Review by Erastes
There are some books where you read them and you feel unsettled because you don’t know the era and the history and the author doesn’t make you feel safe – but I have to say that L A Wilson didn’t engender this fear with me. It was clear from the first few pages that the author knew this period damn well, and if anything was wrong then I didn’t get the feeling, and I didn’t get the itch to rush onto the internet and check facts like I sometimes do with eras I don’t know.
The facts seem to be similar to Geoffrey Monmouth’s history of Britain with some changes (such as Uthyr being brother to Lot, and not Ambrosius) – but as I say, I’m not an expert on the Dark Ages, so it bothered me not a wit and I was just involved in the story being told.
Prince Bedwyr (not really a prince per se as we know it today, but the son of a tribal chieftain) is a complicated and likeable character. Deeply flawed and realistic, I was drawn to him immediately. He’s in love with Arthur; they’ve been raised together as foster-brothers due to Arthur’s father Uthyr having rejected him and they’ve both been placed in the army together. However, as much as he loves Arthur, he holds his love back, confused by the emotions that he feels. He hides his love under fraternal devotion and it’s heartbreaking to read, especially as Arthur, with typical teenage lust, fucks his way around Britain.
Both young men (and the Mordred character, Medraut) have father issues which range from pride to incest, and much of this first book is concerned with Arthur’s rise through the ranks and subsequently taking control of the armies of Britain. There are a lot of political machinations, as you would expect, but they are never dull and over-involved. Wilson manages this by narrating from a viewpoint other than Arthur’s – so we are there to listen to Arthur for all his hopes and fears, rather than being involved in the plots and policto-manouvering. This works well and keeps the action moving along nicely.
As a fan of bad boys, I was charmed and delighted by Medraut, who is written as a most engaging character. He’s blond, extremely handsome and personable and is charismatic where Bedwyr is difficult for people to get to know or understand. As the book progresses though, we see that Medraut – whilst also being in love with Arthur, but for different reasons than most other people – has a dark side and his idea of loyalty is skewed and wrong. He’s pretty frank about his homosexuality in a time when Christianity was leeching across Britain and subverting the tradition of male-love, and whilst he’s not reviled for it, it doesn’t make him popular either. If I have any gripe about Medraut, it’s that I objected to more open homosexual of the saga to be the official baddie, and sado-masochistic to boot.
Understandably, in a saga this large, many characters are introduced in short order but they are well drawn, and unlike some multi-character plots it’s easy to keep track of who is who. That being said, perhaps a glossary would have been useful, in light of what I’m about to say next.
What the book really lacked though – was a map. I like maps, even in my fantasy reading – and because this is writing entirely using original names of tribes and towns (the only one I recognised was Londinium) and because there is so much travelling described from one end of Britain to the other, I felt a map was essential. Perhaps it’s something that the author can address in further printings.
i DID enjoy it, but I had to make myself continue to read it, I’m afraid. For my money the major drawback with this book was the fact that it needed a severe edit with a ruthless red pen, as the mistakes are legion and someone with less patience (or not possessing the punctuation blindness as I appear to have) would have given up fairly early on. Semi colons are used instead of many commas or full stops. They proliferate like bunnies as the book progresses and some of the many many typos are inexcusable. This is a real shame because if this book had been clean and well edited, I see no reason why any historical publisher wouldn’t have picked it up, as it smacks of the period and is a darned good story.
I have the remaining two books of the trilogy and will certainly give them a read. If you can excuse the editing, then I do recommend this book – particularly for those with an interest in the Dark Ages – but I can’t rate it higher in terms of stars, I’m afraid, as the editing really pulls it down.
Buy the Book: LULU
(there’s an extensive preview of the book here, so you can make up your own mind)