The Red Death – Caesar’s Sword (I) by David Pilling


My experience with the Arthur story is somewhat limited.  Years ago I read and really enjoyed the Mary Stewart books and was subjected to the musical Camelot a few times as it was the wife’s favorite movie.  When I was introduced to David Pilling’s work I was interested in his book Soldier of Fortune, The Wolf Cub but when I saw that this one was about the grandson of Arthur and the sword carried by Arthur and Julius Caesar, I put aside my original intention and decided to read this series first.  The author chose the more Welsh version of the Arthurian legend and so his grandson, Coel, is the son of Amhar, the son who rebelled against Arthur and was slain by his father in battle.  After Arthur is slain, Britain becomes unsafe for Coel and his mother so they make their way, first to Frankia and then Constantinople in search for a better life, a type of existence that is elusive to say the least.  The story centers around Coel’s early life, how he struggles to survive as he pursues the sword that is his birthright, a sword that has become an intricate part of his being and has taken hold of his soul.

The author has given us a tale that is at once riveting and that gives a glimpse into the era under Justinian and his famous general, Belisarius as well as a not so flattering a picture of Theodora, the Empress.  This is indeed a strength of the author as he enables his characters to shine in all their glory or in their lack of humanity or somewhere in between.  The story plays out well, with enough plot twists and variety of actions and scenes along with a nice flair for descriptive narrative.  I was entranced from the beginning and will be sure to follow along Coel’s story in the next book in the series, Siege of Rome.  5 stars.

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