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Arthurian Tales: Ambrosius Aureliani by Leon…
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Arthurian Tales: Ambrosius Aureliani

by Leon Mintz

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I have just finished reading Leon Mintz’s first volume of his version of Arthurian Tales, and I don’t feel I have finished a novel. Ambrosius Aureliani seems much more like a PhD thesis, re-written to attract non-specialists (like myself) than anything else. This is even more evident if you take the time to read the one-hundred-page endnote that lay out the rationale for Leon Mintz’s personal interpretation, an informative read that deserves at least to be skimmed through.
It is very apparent that this book is the outcome of long and in-depth research, that led Leon Mintz to elaborate his own theory regarding the mythical figures of Merlin and Ambrosius, uncle of King Arthur. Leon Mintz’s fundamental assumption is that those people that non of us (non historian) could classify with certainty as either real or imaginary, are fully real and grounded in a “normal” world where the so-called magic or mythic undertakings can be rationally explained. This leads to sometimes convoluted theories such as Merlin’s magical powers being in reality the outcome of a five-year apprenticeship of martial arts in China.
I will not pretend that I know enough to comment on Leon Mintz’s interpretation of historical sources, but I really enjoyed coming through his attempts to rationally explain some of the myths I was told when I was a child, such as the legend of Ys or the Round Table. I think I will prefer to stick to the legends I know, because I hold them dearly, but knowing that I am not totally out of place and that even a rational stand can validate those stories is kind of a funny comforting fact!

In terms of writing, I think I would suggest a few areas of improvement. First and foremost, the use of modern expressions sometimes looks out of place and prevents the reader to get fully into the story. I sometimes also feel that the length of the novel (or thesis!) could be shorten, by concentrating the action and creating a more paced narrative.
I must also admit that I have sometimes felt a bit bored by the many descriptions of battles, but I guess that some fans of historic books or novels might enjoy them!

In conclusion, a big thank you to Leon Mintz for sending this copy, that travelled an odysseus worthy of an Arthurian epic before I reviewed it! I enjoyed it in ways I would not have expected. I wish him success for this book, and I hope he will find the same inspiration to write the next volume soon!
  raton-liseur | Aug 24, 2011 |
I love a good fantasy tale with kings, pagans, Lords and all the goodies in between. Throw in a bit of history beneath the layer of fantasy and you have Ambrosius Aureliani written by Leon Mintz. The writing is slick and concise; the humorous quips are witty and fun. This is a well written book that I truly enjoyed and hope many others will discover they will too. ( )
  Ani36ol | Apr 30, 2011 |
Ambrosius Aureliani is clearly a labor of love from author Leon Mintz. It is a meticulously researched re-working (yes, another one) of "the matter of Britain." On the fairy-dust spectrum of Arthurian stories, this is hard over at the "this is the way it really happened" end. Mintz's methodology was to look at the few documented sources regarding the twilight of Roman Britain, going back to Gildas, make some interpolations and assumptions (all documented in an appendix), then set forth a possible chronology of events around the 5th Century. He then weaves his story in and around these fixed points.

This volume, the first of a projected four, covers the campaigns of Ambrosius against the invading Saxons, and proposes a relationship between him and characters we know today as Merlin and Uther Pendragon. Arthur is still a boy as the book closes. The range of the story crosses the empire from Ireland to Rome, with much of the action in Gaul as Roman discipline descends into chaos.

The story is narrated by Merlin in short, episodic chapters, that have a bit of a choppy feeling. Anywhere from a few minutes to fourteen years can elapse between chapters. Merlin has to shuttle around Europe (and even to Cathay) a little improbably to get to the scene of the action, and, even then, large swathes of events are introduced by characters in narration. But there's lots of action, some fictional and much historical, to keep things moving along.

The writing could stand some scrutiny by an editor. Characters sometimes slip in unannounced. While the book is written in modern English -- not many of us read Brythonic -- the occasional use of a clearly modern usage like "worst-case scenario" is jarring.

If you're looking for swooning maidens and the trappings of medieval romance, this probably isn't the Arthur series for you. But if you're looking for a little light shown into this murkiest period of history, you'll enjoy reading about how it may have happened. I'm looking forward to the next volume. ( )
  Larxol | Mar 6, 2011 |
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