Book reviews: history and mythology

Castle Builders: Approaches to Castle Design and Construction in the Middle Ages

by Malcolm Hislop

Published by Pen & Sword Archaeology

Castles are always a popular subject; witness Dan Snow’s excellent ‘Battle Castle’s TV series and book as proof.

This is an excellent book on castles for both the enthusiast and the casual reader alike. A major appeal of this book is it deals with castles from the perspective of their design and constructions. So, rather than dealing with knights and sieges, ‘Castle Builders’ deals with the men behind the scenes: masons, architects, craftsmen.

As you read the book you will learn much about the evolution of castles. The book is beautifully designed and illustrated.

Overall, a fine edition to the library of anyone interested in castles.

King Arthur: The Mystery Unravelled

by Chris Barber

Published by Pen & Sword History

It’s fair to say that King Arthur has remained in people’s consciousness since Geoffrey of Monmouth’s highly influential ‘History of the King’s of Britain’, first published in the 12th Century! Let’s see Dan Brown achieve that kind of longevity.

Most people assume King Arthur to be a fictional creation, but not Chris Barber however. Barber has put over thirty years of research into this finely wrought book and it is clear the man is one of the experts on the subject. I will reveal as little as possible so as not to spoil the book for its readers, but suffice to say, Barber reveals the identity of the real person who inspired the Arthurian legends, including where he was born, the background of his family, battle sites, the inscribed stones that bear his name, where he held court, and even his final resting place.

Make no mistake, this is the work of a serious writer, an MBE who is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

An accessible and important book that would form the basis for a fascinating documentary.

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (