Saturday 27 February 2016

Who was Ambrosius Aurelianus? Arthurian Legend.

King Arthur is often confused with Ambrosius Aurelianus. I have fleetingly mentioned Ambrosius several times before, but I think he deserves a post of his own.
Ambrosius was a war leader of Roman-British decent. Surprisingly the earliest mention of him is in the 6th Century by Gildas. Gildas named very few people in his sermon De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, but he does name Ambrosius. This is what he had to say...

"... a gentleman who, perhaps alone of the Romans, had survived the shock of this notable storm. Certainly his parents, who had worn the purple, were slain by it. His descendants in our day have become greatly inferior to their grandfather's excellence. Under him our people regained their strength, and challenged the victors to battle. The Lord assented, and the battle went their way."

Although this is very brief, we can deduce a fair amount from it.

Ambrosius was of Roman descent.

"...his parents had worn the purple..."

Purple was a really important colour. It was worn by the Emperors of Rome. It was the colour worn by those of noble heritage as well as senators. Senior officers in the Roman legions also wore a purple band. Maybe his father held a high rank in the army, or maybe he was  a governor of a provenance in England.

The passage also describes his parents being slain by the Saxons and yet he survived.

 Roman men wearing togae praetextae with reddish-purple stripes during a religious procession.

Ambrosius was a Chrisitan.
"...The Lord assented..."

He went into battle with God's help - so from that we can assume he was a Christian.

Ambrosius fought the Saxons.

"Sometimes the Saxons and sometimes the citizens were victorious."

I guess things did not always go the way Ambrosius wanted, but it does tell us that he was a great war-leader.

I always found this line very interesting.

"His descendants in our day have become greatly inferior to their grandfather's excellence."

Who was his Grandfather? He was obviously an important person. There has been a fair few name thrown forward as to who Gildas had been talking about, but it is all speculation.

 Bede mentions Ambrosius in his great work, Ecclesiastical History of the English People

"...Their leader at that time was a certain Ambrosius Aurelianus, a discreet man, who was, as it happened, the sole member of the Roman race who had survived this storm in which his parents, who bore a royal and famous name, had perished. Under his leadership the Britons regained their strength, challenged their victors to battle, and, with God's help, won the day."
It seemed that Bede took his account from Gildas..dare I say Bede had a better way with words?!

Ambrosius's story is picked up by Nennius.

Nennius suggests that Ambrosius was a very influential warlord. Vortigern, another great powerful warlord, feared the return of Roman rule and he saw Ambrosius as more of a threat to his throne than that of the northern invaders. You may recall a story I wrote in an earlier post about Ambrosius, Vortigern, two dragons and a tower that kept falling down. If you missed it, you can read it here.

By the time Monmouth came to talk about him - his story, like many others of the time, had become fictitious and his connection with Arthurian legend was forever cemented. His name is changed to Pendragon - and he becomes High King Arthur's, uncle. Merlin even builds a memorial for him at Stonehenge.

Sometimes it is argued that Ambrosius is Arthur. Both fought at Badon Hill, both were powerful warlords.

Whether Ambrosius was King Arthur, I don't think we will ever know. Whoever he was, he certainly had a very fascinating life.

Friday 26 February 2016

Gyre (Atlas Link Series Book 1) #BookReview @JessGunnAuthor

Today I am checking out NA Author Jessica Gunn - Gyre

What. The. Hell.

Chelsea had not meant to teleport. She certainly had not meant to teleport across the ocean to a secret military research station where a guy she once met in an alley in Boston worked.

Before the whole teleport business, Chelsea had her life mapped out. She was going to be an archaeologist. Spend her days digging up the past and her evening devoted to her rock band. Damn it all, she was meant to be performing at the Battle of the Bands. She wasn't meant to be here, with Trevor - the guy who had stepped in when she was being mugged.

Trevor had never met anyone like Chelsea before, her eyes drew him in. He couldn't stop thinking about her. But the very last place he wanted her was on board eaSatellite5. And the fact that she teleported in meant only one thing – her ancestors are from Atlanta - his ancestors sworn enemy. He had to get her off the station - for her own protection and for his sanity.

Chelsea has no idea what has just happened to her, but there are people at the station that can help her with her new found superpowers. But an ancient war - she never knew existed - is still raging and Chelsea is of interest to both sides, for she can read a sacred map that could bring the war to an end once and for all.

Can Trevor keep her safe while a war, not of their making, threatens to destroy their lives?

