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Elisha Barber (The Dark Apostle #1)

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  245 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
England in the fourteenth century: a land of poverty and opulence, prayer and plague, witchcraft and necromancy. Where the medieval barber-surgeon Elisha seeks redemption as a medic on the front lines of an unjust war, and is drawn into the perilous world of sorcery by a beautiful young witch. In the crucible of combat, utterly at the mercy of his capricious superiors, Eli ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 2nd 2013 by DAW
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(showing 1-30)
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Beth Cato
Aug 21, 2013 Beth Cato rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, historical, 2013
As a teenager, I was obsessed with the medieval period. In recent years, it hasn't attracted me as much--so many books repeat the same themes and decades. This book reminded me of how awesome well-written medieval fiction can be, in part because it hit on another one of my major obsessions: healers. Usually they are utilized as handy side characters, patching up the hero when in need. Not so here. Ambrose explores the occupation of the medieval barber, a multitasking field that involves hair-cut ...more
Apr 25, 2013 Kittie rated it it was amazing
A fantastic, magical read! If you love a little history, magic, violence,etc., this book has it all with an incredibly unique storyline! Riveting to say the least! I loved it & cannot WAIT for the following books in this Dark Apostle series! :)
May 06, 2013 A rated it really liked it
Elisha Barber is like a stack of pancakes. You eat them up really fast and they are wonderful in that moment, but then after a little bit of time you are hungry again. Elisha Barber is the story of a barber/surgeon who finds himself treating soldiers during a siege set in 14 century England. The story moves quickly and you are swept up in the weave of the tale. I read the whole book in a bit over three hours.

But when done you wonder if it was really that great. E.C. Ambrose does a masterful job
Sep 02, 2015 Angie rated it it was ok
Sadly, Elisha Barber wasn't my thing. I loved the idea of a barber-surgeon who suddenly discovers that he has magical abilities, but it didn't grab my attention like I was hoping. Elisha leaves home to be a medic on the battlefield after he attempts to deliver his sister-in-law's baby, mistakenly thinks he killed her, causing his brother to kill himself. While saving the lives of soldiers, Elisha meets a witch and learns that he is too. Meanwhile, there's the war and conspiracies and other thing ...more
Krystal Hickam
Apr 05, 2013 Krystal Hickam rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I would like to first thank the author, publisher, and Goodreads for allowing me a chance to receive an ARC of the book.
I was apprehensive at a little at the start of trying to get used to a man named Elisha. Slowly the story starts to build and after each feat of enduring he occurs. Finally finding his inner power through those like him but distant at the same time. The characters are well developed and wrapped in intrigue. It does have a slow start with a little faith needed in the author abou
Eric Smith
To tell the truth I was not really expecting a lot from this book and I was more than pleasantly surprised with my inability to put it down until it was done. The alternate but very familiar take on history with all the brutality and nastiness and awful human behavior was present front and center and the actions of the people in the story were all to believable. All of the characters here are flawed and not all of the them or even most of them are able or willing to overcome those flaws and this ...more
Sep 17, 2013 Avivs rated it really liked it
The good thing is that i couldn't stop reading.
The story just flow, and that's great.
The not so good thing is, the main character. Oh, how much this guy is pathetic. Never seen something like that. He just sits and do nothing wile everyone are stepping on him. No, it's not because he's so good, just very stupid.
It was very hard to like someone that you can't respect. Seriously, all the characters seems to be too evil or too stupid.
I hope that in the future the author will make Elisha more hu
Nov 03, 2015 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Updated: Gave book second go to page 200, improved quite a bit as magic finally comes into it. But I'm not loving it. And as there's two more books to the story I don't think I want to continue.

I'm stopping at page 130. The book is just not giving me an reasons to continue. And quite a few reasons to stop. There's no hook. Nothing to pull me in further. Nice historical details not enough. Been fairly gruesome so far.
Julie (Manga Maniac Cafe)
2.5 stars

Elisha'a lack of agency really ruined the read for me. He's beaten, burned, tortured, and almost hanged until dead. Most of the characters are unfeeling douche bags, and Elisha's love interest didn't deserve his kind regard. I found it frustrating that a man as gifted as Elisha was treated so poorly, and it made it difficult to engage with the story.
Eric Kempin
May 21, 2013 Eric Kempin rated it liked it
I recieved an advanced copy of this from my work and while it has a rough start the book is well balanced. I look forward to the next book everyone should pick this up when it comes out
Kristin Taggart
I don't use star ratings, so please read my review!

