“King Arthur’s Battle for Britain” by Eric Walmsley (Matador, 2013)

King Arthur's Battle for Britain
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The legend of King Arthur is known in some form to most people, and has had so much literature written about that it’s quite astonishing.  The real man likely lived sometime in the fifth century, but within hundred years of the man’s death – whenever it actually was – people began writing about him over the centuries and up to the present day.  Not just biographies and supposed factual historical accounts, but plenty of fiction and historical fiction speculating on the period and what sort of man King Arthur truly was.  In reality, it’s very unlikely he was ever actually an official king, but more of a great general for the Britons.

In King Arthur’s Battle for Britain, Erik Walmsley provides an accounting on Arthurs twelve battles pulling from sources like Nennius and Gildas, as well as many others be they short accountings or pieces of poetry.  He also creates the scene and story with each battle, adding description and action, but also providing geographic detail and photos, as well as a brief history of the region.  The book begins with introductory chapters on Arthur, who the man might’ve been, as well as the evidence that speaks for him, then a dedicated chapter for each battle with maps showing likely locations.

The one failing with King Arthur’s Battle for Britain is that as great of a story as Walmsley tells, he doesn’t cite his sources so readers aren’t sure what primary or secondary source he is getting certain information from, or whether he’s just adding his own fiction to create a stronger scene.  Eric Walmsley is not a medieval historian, but he has researched this period and the sources for this book.  While what he posits in King Arthur’s Battle for Britain needs to be taken with a grain of salt, it is nevertheless a plausible explanation for events recorded in these unconfirmed secondary Arthurian sources and who the man known as Arthur might have truly been like.

Originally written on March 16, 2013 ©Alex C. Telander.

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