 What did I think of the Story?

Ancient myths, fantasy, archaeology, time-travel and romance - this book had a bit of everything. I liked the idea of an ancient battle and time-travel - this really caught my interest. 

Chelsea was an interesting character. She acts rather childish to begin with - and has a very aggressive attitude that I didn't really take to. Yes, she has a past - her boyfriend betrayed her and is now making-out with her ex best-friend – there is no doubt that she was treated appallingly, but she just came across as too aggressive for my liking. Once she had teleported I began to warm to her more, and as her relationship developed with Trevor she became much more likable and I enjoyed reading about her. 

Trevor, however, I liked right from the start. He was a little unbelievable as a computer geek...he didn't seem to know what was going on with his own computer system - which I thought was slightly odd. But nevertheless he was endearing.  He kept far too many secrets, in a mistaken belief that he was protecting Chelsea. A bad decision. It was obvious that she needed to know who she really was and what that meant for her safety. Instead she found herself in impossible situations with no idea what was going on and what to do about it.

The plot was good. It was engaging - if not a little predictable and I felt it wasn't always fully developed. I am guessing that is because we will learn more in the next book. Can't wait for the next book!

What Gunn wrote exceptional well was the romance between Chelsea and Trevor. The idea that whenever she was in distress she would teleport to Trevor was sublimely beautiful and really appealed to me. Their relationship was very believable and I really enjoyed it when  these two characters were together and I got the impression that Gunn was most relaxed in her writing when her two protagonists were in each others company.

I will be checking out book 2 in the series, because I am interested in the world that Gunn has created. I would recommend.

About the author

Jessica Gunn is a New Adult author and avid science-fiction and fantasy fan. Her favorite stories are those that transport the reader to other, more exciting worlds. When not working or writing, she can be found binge-watching Firefly and Stargate, or feeding her fascination of the ancient world's many mysteries. Jessica also holds a degree in Anthropology.
Twitter @JessGunnAuthor

Wednesday 24 February 2016

A Red knight, A Green Knight, A Black Knight and Sir Gareth!

  "the goodlyest yonge man and the fayreste" Malory

Sir Gareth was the youngest brother of Sir Gawain and the son of King Lot of Orkeny, and Morgause - which makes him King Arthur's nephew. 

To understand where Sir Gareth fits into the legend we will need to take a look at  Malory's Le Morte d' Arthur.

 In particular we need to study...
  Book IV: “The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney"

Let me set the scene....

It is The Feast of Pentecost.

A handsome man, although very poorly dressed, enters Camelot, along with two other men and a dwarf. Sir Gawain announces them and the handsome man asks Arthur for three boons. Firstly, he would like, food and drink for a year.

Sir Kay - a knight renowned for his honour...or not - as the case may be - scorns this handsome young man and states "as he is, so he hath asked."  Being the polite and noble knight Sir Kay is, it is no surprise he makes up a nickname for Gareth. He calls him "Beaumains" - pretty hands. Kay states that the boy may work in the kitchens.

Gawain and Lancelot try to defend the boy, but Kay is having none of that and the boy seems more than happy to work in the kitchens.

1 year later - The Feast of Pentecost

Lynet is in a desperate situation, her sisters' castle is under siege by the cruel Red Knight of the Red Lands. She comes to Arthur for help, but because she refuses to give him her sisters name, Arthur refuses her his knights.

Beaumains decides now would be the time to tell Arthur of his other two boons. He asks that he be allowed to assist Lynet and he asks to be knighted by Lancelot. Arthur agrees.

Lynet is not best pleased when she is presented with this kitchen boy. But if that is all Arthur is willing to give her, then she will take him. The dwarf that travelled with Beaumain, produces - to the courts astonishment - beautiful armour and an equally beautiful horse. Beaumain gallantly rides away without a shield or a spear.

Kay, not one to miss an opportunity, rides after him. Gawain and Lancelot follow. But Beaumain is a knight himself now - he and Kay joust. Beaumain is the better warrior, he beats Kay and wins his shield and spear! Lancelot watches the event unfold and is impressed. Beaumain then admits to Lancelot that he is really Gawain's youngest brother. I can imagine Lancelot raising his eyebrows and giving Gawain a quizzical look!

So the adventure begins...

Gareth bests...
Six thieves,
Two knights,
The Black Knight,
The Green Knight,
Sir Persaunt of Inde,
and of course, not forgetting, The Red Knight of the Red Lands.
At the same time he wins Lynet's approval! (It takes a great deal of effort to impress these Dark Age women.)

