Guardians at the Wall has now been proof-read, beta-read and copyedited, and will be finalised in early May ahead of a planned 1st June launch. It might be released earlier if ready – I’m looking at Friday 28th May as a possible early release date. I’m in the process of arranging book blog appearances in June. I’ve decided to not go wide and just put it out as an Amazon exclusive in Kindle e-book, paperback and Kindle Unlimited.
Every independent author needs favourable reviews to entice casual browsers to make a purchase decision, so if you are defined interested in reading and reviewing it on Amazon (and/or Goodreads) please email me to request a pdf (for ipad); epub (for Kobo reader) or mobi file (for Kindle) so you can get started.
Guardians at the Wall blurb: A group of archaeology students in northern England scrape at the soil near Hadrian’s Wall, once a barrier that divided Roman Britannia from wild Caledonian tribes.
Twenty-year-old Noah makes an intriguing find, but hasn’t anticipated becoming the object of desire in a developing love triangle in the isolated academic community at Vindolanda. He is living his best life, but must learn to prioritise in a race against time to solve an astounding ancient riddle, and an artefact theft, as he comes to realise his future career prospects depend on it.
In the same place, 1,800 years earlier, Commander of the Watch, Centurion Gaius Atticianus, hungover and unaware of the bloody conflicts that will soon challenge him, is rattled by the hoot of an owl, a bad omen. These are the protagonists whose lives brush together in the alternating strands of this dual timeline historical novel, one trying to get himself noticed and the other trying to stay intact as he approaches retirement. How will the breathless battles fought by a Roman officer influence the fortunes of a twenty-first century archaeology dirt rat? Can naive Noah, distracted by his gaming mates and the attentions of two very different women, work out who to trust? Find out in Tim Walker’s thrilling historical dual timeline novel, Guardians at the Wall.
My new book, Guardians at the Wall, is due out on 1st June. It’s a dual timeline historical novel, set at Hadrian’s Wall. The main protagonist is Noah Jessop, a student undergraduate on a dig, who digs up a carved stone goddess. His professor, Maggie Wilde, identifies it as Brigantia, the protector of the local tribe, the Brigantes. This is the first of a few objects that connect the contemporary story to the historical account of Centurion Gaius Atticianus, in second century Britannia, that runs parallel through the novel.
I’ll share some of Professor Maggie Wilde’s research into the goddess Brigantia with you. The name of the tribe, ‘Brigante’ means ‘the high ones’, suggesting they were a dominant tribe over lesser neighbours, and Brigantia fulfils the function of being the high goddess over all others, the great protector of her people. The Romans recognised this and were keen to co-opt her into their belief system, twinning her with various deities including Minerva, Fortuna and Caelestis, the latter a North African moon goddess who was also co-opted by the Romans, from whom we get the word ‘celestial’.
Whilst the archaeologists are looking for meaning in their finds, Gaius is gifted the goddess statuette and presents it to his wife, Aria. Her reaction surprises him, as she is from a southern tribe and regards the Brigantes and their deities as foreign. She reminds her husband that their household is watched over by the water goddess of her people, Sulis, twinned with Minerva, and she won’t countenance having a rival deity in the house. Incidentally, the Roman name for the city of Bath was Aquae Sulis – ‘the waters of Sulis’.
This was too much for Gaius, who stalked off for a warming bath after a hard day in the saddle splitting enemy skulls. Aria picked her moment, one night, to return the offending goddess to her people.
The picture shows a stone altar carving of the goddess Brigantia, here twinned with the Roman goddess, Caelestis, that can be found in the Museum of Scotland. (picture source: pinterest board)
Today I am reviewing book 5 of Tim Walker’s Light in the Dark Ages called Arthur Rex Brittonum
ABOUT THE BOOK
From the decay of post-Roman Britain, Arthur seeks to unite a troubled land
Arthur Rex Brittonum (‘King of the Britons’) is an action-packed telling of the King Arthur story rooted in historical accounts that predate the familiar Camelot legend.