(Description nicked from B&

“As a child, Elisha witnessed the burning of a witch outside of London, and saw her transformed into an angel at the moment of her death, though all around him denied this vision. He swore that the next time he might have the chance to bind an angel’s wounds, he would be ready. And so he became a barber surgeon, at the lowest ranks of the medical profession, following the only healer’s path available to a pe
Joshua Palmatier
Jul 30, 2013 Joshua Palmatier rated it really liked it
This is E.C. Ambrose's debut novel from DAW Books and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. As suggested by the cover, it's a dark, bloody, realistic look at what a "barber" would have had to deal with in that time period, and yet it wasn't too dark or grim or gritty.

The premise: Elisha is a barber in a version of England (not quite our own England) who is accused of a crime he didn't commit in order to protect the soul of his brother. His execution is commuted . . . if he's willing to work
Whitney St-Marseille
I was awestruck after reading the first in The Dark Apostle series – Ambrose’s “Elisha Barber.” And being the picky reader that I am, I do not say that lightly. It is enrapturing right from beginning to end. It is the story of a young man named Elisha who works as a barber and a healer in a small town with his brother and sister-in-law, Helena. When the birth of Elisha’s nephew goes horribly wrong and he is blamed for it; Elisha is forced to serve as a medic/healer for the king’s army during the ...more
Jul 14, 2013 Ryan rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This was a rather odd book, for many reasons. Firstly, I will unashamedly admit to picking this up based on the cover alone and secondly, it was well worth it. I don't usually read books set at all in our world, call me old fashioned, but I love reading about completely new and built from the ground up places. In any case, I decided to give this a shot based on the cover design and the premise of it not being too "Earthy". While Elisha Barber is set in 14th century Europe--Britain more precisely ...more
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Original review is posted at Layers of Thought.

A very readable, thrilling, and lurid historical fantasy set in a dark, medieval world.

Description: Elisha Barber is the main character who carries the title of his profession as his last name. As the title suggest he’s a barber, which during medieval times was a pseudo-doctor of sorts. This immediately brings out horrific and cringe-inducing thoughts; and this book definitely delivers. It is of course gruesome work, but Elisha has the gift of a hea
Jul 31, 2013 Nightwing rated it it was amazing
What an engaging story! I was drawn into the world that E. C. Ambrose has created from the first page and was sorry to have to say goodbye as I read the last words.

The story begins with a death, actually two deaths and then another one. And then a man confessing to a murder he didn't do so that the man who did do it can be buried in holy ground. The confessed murderer agrees to treat casualties at a local war, to escape his death sentence. And then it gets really bloody. Just another day in med
Jun 26, 2016 Elizabeth rated it did not like it
Elisha Barber (The Dark Apostle, #1) by E.C. Ambrose

England in the fourteenth century: a land of poverty and opulence, prayer and plague... witchcraft and necromancy.

As a child, Elisha witnessed the burning of a witch outside of London, and saw her transformed into an angel at the moment of her death, though all around him denied this vision. He swore that the next time he might have the chance to bind an angel's wounds, he would be ready. And so he became a barber surgeon, at the lowest ranks of the medical profession, following the
Liza Perrat
Aug 06, 2016 Liza Perrat rated it liked it
Elisha Barber is a blend of historical fiction, fantasy and medical thriller set in 14th-century England. Elisha Barber is a medieval barber-surgeon who is forced to go and work as a medic on the bloody battlefield of an inequitable war. When a seductive young witch lures him into her world of sorcery, Elisha must untangle certain magical threads as well as accept the discovery of his new powers.

I found this first tale of the Dark Apostle series well written. The lead character, Elisha Barber, i
Sep 30, 2013 Morven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like dark fantasy, magic.
I started listening to this when I was sad about something. Within a few minutes, I thought, "I don't think I should listen to this now." The beginning is dark. Very dark. Sad. Very sad.