Gareth falls in love with Lyonesse, the lady of the castle, and she with him - so she send him away for another year?? (Like you do when you love someone?) Meanwhile Lyonesse sends her brother, Sir Gryngamour, to capture the dwarf - the dwarf reveals Gareth's true identity!

Meanwhile, Gareth is searching for the lost dwarf. He arrives at Grungamour's castle. Here, Lyonesse seduces him, although she is in disguise. She then tells him who she is and they almost make love, but they are interrupted. Gareth is not in a forgiving mood and cuts off the intruders head!

Back at Camelot, Lady Morgause turns up looking for her son. Arthur learns the true identity of the boy and to cut a long story short, there is a joust, a magic ring, 30 weeping widows, enough colourful knights that you can lay them along side each other and create a rainbow - and lets not forget, a wedding!

Unfortunately Gareth and his brother, Gaheris, perish by Lancelot's hands, when he fights desperately to save his love, Guinevere, from the burning pyre. Lancelot is deeply grieved by the deaths of Gawain's brothers, but Gawain will not accept his apology. The grievance demands blood.

You can also read about Gareth in Tennyson's  Idylls of the King.

I think Sir Gareth was pretty cool - what do you think?

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Monday 22 February 2016

The Du Lac Chronicles by Mary Anne Yarde

“An evocative, timeless saga of love and betrayal”

Tony Riches, author of The Tudor Trilogy


“It is dangerous to become attached to a du Lac. He will break your heart, and you will not recover.” So prophesies a wizened healer to Annis, daughter of King Cerdic of Wessex. If there is truth in the old crone’s words, they come far too late for Annis, who defies father, king, and country to save the man she loves.

Alden du Lac, once king of Cerniw, has nothing. Betrayed by Cerdic, Alden’s kingdom lies in rubble, his fort razed to the ground and his brother Merton missing, presumably dead. He has only one possession left worth saving: his heart. And to the horror of his few remaining allies, he gives that to the daughter of his enemy. They see Annis, at best, as a bargaining chip to avoid war with her powerful father. At worst, they see a Saxon whore with her claws in a broken, wounded king.

Alden has one hope: When you war with one du Lac, you war with them all. His brother Budic, King of Brittany, could offer the deposed young king sanctuary—but whether he will offer the same courtesy to Annis is far less certain.
Available in paperback NOW!  
(Kindle version coming soon)

Where can I purchase the book?  


About the author.

Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.

At nineteen, Yarde married her childhood sweetheart and began a bachelor of arts in history at Cardiff University, only to have her studies interrupted by the arrival of her first child. She would later return to higher education, studying equine science at Warwickshire College. Horses and history remain two of her major passions.
Yarde keeps busy raising four children and helping run a successful family business. She has many skills but has never mastered cooking—so if you ever drop by, she (and her family) would appreciate some tasty treats or a meal out!


Threaten To Undo Us #BookReview @RoseSeilerScott

 "...We will exact a brutal revenge for all they have done..." 
 Soviet Marshal Georgi Zhukov
About the story.
As Hitler's Third Reich crumbles and Stalin's Army advances, German civilians in the Eastern territories are forced to flee for their lives.

Leaving her dying mother, Liesel and her four young children hope they can make it from their home in Poland across the Oder River to safety. But all that awaits them is terror and uncertainty in a brutal new regime that threatens to tear Liesel's family apart.

With her husband a prisoner of war in Russia and her children enslaved, Liesel's desire for hearth and home is thwarted by opposing political forces, leaving her to wonder if they will ever be a family again.

What did I think of the story?

What a stunning portrayal of life as a German living in Poland before, during, and after WW2. This story takes you from the tranquillity of living an ordinary life on a farm, to the horrors of the Soviet War Camps. This book truly blew me away.

The historical detail in this story is amazing -- In a past life, I tutored Modern History, so I know that Scott knows her subject well -- The story is well-crafted, epic and spell-binding.

The main protagonist, Liesel, is just an ordinary woman, who wants to be a good wife and a mother, but war changes everything. Her husband has to go to war and she is left alone on the farm with her aged parents and her young children. Her community is torn apart and things will never be the same again.

When the Soviets come, to free Poland from German rule, Liesel's struggle changes from trying to find enough food for her children to eat, to the simple task of trying to keep her children with her.

