Arthur: Shadow of a God by Richard Denham
Arthur is a non-fiction study that attempts to discover just who the legendary King Arthur really was.
Was he an English warlord who fought the Saxons? Or was he nothing but a fiction created around camp fires on long nights when tales of heroes were popular themes? Or could he have been a fearsome warrior from eastern Europe?
This was an interesting insight into the mystery and myth which surrounds the man. The quantity of material that mentions Arthur surely carries weight and proof of his existence – or does it? However, as the author goes on to make clear, it is hard to determine what is fact and what is fiction. The book reflects the quantity of research undertaken, and much of the writing felt like a personal journey with the author’s own scepticism shining through. For a man that might not have existed, this book is certainly a testament to our human ability to ‘love a good story’.
As with most non-fiction I found certain parts more interesting than others. At times I felt that the author’s insertion of his own opinions spoiled the research he was showing the reader, but this is only a personal preference. Overall, if you have an interest in the man known as Arthur, it is definitely worth a read.
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King Arthur has fascinated the Western world for over a thousand years and yet we still know nothing more about him now than we did then. Layer upon layer of heroics and exploits has been piled upon him to the point where history, legend and myth have become hopelessly entangled.
In recent years, there has been a sort of scholarly consensus that ‘the once and future king’ was clearly some sort of Romano-British warlord, heroically stemming the tide of wave after wave of Saxon invaders after the end of Roman rule. But surprisingly, and no matter how much we enjoy this narrative, there is actually next-to-nothing solid to support this theory except the wishful thinking of understandably bitter contemporaries. The sources and scholarship used to support the ‘real Arthur’ are as much tentative guesswork and pushing ‘evidence’ to the extreme to fit in with this version as anything involving magic swords, wizards and dragons. Even Archaeology remains silent. Arthur is, and always has been, the square peg that refuses to fit neatly into the historians round hole.
Wow first the cover. I wouldn’t have picked it up if not for the title. How thick is this book? Sounds like it can be a fascinating read. I like your honest and balanced review!
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Hi Jee. The book is 225 pages written with a good sized print. The physical book measures 12.5cm x 20cm. I wouldn’t call it large.
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