Arthur, Dux Bellorum by Tim Walker #BookReview

From the ruins of post-Roman Britain, a warrior arises to unite a troubled land

Britain in the late Fifth Century is a troubled place – riven with tribal infighting and beset by invaders in search of plunder and settlement. King Uther is dead, and his daughter, Morgana, seizes the crown for her infant son, Mordred. Merlyn’s attempt to present Arthur as the true son and heir of Uther is scorned, and the bewildered teenager finds himself in prison. Here our story begins…
Arthur finds friends in unexpected quarters and together they flee. Travelling through a fractured landscape of tribal conflict and suspicion, they attempt to stay one step ahead of their pursuers, whilst keeping a wary eye on Saxon invaders menacing the shoreline. Arthur’s reputation as a fearsome warrior grows as he learns the harsh lessons needed to survive and acquire the skills of a dux bellorum, a lord of war.
Tim Walker’s Arthur Dux Bellorum is a fresh look at the Arthurian legend, combining myth, history and gripping battle scenes. Although in a series, it can be read as a standalone novel.

Fans of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden and Mathew Harffy will enjoy Walker’s A Light in the Dark Ages series and its newest addition – Arthur Dux Bellorum.

I'm delighted to be sharing my review of Arthur, Dux Bellorum today. Many thanks to Tim Walker for sending me a digital copy of his book.

The enduring legend of King Arthur means he is an instantly recognisable character to many people and there are scores of stories featuring him and his famous Round Table of chivalrous knights. The folkloric myths surrounding Arthur are often romanticised tales of magic and faeries but Tim Walker's novel eschews the fantastical, placing him as a young warrior who needs to convince his fellow Britons that he is the true successor to the throne.
At the beginning of the book, he is a teenager, known as Artorius and although he pulled the sword, Excaliber from its stone in front of a cheering crowd (a sleight of hand trick, we learn, facilitated by Merlyn and his bodyguard, Varden), his triumph merely resulted in his arrest and imprisonment. His half-sister, Morgana's young son, Mordred has been declared king and the teenage Artorius angrily blames the ambitious Merlyn for his perilous predicament. After he is helped to escape, he must immediately go on the run to avoid the wrath of Morgana and her husband, Caradoc but with the prospect of danger coming from all quarters, will he survive long enough to claim his birthright?
Arthur, Dux Bellorum follows his story from this daring nighttime escape, alongside Merlyn, Varden and the knights Gawain and Percival through some ten years until he is eventually recognised as a true leader who may be the man to unite the fractured land. In order to stay ahead of his enemies, he is forced to keep moving and this gives a real sense of pace to the novel, as he travels from south to north forming alliances and battling various foes along the way. The book is set after the end of the Roman occupation of Britain and although their influence is still apparent everywhere, the ever-present threat now comes from the likes of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes and Arthur realises how vital it is for the native Britons to unite against their potential invaders.
This is not a period of history I know that well and although I was aware that this is a work of fiction, Tim Walker's research and attention to detail brought it to life and I loved reading about the various tribes who defended their lands against both homegrown and foreign enemies. The battle scenes are exciting but it's the politicking I found particularly intriguing as Arthur, often under the guidance of Merlyn, attempts to convince others that he is indeed the son of Uther Pendragon and that it would be wiser to swear fealty to him rather than Mordred. Merlyn is a fascinating character; less magic than in other versions of the story but his perpetual scheming and the hints that he may also use sorcery to achieve his ends mean he is as memorable as ever. Most of the book follows Arthur's adventures but some scenes allow readers to discover what is happening elsewhere in the country, most notably with regards to his mother and sisters and serve to underline how dangerous Morgana can be.
Arthur, Dux Bellorum is actually the fourth book in Tim Walker's A Light in the Dark Ages series but I am happy to recommend it as a standalone and certainly didn't ever feel at a significant disadvantage at not having read the previous novels. I really enjoyed following Arthur's physical and emotional journey from inexperienced and reluctant novice to a confident warrior and leader of men. Arthur, Dux Bellorum is the sort of engaging historical fiction I'm always delighted to discover; this is described as book four of four but I hope there is more to come as I will definitely be reading any future books in the series and look forward to catching up with the previous novels.

Arthur, Dux Bellorum was independently published on 19th February 2019 and can be purchased from  Amazon UK and Amazon US.

About the Author

Tim Walker is an independent author based in Windsor, UK. His background is in marketing, journalism, editing and publications management. He began writing an historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages (set in Fifth Century Britain), in 2015, starting with Abandoned, set at the time the Romans left Britain. This was extensively revised and re-launched as a second edition in 2018. 
Book two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, was published in 2017 and the third installment, Uther’s Destiny, was published in March 2018 (winner of One Stop Fiction book of the month award, April 2018). The adventure continues from March 2019 in the fourth book, Arthur, Dux Bellorum.
His creative writing journey began in July 2015 with the publication of a book of short stories, Thames Valley Tales. In September 2017 he published a second collection of short stories – Postcards from London. These stories combine his love of history with his experiences of living in London and various Thames Valley towns.
In 2016 he published his first novel, a dystopian political thriller, Devil Gate Dawn, following exposure through the Amazon Scout programme. In 2017 he published his first children’s book, The Adventures of Charly Holmes, co-written with his 12-year-old daughter, Cathy, followed In 2018 by a second adventure, Charly & The Superheroes.
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