Britain in the early sixth century has reverted to tribal lands, where chiefs settle old scores with neighbours whilst eyeing with trepidation the invaders who menace the shore in search of plunder and settlement.
Arthur, only son of the late King Uther, has been crowned King of the Britons by the northern chiefs and must now persuade their counterparts in the south and west to embrace him. Will his bid to lead their combined army against the Saxon threat succeed? He arrives in Powys buoyed by popular acclaim at home, a king, husband and father – but can he sustain his efforts in unfamiliar territory? It is a treacherous and winding road that ultimately leads him to a winner-takes-all clash at the citadel of Mount Badon.
Tim Walker’s Arthur Rex Brittonum picks up the thread from the earlier life of Arthur in 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum, but 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 Rex Brittonum.
This is book 5 in Tim’s Light in the Dark Ages series, which follows Britain in the 6th Century after the Romans had abandoned Britain and turmoil started before Arthur came along to try and Reunite the land.
As with the previous books this one is really well written and immersed me in the action start from the start.
Throughout the book there are adventures, journeys throughout the very well described land and some epic battles as Arthur tries to prove to the rest of Britain that he is the king who can bring peace to the land.
If you thought you knew everything there was to know about the legend of Arthur then think again as this bring more depth to his legendary character
Overall it is yet another great book by Tim and I have loved reading them all and learning about the early centuries of Great Britain.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
AUTHOR PROFILE – TIM WALKER
Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. He grew up in Liverpool where he began his working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. He then studied for and attained a degree in Communication studies and moved to London where he worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO, he set up his own marketing and publishing business.
His creative writing journey began in earnest in 2013, as a therapeutic activity whilst undergoing and recovering from cancer treatment. He began writing an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2014, following a visit to the near-by site of a former Roman town. The aim of the series is to connect the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend, presenting an imagined history of Britain in the fifth and early sixth centuries.
His new book, published in June 2020, is Arthur, Rex Brittonum, a re-imagining of the story of King Arthur (book five in the series). It follows on from 2019’s Arthur Dux Bellorum, the story of young Arthur (book four in the series), that received recognition from two sources in 2019 – One Stop Fiction Book of the Month in April, and an honourable mention in the Coffee Pot Book Club Book of the Year (Historical Fiction) Awards. The series starts with Abandoned (second edition, 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017); and book three, Uther’s Destiny (2018). Series book covers are designed by Canadian graphic artist, Cathy Walker. Tim is self-published under his brand name, timwalkerwrites.
Tim has also written two books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (2015), and Postcards from London (2017); a dystopian thriller, Devil Gate Dawn (2016); Perverse (verse and short fiction, 2020); and two children’s books, co-authored with his daughter, Cathy – The Adventures of Charly Holmes (2017) and Charly & The Superheroes (2018) with a third in the pipeline – Charly in Space.
I’m very new to blogging so please bear with me and hopefully it will pick up and be brilliant. I will review all the books I read on here as well as hopefully some author interviews and other interesting book related things so enjoy and if you want me to include your book or someone else’s then please let me know
A Light in the Dark Ages is a book series conceived and written by British author, Tim Walker. It began in 2015 as a reflection on a question that popped into his head on a visit to the site of a Roman town (Calleva Atrebatum/Silchester) – how would the Briton tribes have reacted to the end of nearly 400 years of Roman occupation?
The first book, Abandoned, was published as a short novella in 2015, but was extensively re-written an re-launched as a novel in 2018. The narrative is loosely based on Geoffrey of Monmouth’s description of the politics of post-Roman Britain in his 1136 work, The History of the Kings of Britain, but supplemented by scraps of researched historical opinion.
Picture shows the author at the Roman wall remains at Silchester.
Although widely dismissed by historians as at best, wildly inaccurate, and worst, a work of fiction, Geoffrey has been credited with accumulating and working from source material, including a mysterious ‘text in a native tongue’ that remains undiscovered by historians. More recently his work has been re-evaluated with attempts made to try to understand why he moved historical figures and events around in his timeline in a sort of Middle Ages cut-and-paste job. Historian Miles Russell offers an interesting attempt at ‘decoding’ Geoffrey’s work in his Arthur and the Kings of Britain (2019).
