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Publisher's Summary

Historical action adventure in the style of Bernard Cornwell and Rosemary Sutcliffe, the Leader of Battles series breathes new life into Arthurian legend....

"My father was a warrior. He bade me fight..."

Britain, AD 427. Rome has abandoned the province, leaving it exposed to waves of barbarian invasions. To the west, savage pirates from Hibernia ravage the coastline. In the North, the crumbling defenses of the Wall cannot contain marauding bands of Picts as they sweep down from the highlands. Worst of all are the Saxons, the dreaded sea-wolves. Under their chiefs, Hengist and Horsa, they wish to drive out the native Britons and claim the entire island for their own.

Attacked from all sides, the Britons find a champion in the form of Ambrosius Aurelianus, the last of the Romans. A modest man, riddled with doubts and fears, Ambrosius reluctantly takes on the mantle of Dux Bellorum, Leader of Battles. Placed in command of Britain's only standing army, he fights to preserve the dwindling light of civilization while the treacherous High King, Vortigern, plots his destruction.

Set before the coming of Arthur, the first book of the Leader of Battles trilogy charts the rise and fall of post-Roman Britain's first great hero, and his desperate struggle to hold back the shadows threatening to engulf his country.

©2014, 2017 David Pilling (P)2017 David Pilling

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Historical fiction? How about Historical Finest

This is an excellent historical novel that is clearly well researched. My 14 year old son (he's in college) loves this time period and he kept complimenting how accurate everything was. So kudos to Pilling for doing his due diligence. Leader of battles is a moving tale of a man swept up in events that are beyond his control. He is most reluctant and overwhelmed with his own self doubt. This story shows how he truly becoems a leader, as he battles for the Britons as their Dux Bellorum.

This has ties to the Arturian legends of old, and I normally am not a fan of Arthurian styled stories, but I glommed onto this tale with both hands and never let go. The book is well plotted and well paced, the characters are real, and they bleed red. You will find yourself transported back to a time when a man survived by the strength of his arm and quickness of his wit.

Pilling has a wonderful writing style, he is descriptive in a way that you become a part of the battles, and se every drop of blood, and hear the clanging of the swords. He creates realistic and believable characters.

Jenkins is a blast to listen to; he provides a lot of atmosphere with just his voice. He provides the tone and pace with a distinctive narrative.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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A Pre-Arthurian Legend

This is a well-written prequel to the Arthurian age.

Pilling skillfully builds up a post-Roman Britain with its remnants of Roman order, the resurgence of Celtic tribalism and the timeless quest for power at any cost as exemplified in High King Vortigern's doomed pact with the Saxons.

Ambrosius might easily have been an obscure Roman nobleman left to live out his days in peace, but like it or not his was the duty to defend Britain against the invasion of the Saxon barbarians.

What the author does here is clever and perhaps somewhat overdue. He has not purged all magic from the story--one of his characters is a seer with a genuine gift for prophecy--but he has exploited the fascinating turmoil of post-Roman Britain and mined it for its dramatic potential. Add to that the presence of some of the most formidable characters in British literature--Arthur and his warriors--and you have a fascinating story, steeped in the equally fascinating period when Britain was deciding whether its future lay with Rome, with the strength of invading hordes or with its own native Celtic culture--or something that used them all to make a unique new socio-political entity unlike any seen before.

This is the world of Ambrosius: a Britain that stands on the edge of becoming... what?

It is easy to forget the death-pains of the old and the birth-pains of a new culture when you look back at the remove of 15 centuries, but in Pilling's hands, that future still seems undecided to the reader and has all of the hope, fear and wonder of the unknown.

Add to this incredible setting the birth of the legend that will be Arthur and you have an engaging story that makes you want to read on and see what will happen next. Pilling is not afraid to dispense with some of the familiar Arthurian tropes and will happily twist the familiar to more logical conclusions.

