Friday, January 3, 2014

Book Review - Arthur Britannicus (JS)

Arthur Britannicus by Paul Bannister
Arthur Imperator

Review by Jacqui Slaney

I have always had an interest in stories about the Arthur legend, and have read countless versions, one of my favourites being the Warlord series by Bernard Cornwall. So when I saw this book and read that it was a tale of a Briton fighting for the Romans and calling himself Arthur, I could not resist.

This is the description:

Carausius is born into a savage life.
His father was a respected warrior chief, a leader of men.
But as a boy, Carausius witnesses his violent death.
As the boy grows into a man and then a soldier, he dedicates himself to the cause of Rome.
As a centurion in the Empire's mighty Army, he earns the respect of his men: soldiers who will fight, and die if necessary, at his command.
But, just like his father before him, he is surrounded by enemies - both within and without.
He must manoeuvre his way through battle, knowing who to trust and who to put to death; not easy when paranoia among the ruling elite is so rife.
Will Carausius emerge victorious where so many before him failed and earn the great title of all?
Or will he meet an early, violent death, as his father did before him.

The story starts with Carausius as a young boy as marauders attack his village, enslaving some and killing others including his father. Carausius escapes and with the help of a friend leaves Britain. When he is grown he enlists in the Roman army, as it seems the best chance of a life for him, he quickly becomes a good fighter and thanks to his skills quickly moves through the ranks.
At this stage, you would be forgiven for thinking this is just a book about a soldier in the Roman army, and to a certain extent, you would be right. There are hints though of a destiny hanging over this character, talk of a mysterious man who spoke to Carausius’s father who name is a version of Merlin, and he himself has ambition to be an emperor, and later gives himself the name Arthur.
Carausius is an interesting character, he is bloodthirsty and quite violent, but makes the story, which is good as many of the other characters are very one dimensional.  You do have quite an entertaining bad guy in Maximian a Roman general, who hates Carausius and wants to see him dead.
The writing style itself is a little hard to get into at first, with some occurrences being quite factual. These are detailed historically speaking, but lessens a readers enjoyment in a fictional story.
Once you get used to the style though, you do find yourself drawn into the story, the book is not too long, so it is not tedious and the pace is set to keep the readers interest, with enough action to make you read to the end.
Overall I enjoyed the book, and will be looking at book two, where hopefully, some of the minor complaints will have been smoothed out.

7 out of 10