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Arthur Dux Bellorum (A Light in the Dark Ages Book 4) Book Review

by Kathleen Lance

Synopsis

Young Arthur escapes his imprisonment at the hands of Morgana and her son Mordred through the help of Merlyn. Fleeing north to escape capture, Arthur begins his education as a leader of men and a warrior.

As he travels north to Hadrian's Wall, Arthur and his companions Gawain, Percival, and Merlyn meet and make allies of the many warring tribes. Along with uniting these tribes into one kingdom, Arthur and his company must also battle the invading Angles, Saxons, and Celtic tribes from north of the wall.

The novel ends with Arthur being proclaimed King of the Britons, but he still must face his greatest enemy in Morgana and the boy-king Mordred.

Theme of the Book

Arthur Dux Bellorum is a re-telling of the Arthurian legend. The main theme of this volume is the search for peace and unity in a chaotic world.

What I Liked About the Story

As the last volume in his 4-volume Arthurian legend, the author brings to a conclusion the tale that began with the death of Arthur's father, Uther. Because the legend of Arthur is so familiar, it is not necessary to have read the previous books before starting this one.

This is a very well written reinvention of the myth that portrays Arthur not as a superhero but as a sometimes conflicted young man. He is not quite sure that he is meant to be king but is led by Merlyn to accept his role. He questions his paternity, is often disgusted by the brutality he witnesses, and yet becomes an inspirational leader of men.

Many of the familiar characters are present in Arthur Dux Bellorum: Merlyn, Gawain, Percival, Geraint, Gunamara (Guinevere), Morgana, and Mordred. Mainly these characters are fleshed-out to be well-defined and human. It would be interesting to see what the author would do with the later Arthur and Gunamara story as well as with the legend of the Round Table.

The story moves at a fast pace with several battle scenes that were marvelous to read. The narrative switches points of view between Arthur and his mother and sisters who are living in the shadow of Morgana and Mordred. This alternation serves well to highlight the attempts to unify the British tribes under one rule.

One of the best aspects of the novel is the picture it paints of Britain after the Romans had left. This is a divided and beset land, subject to invasion by outsiders and by wars between rival tribes. It was very interesting to learn that parts of the Roman legacy remained in surviving towns and forts and in military tactics. The conflicts between the old and new religions, between warring chieftains, between Britons and the foreign invaders were all beautifully set out.

What I Didn’t Like About the Story

As an American reader, I often found myself wondering exactly where in England the story was taking place. For authenticity, it is important to use the names of towns as they were at the time. However, it was a bit difficult, even with the author's list of place names at the beginning of the novel, to follow the movement of Arthur's company. Because of that, I would strongly recommend that anyone who reads this read it in a hard cover or paperback edition and not on an e-reader. Readers who like to follow the plot with maps of the area should avoid will find it impossible to read the maps that appear on the e-reader edition.

This is a small complaint, but it is nearly impossible to find anything to dislike about this book.

Final Say

The author is to be applauded for making yet another re-telling of the Arthurian legend fascinating and suspenseful. I would very much like to see one more book in the series to bring the rest of the legend to life. Arthur Dux Bellorum is a highly recommended book and winner of the One Stop Fiction Book Awards.