Certainly the figure of Arthur, plucked from early Welsh folktales and mentions by church clerics such as Nennius in his work, History of the Britons (820), has been embellished with the deeds of other heroic leaders to create Britain’s first superhero. The deliberate creation of an heroic Briton leader who defeated the hated Saxons in battle is thought to have been done to please his Norman readership and sponsor. So there is a backbone of researched historical facts (and earlier mythology) in Geoffrey’s work, although it fails as a history due to the creative embellishments and the switching around of events and people to plug gaps in his timeline – and, presumably, to make his book a more enjoyable read.
Abandoned is followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017). Both high kings Vortigern and Ambrosius Aurelianus are believed to be genuine historical figures in mid-fifth century Britain, due to mentions from a range of sources. This book charts the intense rivalry between these two figures that ultimately resulted in defeat and death for Vortigern, and victory and renewed hope for the Britons with Ambrosius.
Ambrosius is followed by Uther’s Destiny (2018), a story that is also based around Geoffrey’s tale of Uther, Merlin and the birth of Arthur. Uther’s name, ‘Pendragon’ is a title that literally means ‘The Head Dragon’. This may have been the title given to kings of Gwynedd in North Wales, some historians believe, hinting at a possible base for a historical ‘Uther’. But no early king of Gwynedd has this name, leaving historians with another puzzle to solve.
Arthur Dux Bellorum (2019) is the fourth book in the series. This covers the early life of Arthur, from late teens to late twenties. The idea for the plot came from an article historian David Ford Nash, who wrote an article on his best-guess for the locations of Nennius’s twelve battles of Arthur. He believes that Arthur first three battles may have been fought in Lincolnshire, in East England.
Other battles could have take place around York and further north in Northumberland and the Central Lowlands of Scotland, including Cambuslang – now a suburb of Glasgow. So, my young Arthur travels north from Winchester, though Lincolnshire and Yorkshire to Northumberland and Hadrian’s Wall, where he is based at the old Roman fortress of Vindolanda. From here, he leads his men into battles north of the wall, in the Caledonian Forest of Celidon and further north at Cambuslang. Distance wise, the journey from Winchester to Hadrian’s Wall is less than 300 miles, so perfectly achievable over a number of weeks on horseback using Roman roads.
This book is followed by Arthur Rex Brittonum (2020), covering the remainder of Arthur’s life – from thirty to his late forties. Again, following Nash Ford’s speculation on the possible locations of Arthur’s battles, he leaves the north and travels to the Welsh borders and, finally, to the West Country. The author has opted to locate Mount Badon near Bath, and Camlann at Avalon in Somerset in the West Country.
This series is fiction, loosely based on scraps of historical evidence, and the author remains fascinated by this ‘black hole’ in British history. What really happened in the 200 years between the end of Roman rule and the establishment of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms? Perhaps one day historians and archaeologists will find the missing pieces in our historical jigsaw puzzle.
A story of an imagined, historical Arthur, freed of the glitz and glamour of the Camelot legend. No round table – instead Arthur hosts his councils of tribal chiefs in ‘Arthur’s Roundel’, the Roman ampitheatre at Caerleon. No Holy Grail – instead the pre-Christian search for the Treasures of Britain, and an encounter with the ‘talking’ Head of Bran. Arthur is accompanied by Welsh folklore (pre-Medieval) knights, Bedwyr, Kay, Lucan and the sons of Gawain – Agravane, Mador, and Gaheris, who all belong to the earliest incarnations of the Arthurian legend. Arthur’s peers are ‘real’ historical tribal kings and chiefs of the late 5th/early 6th centuries, including, Meirchion Gul; Owain Ddantgwyn; Cadwallon; Geraint; Vortipor; Cyngar and Caradog. Arthur’s enemies are names plucked from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle – Cerdic; Octha (son of Hengist); Icel King of the Angles, and, for a bit of fun, Beowulf, the legendary Angle warrior and slayer of monsters. Father (later Saint) Asaph is Arthur’s chaplain, and literary monk, Gildas, appears as a dour novice.
