Book Review: Arthur Rex Brittonum (A Light in the Dark Ages) by Tim Walker
Arthur Rex Brittonum
(A Light in the Dark Ages)
By Tim Walker
From the decay of post-Roman Britain, Arthur seeks to unite a troubled land
Arthur Rex Brittonum (‘King of the Britons’) is an action-packed telling of the King Arthur story rooted in historical accounts that predate the familiar Camelot legend.
Britain in the early sixth century has reverted to tribal lands, where chiefs settle old scores with neighbours whilst eyeing with trepidation the invaders who menace the shore in search of plunder and settlement.
Arthur, only son of the late King Uther, has been crowned King of the Britons by the northern chiefs and must now persuade their counterparts in the south and west to embrace him. Will his bid to lead their combined army against the Saxon threat succeed? He arrives in Powys buoyed by popular acclaim at home, a king, husband and father - but can he sustain his efforts in unfamiliar territory? It is a treacherous and winding road that ultimately leads him to a winner-takes-all clash at the citadel of Mount Badon.
Tim Walker’s Arthur Rex Brittonum picks up the thread from the earlier life of Arthur in 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum, but it can be read as a standalone novel.
"There is mischief about in our land, now Mordred has returned..."
Arthur had always been a warrior king. He had defeated Mordred once. He would do so again.
But Arthur was no longer the warrior of his youth, and Mordred now had experience on his side. The war, when it came, would change the course of history forever and it would make a legend from a king...
From the desperate battle at Mount Badon to the harrowing final confrontation at Camlann, Arthur Rex Brittonum (A Light in the Dark Ages) by Tim Walker is the enthralling story of the latter half of King Arthur's reign.
With an engrossing sense of time and place, Walker has presented his readers with a novel that is as rich in historical detail as it is in story. It is the tale of one man as he struggles to unite his country and hold onto his crown.
I adore anything Arthurian, so I was eagerly awaiting the next instalment of Walker's A Light in the Dark Ages series. I am pleased to report that the wait was most definitely worth it. This book was simply brilliant!
The origins of a historical King Arthur is, at times, as mythical as the man himself. The sources from this period are incredibly biased depending on whose point of view the source is from. Walker combines both the best and the worst aspects of the Arthurian story from Nennius' Historia Brittonum and Gildas' On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain, and he has penned a novel that is as beguiling as it is entertaining. Like Arthur and Mordred, Nennius and Gildas came from opposing sides — one adored Arthur, the other, it is thought, despised him so much he excluded him from his book! I thought Walker's approach worked well, and it helped to give this book a very balanced view and reminds the reader that not everybody liked this man who was destined to become a romanticised legend.
With one eye on the somewhat subjective secondary sources and another on what makes a book pleasurable, Walker has presented his readers with a plausible Arthur — a very human Arthur, who stumbles, falls, makes mistakes, and has moments of unbearable guilt. Arthur is forever questioning himself, wanting reassurance. The righteous and confident leader who led his men to victory at Mount Badon is replaced with one who is plagued with crippling doubt. I thought Walker's portrayal of Arthur was very authentic in the telling, and he was a character that I relished reading about.
Despite Arthur's importance to this novel, it is the secondary characters that control the narrative, especially in the second half of this novel. Merlyn's sorcery, Guinevere's seduction, and Morgana's plotting make for an action-packed story of strained loyalties and political intrigue. I thought Morgana's depiction was brilliant. Morgana's ambition and her resolve to never give up makes her a formidable opponent. Likewise, Merlyn controls Arthur through carefully thought out games of manipulation — no wonder everyone fears his influence. Of all the characters in this story, it is Merlyn who I think is the most dangerous and the fact that Arthur is so blinkered to this man's faults made this tale all the more appealing.
This novel is split into two parts. In the first part, Walker gives us an Arthur who is passionate about his cause, who is determined to be victorious. In the second part of this book, his enthusiasm seems to waver, and Arthur's rule becomes rather lacklustre. He becomes an uninspiring figurehead which, for a king who had promised much, was a bitter disappointment for his subjects. His enthusiasm for the throne and the dream of a peaceful, united nation is replaced with the seemingly unquenchable passion for the flesh. Love makes fools of us all, it seems, and it certainly makes a fool of Arthur in this story.
Walker has depicted a nation at war, not only with the Saxon invaders but with itself. War is seemingly inevitable, and it is one of the major themes in this novel. Walker is an author who excels in creating believable battle scenes. Walker does not shy away from the bloodshed and the carnage, but what I found incredibly fascinating were the characters themselves as they fought a war where the losers died, and the survivors were either victorious or were fated to spend the rest of their lives as slaves. There is also a delicate balance between brutal violence and knightly chivalry in this book. The kings and knights that Walker introduces us to, are fighting for their kingdoms and for themselves, but there are also those who are unwilling to commit to a side but would rather wait and see which way the wind blows! I thought this political uncertainly was a wonderful insight into the complicated allegiances of the Early Medieval Period.
Arthur Rex Brittonum (A Light in the Dark Ages) by Tim Walker is a novel that I really enjoyed. It will undoubtedly appeal to those who love everything Arthurian, but I also think fans of very battle heavy historical fiction would enjoy it as well.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
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Arthur Rex Brittonum
Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. He grew up in Liverpool where he began his working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. He then studied for and attained a degree in Communication studies and moved to London where he worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO, he set up his own marketing and publishing business.
His creative writing journey began in earnest in 2013, as a therapeutic activity whilst undergoing and recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2014, following a visit to the near-by site of a former Roman town. The aim of the series is to connect the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend, presenting an imagined history of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.
His new book, published in June 2020, is Arthur, Rex Brittonum, a re-imagining of the story of King Arthur (book five in the series). It follows on from 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum, the story of young Arthur (book four in the series), that received recognition from two sources in 2019 - One Stop Fiction Book of the Month in April, and an honourable mention in the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year (Historical Fiction) Awards. The series starts with Abandoned (second edition, 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017); and book three, Uther's Destiny (2018). Series book covers are designed by Canadian graphic artist, Cathy Walker. Tim is self-published under his brand name, timwalkerwrites.
Tim has also written two books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (2015), and Postcards from London (2017); a dystopian thriller, Devil Gate Dawn (2016); Perverse (verse and short fiction, 2020); and two children's books, co-authored with his daughter, Cathy - The Adventures of Charly Holmes (2017) and Charly & The Superheroes (2018) with a third in the pipeline – Charly in Space.