- Hardcover: 352 pages
- Publisher: Forge; 1st edition (February 1, 1996)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312860919
- ISBN-13: 978-0312860912
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 189 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #663,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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From Library Journal
During the days of the decaying Roman Empire, the legions of Britain struggle to preserve the ancient principles of loyalty and discipline-virtues embodied in the Roman general Caius Britannicus and his friend Publius Varrus, an ex-soldier turned ironsmith. Whyte re-creates the turbulence and uncertainty that marked fifth-century Britain and provides a possible origin for one of the greatest artifacts of Arthurian myth-the legendary sword Excalibur. Strong characters and fastidious attention to detail make this a good choice for most libraries and a sure draw for fans of the Arthurian cycle.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Scholars tell us that most legends or epics are founded on actual events. The author here, Jack Whyte - a Scot - has indicated in various interviews that he was long interested in the Arthurian legends and, in writing these books, seems to have asked himself, "How might this have grown from actual events?" As his answer, these books are a tremendous evocation of post-Roman Britain, its vulnerability absent the legions and administration, and provide an entirely plausible imagined version of how we came to enjoy the whole Arthurian epic as it evolved from historical events. Don't miss a single volume!
I was disappointed in this first book because of the amateurish writing style. Sure, there's a fairly solid plot line and competent dialogue, but the characterization is so badly done I gave up 67% (according to my kindle) of the way through. It's like a 1950's Western-the good guys in white hats and bad guys in black hats. No complexity, no nuance, no insight, no depth. The book so far is made up of caricatures, not characters. Varrus, the main character is adored by all the good guys. The author fails the first rule of characterization: Show, don’t tell. We mostly listen to characters talk about how great he is among themselves, and we even see the sister of the commander fall completely head over heels for him before she ever meets him based on her brother’s war stories. A strong, independent, fabulously gorgeous, and wealthy woman twice widowed (how convenient) is portrayed as a starry-eyed teen in a dither about a Roman soldier who does his job well.
One of the hardest aspects of historical fiction for an author is abandoning the comfort and familiarity of his own cultural norms. You can’t have it both ways. You have to choose between overall historical accuracy (time, events, cultural norms, etc.) to legitimately earn a historical fiction label, or you can use anachronistic elements and legitimately label it a retelling. We see it here in a work that ignores ancient Roman social status and politicized marriage for modern egalitarian values.
So I left it. 67% of the book is more than enough to know this isn’t worth the time. If readers want an excellent historical fiction version of Arthurian Legend set just after the collapse of the Roman Empire in Britain, I can highly recommend Bernard Cornwell’s King Arthur Trilogy: Winter King, Enemy of God, &Excalibur. https://www.amazon.com/King-Arthur-Trilogy-Excalibur-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B015CLB7KI/ref=sr_1_4?crid=6L71DUJZAIVX&keywords=bernard+cornwell+winter+king&qid=1556125607&s=gateway&sprefix=bernard+cornwell+winter%2Caps%2C166&sr=8-4