I started writing historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2015, with ‘Abandoned’.
This tells my story of ‘what happened next?’ in Britain following Rome’s final separation from its most northerly province in 410 AD.
My account of Bishop Guithelin giving up on local Briton chiefs and taking ship to northern France to beg the Christian King Aldren to come and claim the island for himself, is lifted from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 1136 work, ‘The History of the Kings of Britain’. His mission results in Aldren’s maverick brother, Constantine, taking on the challenge – be careful what you wish for. Most other characters, including the half-Roman Marcus, are entirely fictitious.
Abandoned sets the ground work for a book series that encompasses the origins of the legend of King Arthur – thought to be a late fifth/early sixth century warrior leader who organised Briton tribes in defence of their island from creeping Anglo-Saxon colonisation.
As a series starter, the ebook of Abandoned has been discounted to just 99c/99p, and the paperback just £5.99/$6.99.
Our lives are layered beneath our feet. Archaeologists peel and scrape back the skins of our onion earth to reveal clues about the lives of those who have gone before us. What did they eat? How did they dress? Why did they bury their wealth in haste? We can then speculate that they were fleeing for their lives, but from whom?
The important and fascinating work of archaeologists is helping plug the gaps in our fractured history, offering a glimpse into distant lives and their struggles to survive. Our history is living and fluid, like our language and culture – constantly being revised and updated. It is the great conveyor belt of existence on which we live our lives – fascinated by the present, wondrous over the future, and intrigued about the past. Our history is part of what defines us, and we should never lose interest in it.
So, here’s to the archaeologists, archivists and historians. May they continue to shine their torches into our grainy past and pull out objects that can illuminate our understanding of our ancestors. For as Winston Churchill may have said, ‘we must understand the past in order to make sense of the present and see into the future’.
Those nursery rhymes we learned at our mother’s knee often have their origins in real historical characters or events, often in early history, and immortalised in song. This is the case with ‘Old King Coal’.
The song is based on the folk memory of a celebrated regional king of Britain who ruled towards the end of the Roman occupation of Britain, and may have held an imperial office – Dux Brittonum – guardian of the territory either side of Hadrian’s Wall – keeping the peace on behalf of the Roman Empire, based at York.
Old King Coal is though to be Coel Hen (‘Hen’ meaning ‘Old’ in the Brythonic tongue spoken by the Britons in the pre-Anglo-Saxon era). King Coel is thought to have reigned from around 380-410.
He imposed his power over a large area of the north, from a line joining Chester and the Wash and up into what is today southern Scotland. He is mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘History of the Kings of Britain’ (1136). According to Geoffrey, Coel, annoyed by King Asclepiodotus’s handling of the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians, started a rebellion in Caer Colun (most likely Colchester). He clashed with Asclepiodotus in battle and killing him, assumed his title of high-king of Britain.
According to a Welsh Chronicle, Coel Hen was married to Ystradwal, the daughter of Cadfan, and was the ancestor of several lines of kings in the Hen Ogledd or ‘Old North’, the Brythonic Celtic speaking part of northern England and southern Scotland. His descendants, known as the Coeling, included Urien of Rheged, a late sixth century warrior king of North Rheged, of whom the Welsh Triads list as one of the ‘Three Great Battle-leaders of Britain’. Other descendants of Coel include Gwallog, possibly king of Elmet; the brothers Gwrgi and Peredur; and Clydno Eiddin, king of Eidyn or Edinburgh. He was also thought to be the father-in-law of Cunedda, founder of the kingdom of Gwynedd in North Wales, by his daughter Gwawl. The genealogies bestow the epithet Godebog, on Coel meaning the ‘Protector’.
So, before warming his feet by a roaring fire, puffing on a pipe and being entertained by fiddlers, we can imagine the elderly king riding beside Hadrian’s Wall, white hair flowing behind, keeping the peace at the head of his armed riders. Perhaps he only had a ‘merry ‘ demeanour once the hard work of enforcing Roman law was done.
