Ambrosius Aureliani (Arthurian Tales, #1)
In this first volume of a planned four-book set, the story of King Arthur is retold as actual history in a gritty, magic-free setting. Far from mystical legends and sorcery in the mists, this version begins on the edges of the disintegrating Roman Empire, where kings and cultures vie for dominance over what will shortly be open territory. A young Roman with Gothic heritage, Merlinus, is asked to oversee a secret plot to secure the future of Britain: the child of a Roman princess and a Gothic king is hidden away to be raised under a secret identity. Merlinus watches over the child (who grows up to be a warrior named Ambrosius) until the time comes for him to assume his destiny. Battles rage across Europe between Roman, Goth, Saxon, and Hun, and Ambrosius faces them all. As the book ends, Merlinus promises to protect Ambrosius’ young nephew, Artorius, who stands to inherit everything they have fought to create.
This first book sets the stage by establishing the relationships between Merlinus, Ambrosius, Euther, and Arthur, as well as explaining in great depth the political, cultural, and religious environment of fifth-century Europe. The author has clearly done his research, and his passion for the historical detail of the period is obvious; included in the back matter is a wealth of timelines, notes, and references. Great strength is shown in world-building and historical realism, especially when considering the multiple settings. Less strong is the writing style, which will keep some readers emotionally at arm’s length with a clipped tone, telling instead of showing, and frequent repetition that could have been smoothed over with another edit. However, the extensive amount of research and the realistic setting create the makings of an epic retelling of the Arthur saga. It will be interesting to see what path the next books take.