the time was considerably lower.)
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Inevitable given most characters' unquestioning belief in the Celtic gods, and consequent willingness to ascribe events to their intervention.
  • The Medic: The Avalonians in general - Urganda, Gweledydd, Ardian, Llys, all have medical training.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: Ardian is on the fringes of this trope. He was abandoned at birth and his survival kept a secret, but Urganda (who brought him up) knew his real identity and has told him the truth long before we meet him.
  • The Nameless: The "crow woman" never gets a name. (Though her epithet doubles as a Name To Run Away From Really Fast.)
  • Parental Abandonment: Ardian has experienced this.
  • Parental Favoritism: Llyr has undervalued his elder daughters because it was Cordelia's mother who brought him the coveted title of Penteyrnedd. They envy Cordelia as a result, though from her point of view it's difficult to see much favouritism in practice.
  • People of Hair Color: It's far from absolute, but black hair is very common among the Silures and much less so in other British tribes. The Silurian royals, who take after Llyr's blonde Dobunnic mother, stand out as a consequence.
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Imanuentius indicates that Nennius and Lydore, and Pir and Fesonas, both have these. (It's all very well for him, he made a love match.) Penarddun very much doesn't.
  • Perspective Flip: King Lear from the perspective of a character who isn't even in it.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Penarddun spends a lot of time as this.
  • Polyamory: A privilege of Celtic royals. Llyr was married to his first three wives at the same time (though he considered only Gogoniant to be his Queen); Perion acquires two wives on his trip to Gaul, and by the end of the book Cordelia has two husbands.
  • Posthumous Character: Several, thanks particularly to the "so-and-so's story" chapters. Llyr's father Bladud and Cordelia's mother Gogoniant cast especially long shadows over the main story.
  • Precision F-Strike: Falyse to the sentry when they return to Portskewett.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Almost everyone. The Silures are probably the fiercest tribe, but even the relatively peaceful Dobunni produce badass characters.
  • Public-Domain Character: Almost everyone comes from either versions of King Lear, The Mabinogion, or Perceforest and other medieval romances.
  • Red Baron: The Crow Woman.
  • Religion of Evil: The Crow Woman's particular version of the Mor-Rigan cult has pretty much become this.
  • Royally Screwed Up: And how.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Most of them lead armies; Llyr actually does more than he's meant to, having pretty much usurped the judicial function of his Druids.
  • Ruling Couple: Goneril and Maglor; Regan and Henwyn; latterly Nennius and Lydore.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Naturally lots - and to the anonymous King Leir that Shakespeare drew on, and to the Nahum Tate version.
  • Shown Their Work: The author knows the legends very well, and has worked hard to weave a coherent story out of wildly varying material.
  • The Sociopath: While none of the characters we directly meet fits this trope - even some fairly evil ones - it seems pretty clear that Cangen is a very horrible example.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Kind of. Cordelia, who dies in Shakespeare's Lear but not in other versions, survives; Perillus and Awel, derived from Kent and the Fool respectively, survive, in contrast to Shakespeare heavily implying the Fool's actual and Kent's imminent death.
  • Succession Crisis: Played with. The Silurian system of Elective Monarchy and the plethora of available heirs should prevent this (and despite Llyr's desires, even he recognises that there's no prospect of the infant Bran succeeding him): but although the system is respected for the tribal monarchy, Llyr is also High King in the West. Tension over whether that title will a) continue to exist, and b) continue to be held by the Silures, helps turn a drama into a crisis.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Awel is whipped on Goneril's orders.
  • Team Mom: Mefus.
  • Thanatos Gambit: The Demetian brothers play one against Euroswydd over Pwyll's duel with Hafgan. During the waiting period, his brother Perion marries into the family of Cordelia's husband Aganippus - meaning that, if Pwyll loses, a brother-in-law of Cordelia with cause to seek vengeance will be sole ruler of the Demetae. Either way, Euroswydd is going to be the loser.
  • Title Drop: "This is the realm of Albion still." Remember that Albion is the mythical giant ruler of a race of Always Chaotic Evil sea demons...
  • Took a Level in Badass: Penarddun's done this by the end of the book.
  • Trojan Prisoner: How Penarddun and Twr infiltrate Cangen's fortress.
  • Turbulent Priest: This is how the Crow Woman started out, when Darnant led a real insurgency as opposed to a gang of robbers.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: From Penarddun's point of view, Euroswydd's accession is this. For the Silurian chiefs, though, he's arguably something of an improvement on Llyr.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Eventually averted when Llyr is deposed. The series does engage interestingly with the trope: monarchy is not absolute in the Celtic world, and the chiefs could have voted Llyr out at any time, but he stays in the job long after he's unfit for it because everyone's too scared to be the first to move against him.
  • Vow of Celibacy: A temporary one is forced on Pwyll before his duel with Hafgan, because of its sacral nature.
  • Waif-Fu: The wiry Falyse may not be exactly a waif, but it remains the case that a short, thin young woman is one of the most badass warriors in the book.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Completely averted - Penarddun's elder stepdaughters are a danger to her, far more than the other way round, while she and Cordelia become allies.
  • Young Future Famous People: Penarddun's children include major figures of Celtic Mythology Bran and Branwen; Perillus used to know the young Marcus Licinius Crassus.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Cordelia isn't actually Llyr's youngest child in this version, but she is his youngest adult offspring.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Penarddun's affair with Euroswydd while still married to Llyr; Achlesydd and Goneril.
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