Old King Cole (nursery rhyme)
Old King Cole
Was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe,
And he called for his bowl,
And he called for his fiddlers three!
And every fiddler, he had a fine fiddle,
And a very fine fiddle had he.
“Twee tweedle dee, tweedle dee, went the fiddlers.
Oh, there’s none so rare
As can compare
With King Cole and his fiddlers three.
I recently appeared via Skype (taking the place of Mary Anne Yarde who was unable to take part) on a Sky UK Television studio panel discussion (YouTube link below). The programme was appropriately called ‘Round Table’, and this edition was concerned with discussing the relevance of legends in contemporary times, given that scientists are now claiming to have disproved the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. Has science killed Nessie? …And, by extension, can it kill off our favourite legends?
One of the points I was keen to make was that the dictionary definition of ‘legend’ – a traditional story or myth; traditional literature; famous person or event; stories about such a person or event; inscriptions – understates the concept. A legend is a story whose origins are lost in the hazy mists of time, and therefore cannot be conclusively proved or disproved. They endure because their themes are re-interpreted by each age through re-tellings that reflect the values, fears and hopes of that age, and their appeal is partly held by the element of the unknown that add an air of mystery.
In reading about the origins of the King Arthur story, I became fascinated by the blurred boundary between historical fact and storytelling. The oral tradition of remembering great heroes and their deeds, who often protected a fearful community from an external threat, delivered through bardic praise poems, songs and dramatic performance, often has a root in factual events and real people. But by their nature, the feats of the hero are exaggerated and he is ‘bigged-up’ to make for a more engaging story. The bard, after all, was singing for his supper. The feats of an heroic warrior is a recurring theme in many of our favourite legends including Beowulf – the earliest epic poem in the English language; George and the Dragon and Robin Hood.
George and the Dragon is a meshing together of two stories – that of an early Christian martyr and a British folk tale about a brave warrior called Gaarge who is hired by a village to save it from ‘a giant worm’. The story of Arthur was cobbled together by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the twelfth century from mentions of a heroic resistance leader in the fifth and sixth centuries in earlier Welsh chronicles and folk tales, although it is accepted by historians that he piled onto Arthur’s shoulders the deeds of other unnamed heroic figures in a political gambit to create a super-warrior who opposed the Saxons, and thus please his Norman readership.
However, there are echoes of a real Arthur in the writings of a monk called Nennius, accredited with writing The History of the British People in the ninth century, who talks of the twelve battles of Arthur, and describes Arthur as leading the combined armies of the Kings of the Britons against Saxon invaders, naming his opponent as Octha, the son of Hengist (deemed to be a real historical figures) as the King of Kent. Although Arthur, Britain’s first superhero, has a toe-hold in history, the legendary figure was deliberately created by Geoffrey to flatter his Norman lord and sponsor, goading the defeated Saxons with the tale of a noble king who lead the Britons in resistance to the coming of the Anglo-Saxons. In contrast, the dispossessed Saxons built up their own legendary folk hero in Robin Hood, who protected the common people from the tyranny of a Norman lord. There are grains of truth in the half-remembered stories that underpin these legends, kept alive by reflecting the values, fears and hopes of each generation, for whom the stories are slightly customised.
Legends persist because they are part of the fabric of our cultural identity, our sense of who we are. Witness a basic, sixth century warlord Arthur, seized upon by later generations who embellished him with Middle Ages chivalric and Christian virtue, presenting him as a just and devout ruler who kept the peace and protected the people from external (often pagan) threats. These are similar attributes now given to superheroes that have captured the public imagination in our contemporary popular culture. They are recurring themes in human society – the need for justice, order, peace and protection. Arthur, Beowulf, Saint George and Robin Hood provide these reassurances, and that is why they are enduring legends in British culture.
I’ve no doubt that Nessie will survive the glare of science and endure in popular memory and belief, despite scientists declaring that the only non-fish DNA found in the loch is that of eels. So, why not a giant eel? After all, the pre-runner of dragons in early folk lore are ‘giant worms’.