She is forcibly separated from her children -- which would be any mother’s worse nightmare -- but that is only the beginning of her ordeal. She suffers unimaginable horrors, however she has a quiet strength and a courage that could match any one of the Soviet Generals. She holds on to one thought -- she will reunite her family, no matter how long it takes. And when everything else falls apart, she clings to her faith.

There are many wonderful novels out there about the hardships faced during World War 2, but rarely is the story told from the German perspective -- this is the first time that I have a read a story about a German family in Poland. I thought this book was very refreshing and Scott has written a very believable story that delicately shows the suffering from both sides.

Scott reminds her readers that many ordinary Germans did not want to fight their neighbours -- they did not want to go to war -- but they had no choice. The fear of the German Regime and then the Russian one, was very real in the telling.

Scott has done a marvellous job putting flesh to her characters. She is, without a doubt, a truly wonderful writer. She made me care for Liesel and her family. As a reader I grieved with them. I felt their joy as well as their heartache. The plot was gripping to say the least - I did not want to put this book down.

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone interested in this period of history. But be warned, this story will stay with you for a very long time afterwards.

Where can I buy the book? 


About the author.
As a story from the German side of the family unfolded over the years, Rose set out to make it into a novel. During the process she has realized that not only is truth stranger than fiction, but truth can also be told through fiction. THREATEN TO UNDO US (MAY 2015) is the result of years of research, revealing a history that few in the Western world are familiar with. 

Rose won a "His imprint" award for a short story in 2013, was short-listed for a Word Guild Award in 2012 and has been published in "Light Magazine." Two inspirational non-fiction pieces will appear in the HOT APPLE WITH CINNAMON compilation in Fall 2015.

Since fifth grade, Rose has known she liked to write, but her career path has taken several turns including bookkeeping, piano teaching and mother of four. She is a longtime resident of Surrey, BC. Her eclectic reading tastes include historical fiction, biographies, memoir, literary and inspirational.

You can find Rose at her, FB Author Page: Rose Seiler Scott, Twitter: @RoseSeilerScott and Goodreads:

Friday 19 February 2016

Sir Gaheris - Knight of the Round Table

I have always been rather intrigued by Sir Gaheris. He was the brother of Sir Gawain and was one of the unfortunate souls who lost his life when Lancelot saved Guinevere from the burning pyre.

Apart from his unfortunate end, what do we know about him?

Firstly, he is the nephew of King Arthur. His mother was Arthur's half-sister, Morgause, and his father was King Lot. Lot was the king of Orkney and Lothian. The family boasted of five boys altogether -- Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, Gareth and there was a half-brother called may have heard of him??!

In Prose Lancelot he is described as;
Shy - not one for making speeches,
Had a temper (although not as bad as Gawain's),
His right arm was longer than the left.
He isn't portrayed in the best of lights in the work of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur -- there is that terrible incident where he was involved in the revenge killing of King Pellinore (Pellinore murdered Gaheris's father).  He beheads his own mother when he discovers her in a very comprimising postion with Pellinore's son, Sir Lamorak. To make matters worse, Gaheris blames his mother murder on Lamorak who is then hunted down and killed, by Gaheris's brothers.
This 'act of revenge' goes against the knightly code and when it is discovered that Gaheris murdered his mother, he is banished from court.

For some reason he reappears later on in Malory's story. Guinevere is to be executed for her affair with Lancelot. Arthur expects that Lancelot will try and rescue her. He asks Gaheris, Garath and Gawain to protect the pyre. Guinevere must died. Gaheris and Garath reluctantly agree to, but Gawain refuses.

As expected Lancelot attempts a rescue and is sucessful, but because Gaheris and Garath are not wearing their armour, Lancelot does not recognise them and cuts them down.

When Gawain learns of his brothers death, his grief and rage are great.

The death of Gaheris and his brother marks the begging of the end of Cameot and her knights and the rest, as they say, is history or legend, or whatever else you want to call it...!


Wednesday 17 February 2016

The Chalice Well Gardens

 "It is said that beneath its waters Joseph of Aramithea hid the Chalice of the Last Supper and immediately the waters flowed red."

The Chalice Well Gardens can be found in Glastonbury, along with Glastonbury Abbey and Glastonbury Tor - what a wonderful little town it is!

The Chalice Well Gardens are beautiful - especially on a warm summers days.The Gardens is a place where you can meditate. It is also a great place to take a book and spend the afternoon surrounded by tranquility while you get lost in another world.

