Mar 29, 2011

Book Review: The Beloved Dead by Tony Hays, plus guest post

Title: The Beloved Dead
Author: Tony Hays
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (March 29, 2011)
Genre: medieval mystery, romance
Source: review copy provided by AuthorsontheWeb,
Objective rating: 4.5/5
"You should know, Malgwyn, that I counseled Arthur against this match. I advised him to marry Guinevere."

At that, I took a step backward and cocked my head at him. "In truth?"
Comments: I enjoyed this book on two fronts - the romantic relationship that King Arthur has with his lover Guinevere, which is about to be snapped in two when Arthur decides to marry another woman for political reasons and to secure his power. The other aspect of the book is the mystery - the killing of young women which may or may not be a challenge being made to the new Christian faith supported by Arthur and opposed by pagan beliefs. The story, atmosphere and setting are richly steeped in history and legend - an excellent novel for lovers of the Arthurian stories, to romance readers, and medievel mystery buffs.

Publisher's description:
Malgwyn ap Cuneglas is one of King Arthur's most trusted counselors. When Arthur decides to take a noble wife to consolidate his power, it is Malgwyn who  is sent to  fetch the bride. Malgwyn knows that despite the king's ambition, Arthur's heart is breaking as he sets aside his love for Guinevere to seal his position on the throne.

Malgwyn's journey north is fraught with tension and danger. Arthur's political rivals and the still-powerful druids oppose his attempts to unite the country and lead the people of Britain to the Christ. When Malgyyn discovers a series of horrific murders of young women - apparent ritual sacrifices - he must quickly learn who is doing the killing and why....Malgwyn must allay pagan fears that the murders are the acts of gods who are seeking revenge over the intrusion of the new faith...and determine if the killers are mortal men conspiring to unseat the king.
Whoever did these things was making a point. I knew that when I discovered the doer of these deeds I would understand the why of it. When? I laughed to myself. If? That was the more proper question. (p. 133)
(Click on Teaser Tuesdays to see other book teasers.)
Author's guest post: Tony Hays comments on his research for The Beloved Dead.
I’m one of those “you have to go there” people when it comes to the locations in which I set my novels. If you don’t, you just miss something. I prefer that research on the ground over everything else. Now, with historical novels it’s not always going to look just as it did, but sometimes it’s awfully close. That’s why, when I decided that South Cadbury Hillfort would be my version of Camelot, I knew I had to walk every acre, every inch, every old, forgotten rampart.

I knew that if Arthur lived (as I believe he did) he did not have the kind of castle foisted on us by the BBC’s Merlin or Starz’s Camelot. Those are castles dating more than 500 years after Arthur lived. But that still left me with a plethora of Dark Age sites, including the hillfort at South Cadbury.

First of all, I picked that hillfort because it has the strongest pedigree. When John Leland, Henry the VIII’s antiquarian, came to South Cadbury in 1541, he found that the local folk already believed that their massive hillfort had been Arthur’s seat. And they didn’t know what Leslie Alcock and the Camelot Research Committee would find some 420 years later under the surface. Alcock found that Cadbury Castle, as it is sometimes called, underwent a massive refortification effort in the late 5th century. The scale of the effort required a leader with Arthurian-sized resources. And many historians agree that no other Dark Age site in Britain equals it. The icing on the cake was that Alcock found the remains of a noble’s hall as well as a kind of pottery from that era known as Tintagel B. I should not need to remind you that Tintagel has had a long and storied connection to Arthur. And that was good enough for me.

But getting to Cadbury Castle today is a tad more difficult than it was in Arthur’s day. If you are restricted to public conveyances, as was I, then the simplest way was by bus. I was living in Butleigh, Somerset, just five miles from Glastonbury. So, first I caught the eastbound Nippy bus that ran through Butleigh. I would get off at the rail station at Castle Carey, and wait, and wait …. Until a Great Southwest bus would come through, headed south to North Cadbury. It would carry on through North Cadbury and under the A303 to a little crossroads called Chapel Cross. If you are on your way to South Cadbury, you have to cover the remaining 100 yards under your own power.

You walk past The Camelot pub until you come to a gate. Inside is a wide mud and rock lane that runs up to the hillfort on top. It can be a treacherous climb, particularly if you’re wearing the wrong shoes. But you climb and climb. As you near the top, you see the four defensive ditches and ramparts. That’s when you know you are somewhere special.

The lane opens onto a massive plateau, containing some 18 acres of land, sloping upward to the highest point, to the site of Alcock’s Dark Ages timber hall, Arthur’s Hall.

And that’s where I headed. I sat down up there on the highest part of the plateau, and I imagined Camelot, my Camelot, a world of timber and stone ramparts and old roundhouses. I imagined where the lanes would lay, where my characters would act out their stories, where they would walk and eat and love. That was my finest moment, the point at which it all came together, the time when I knew, finally, that it would work.

You can research in libraries, order books by the truckload, but, at least for me, the research that really counts is walking the ground, breathing the air, feeling, really feeling the site as my characters would.

Now that’s research.

Thanks, Tony, for this walk through history and Arthurian legend and your extensive research in the land of Camelot!
Book tour stops: Click here for other stops on the book tour. Visit to find out more about Tony and his novels, including information about the historical Arthur, and photo galleries



  1. Neat, great post, might look in to getting this one

  2. I love books about King Arthur. This one sounds good. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. This one sounds like a very enjoyable read...thanks for sharing. And thanks for visiting my blog.

  4. I always enjoy books about King Arthur. My TT:

  5. Wonderful teaser. It looks worth checking out. If this goes on, how do I reduce my tbr pile?

    Here is my Teaser Tuesday: No Turning Back by Kaylea Cross post!

  6. Thanks, everybody. If you check the books out, I don't think you'll be disappointed. I have said that it's King Arthur like you've never seen him before, and I think that's true. The narrator starts the series hating Arthur. So, if you're looking for the Sean Connery, First Knight, Arthur. You won't find him here, but my Arthur is a good man, but a good man with flaws.

  7. Sounds like Helen Hollick's version of Arthur in the Pendragon's Banner trilogy. He's a total bastard--but you love him anyway! This sounds good. And the first Arthurian mystery I've seen. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Great teasers! I loved reading this post.

  9. Interesting post. I always thought that Camelot was in Tintagel.

  10. Hm, I'm always interested in King Arther. Great teaser!

  11. This one is going right on my to-buy pile. It sounds wonderful! Thanks for the review and for the guest post! Swinging by from Cym Lowell's Book Review Party.


I love getting comments and your thoughts...