Pilling has a skill for creating believable characters in this changing world. Familiar names like Ambrosius, Vortigern, Arthur, Cei, Bedwyr become real people. His female characters (Sevina, Rowena, Morgana, etc.) are strong as they must have been, but they are not anachronisms; they are not 21st-century women transplanted to the 5th or 6th centuries--instead they are important players performing their part just as they really must have done.

I, for one, will very much look forward to seeing what Pilling does next with Arthur/Artorius!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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This book is awesome!

This is an excellent book. Great plot, solid characters with a twist on the legends we have all grown up with. Great performance by Paul. Well worth the time and credit.


This book was provided at no cost for a fair and honest review.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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They do what they must

The Audible synopsis covers it quite nicely. Ambrosius is the son of an ambitious and relenting man. I think given the choice, Ambrosius would not have chosen to be in the army, let alone be its leader. Often he tries to make his father (a member of the council) proud but his father cares more about what Ambrosius’ successes do to bolster himself. Despite this, once Hengist and Horsa’s plans start to fall in place, Ambrosius fights to undo theirs and the High King’s treachery.
This is not a book that focuses on the battles with long gory fight scenes. I think the battles were done well, with just enough described to get a feel for them while delving more into the politics, the motivations of the participants and their personal experiences. I enjoy historical fiction books, especially ones that encourage me to do more research on the time they are set in. This book did that.

I have listened to one other book by this author (Soldier of Fortune) and enjoyed it as well. I would love to listen to/read another book by this author. His books are well researched and engaging.

This is the first book I’ve listened to by this narrator and given the chance, it won’t be my last. He did a great job reading this book. His somber tone matched the story well by enhancing the seriousness and despair of the tale. He had distinct voices for the characters.

There are no explicit sex scenes or excessive violence or swearing.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and voluntarily left this unbiased review.

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Didn't pull me in.

What would have made Leader of Battles (I): Ambrosius better?

Even though the book is based on legends and there was a lot of potential in its retelling, the author failed to do it in effective way. The characters didn't get all that interesting to me. Most of them felt pretty one dimensional and lacked depth. This being a book on battles, I was expecting spectacular battle scenes. But I was let down there as well. It wasn't as gritty as I had expected. I didn't enjoy it.

Would you ever listen to anything by David Pilling again?

Probably not for historical books. If he ever writes in any other genre, maybe I'll check that out.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment.Unsatisfied.

Any additional comments?

I received this audiobook for free from the author / narrator / publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

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Crackling good historical fiction

This book was well written and even better in narration. It moved along smartly and did not leave me uninterested at any point.
The proof is in my actions. I enjoyed this enough that I spent a credit to get the next book in the series. I really hope that Paul Jenkins reads all of them.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Intriguing

Any additional comments?

This genre is outside my normal non-fiction and historical romance but I found it truly engaging. I thought the story started out a little slow but once it took off, after the first couple of chapters, I found it hard to put down. I was not familiar with this time period so I did a little research on some of the locations mentioned, so I could follow along a little better, and for me it made a difference. I really enjoyed this story from a historical perspective and the plot itself. This is one book I will listen to more than once! The narration can make a significant difference with audiobooks and Paul Jenkins did an excellent job. It was easy to follow each of the characters and he brought out the feelings and emotions of each very well.

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Fresh Historic Take on Arthurian Legends

Would you consider the audio edition of Leader of Battles (I): Ambrosius to be better than the print version?

Listening to the audio version enhanced the experience of entering a world where the Roman Empire was on the decline and the Britain began to define its prominence in Western history.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Leader of Battles (I): Ambrosius?

From his first battle we see Ambrosius as a flawed character swept up in historic times. Later we see him trying to navigate the political waters that surround him throughout his life. It's an interesting blend of fiction and historic fact.

Have you listened to any of Paul Jenkins’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

This was my first time listening to Paul perform an audio book. His polished British accent lends a Masterpiece theater quality to the story but is far from being dry.

Who was the most memorable character of Leader of Battles (I): Ambrosius and why?

We see the growth of the title character into the man and warrior he is destined to become. At the same time it's far from being a straightforward heroic epic. His flaws are laid out before us.