The Well has been in use for over 2,000 years. The water from the well, which pumps a staggering 25,000 gallons a day, is said to have mystical healing properties. 

The water has a reddish hue. Nowadays we know that this colour is caused by Iron Oxide.  But before scientist could explain such things, our ancestors interpreted the colour of the water in a slightly different way...

In Irish and Welsh mythology, the Well is a gateway to the spirit world.

The Christians thought the reddish hue occurred after Joseph of Aramithea placed the chalice, that caught Jesus's blood at the Crucifixion, in to the water. Others say the water represents the rusty nails that were hammered in to Jesus's hands and feet. There is even evidence to back this up - if you forget about all the scientific knowledge we now know for just a minute - Let me explain how this legend came into being;

The water is red,
The water coagulates (just like hemoglobin),
The water is warm.

The legend also states that Joseph of Aramithea drove his staff into the ground near the well and from that grew a Holy Thorn Tree, which blooms every Christmas.

It is considered by some to be the resting place of the Grail. Although the stories suggest otherwise!

Monday 15 February 2016

Hunting the Eagles - Ben Kane #BookReview @BenKaneAuthor

If you are interested in the Roman era and enjoy reading historical fiction based around this time, then you may have stumbled upon The Sunday Times bestselling author, Ben Kane. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC of Kane’s latest book, Hunting the Eagles.
Hunting the Eagles is the stunning sequel to Eagles at War.

What's the story?

AD 14

It is a terrible thing to lose one Eagle, let alone three. And to see 15,000 loyal soldiers of Rome butchered before your eyes is not something you are ever going to forgive or forget. 

Five years have past since the massacre in the wilds of Germania. Those who survived the carnage, now have to live with what they had witnessed, as well as the shame of losing their precious Eagles.

Centurion Tullas is one such survivor. His only consolation is that he saved as many lives as he could. But, instead of praise for his selfless courage, he finds himself demoted. There are two things he wants now…revenge on Chieftain Arminius – whose army slaughtered the three legions - and his old regiments Eagle.

Rome has had enough time to lick her wounds, she wants her Eagles back. It is time for revenge. It is time for war. The orders are clear, kill everyone and recover the Eagles. No mercy. But Arminius is not the type of man who will sit back and let such atrocities occur in his own kingdom. He slayed them once, can he do so again?
What did I think of the story?

It is difficult to write this level of fiction without it sounding like a history lesson, or without losing your reader to facts, figures and descriptions that they cannot hope to understand unless they have a degree in the subject. Ben Kane immerses you in the Ancient World, he doesn’t describe it – he does something extraordinary – he brings it back to life. He draws his readers into the thick of the action. Kane doesn’t let you get lost in the history, or leave you floundering around like a fish out of water. It is like having your own personal tour guide to the past. With Kane, I knew I was in safe hands.

Strangely, I did not feel that there was any one antagonist in this story – I was moved by the plight of Centurion Tullus and his legionaries, as well as his enemy, Chieftain Arminius. I cannot think of many books where my loyalty has been so split. Both characters had flesh on them; both had their own reasons to hate the other. The portrayal of these characters was sublime. Totally believable.
The battle scenes were vivid and were very real in the telling. It was like being there, without the threat of being brutally maimed or killed, of course!

Hunting the Eagles is part of a series, but not once did I feel that I had missed out on anything by not reading the prequel. Although, saying that, Eagles at War is now definitely on my ‘to be read’ list.

Publication date March 24th 2016

Where can I buy (Pre-order) the book?



About the Author.

Kenya born, Irish by blood and UK resident, Ben Kane’s passion for history has taken him to more than 60 countries, and all 7 continents. During his travels and subsequent research, including walking hundreds of miles in complete Roman military gear, he has learned much about the Romans and the way they lived. Seven of his nine novels have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, and his books are published in twelve languages. He lives in Somerset with his wife and children, where he writes full time.
Ben Kane was born in Kenya and raised there and in Ireland. He studied veterinary medicine at University College Dublin, but after that he travelled the world extensively, indulging his passion for ancient history. Having visited more than 60 countries and all 7 continents, he now lives in North Somerset with his wife and family.
He has been a full time writer since late 2008, and has loved almost every moment of that time. Apart from all things Roman, Ben loves military history of any type. Basically, if a book features men with guns and/or swords, he’ll read it. Other interests include rugby, walking, and beer. If an afternoon can include all three, it’s bound to be perfect.
Ben is also lucky enough to be the Treasurer of the newly founded Historical Writers’ Association.