Yet I kept listening, even when I saw the character do things he knew he shouldn't -- something that usually makes me want to stop reading, listening, watching -- because the story was so rich, so unusual, that I had to keep listening. Elisha Barber is a barber, in the old sense of the word, back when barbers (or
Sep 16, 2013 Normalene rated it really liked it
Sentenced to ply his barbering skills at the battlefront for a crime of Shakespearean scope, Elisha does penance by trying to save as many men from death as possible. The tone is relentlessly dark with few flashes of hope or inspiration until Elisha discovers a childhood brush with an angel may have conveyed some small power as a magus or witch. But witches are burnt at the stake in this alternate medieval England. Barber is a stereotype of the peasant who is a better man than the lords and knig ...more
Joshua Hair
Oct 05, 2014 Joshua Hair rated it really liked it
This book immediately piqued my interest upon reading the summary. I rather enjoy a romp through history, especially so when it involves the likes of fantasy, and the idea of a barber surgeon with magical talents was simply too good to pass up. I had this puppy preordered on Amazon as soon as I read about it on Goodreads. Thankfully, it turned out to be just as satisfying as I had hoped.

At this point such a volley of reviews for the book and its predecessor have been published that I feel it poi
May 02, 2013 Lissa rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book from the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program. I have to admit that I was a little hesitant to start this book from the cover alone. I'm not sure the cover does this book the justice that it deserves. I was blown away by the depth of this story and the extremely admirable main character, Elisha Barber. Elisha Barber is a Barber/surgeon during the fourteenth century. After a personal tragedy leaves him headed for the gallows, he is instead sent to the battlefields where he puts ...more
R.W.W. Greene
Jul 31, 2013 R.W.W. Greene rated it really liked it
By page five, when the protagonist is rushing to a fourteenth-century hellish hospital to try to save the lives of his sister in-law and her unborn child, I was hooked. Then it got better.
"Elisha Barber," first in Ambrose's "Dark Apostle" series, is a fantasy that doesn't rely on the fantastic to appeal. The author did his/her research and brought the stench, horror, grime, and blood of the middle ages back to life on every page. It wasn't a nice time, but Ambrose's hero -- a mostly self-trained
Mar 20, 2014 Bookman rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Elisha Barber is the first book in The Dark Apostle series. I was at my library browsing the new release SF/fantasy section and the cover stuck out. I picked it up and checked the inside to see if it was part of a series and noticed it is published by DAW. I have read other books published by them and enjoyed them so I decided to give this one a read.

Elisha Barber (the name of the book and the main character) is a well built character. The book has quite a bit of blood in it, and may not be for
Brian Palmer
Dec 29, 2013 Brian Palmer rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 08, 2015 Lorisia rated it really liked it
To be completely honest, I was not expecting such a big story from such a small book. While Ambrose has created a book that is rather short- only about 300 pages- it has the same feel as a medieval epic. The characters are wonderfully flawed at times and well written in that they each seem to have their own motivation that shines through in their actions. Even the darker subject matter is not dealt with in a graphic manner but leaves a tingling sense of dread as you read some scenes.

Yet another
May 25, 2013 Keri rated it it was ok
I received this as an ARC from work. E.C. Ambrose gives a vivid account of 14th century medical life with a mix of witchcraft mixed in. The story continues on a pace that changes from a brisk walk to sprinting back to a brisk walk that left me bored at times. Ambrose did a wonderful job with developing the character of Elisha but lack that development with the other main secondary characters used to move the story along. Because of the story pace and the lacked secondary character development I' ...more
Aug 02, 2015 Aki rated it liked it
Really fun fantasy novel; the entire first half of the book was very well paced. Things got a little crazy near the end, with the sudden addition of a few characters who were obviously important but had up until that point been unseen. I also appreciated the implication that the main character's love interest might be a selfish and terrible person. Will have to check out the rest of the series at some point.
Elise Edie
Jun 04, 2015 Elise Edie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recent-reads
This is a fully imagined, meticulously researched and enjoyable fantasy about a magician/barber in an alternative 14th century Europe. The book is definitely not for the faint of heart (there is plenty of bloodshed, horror and violence), but I appreciated the realism and felt it grounded the fantastical elements nicely. Ambrose is a wonderful writer, managing to make even the most sanguine passages seem poetic. This is the start of an intriguing series.
Rae Borman
Mar 05, 2015 Rae Borman rated it it was amazing
I loved the world of Elisha Barber and was sorry to put the book down after turning the last page. It was gritty and gory, but balanced against Elisha's humility, made so beautiful. Ambrose successfully balanced the realism of medieval medicine with the magical elements in her world. Very different from any world I read before.
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I passed a peripatetic childhood reading way too many books, and eventually writing my own little stories, either inspired by my life (such as it was) or by whatever I was reading at the time. I thought I would grow up to be an archaeologist which explains why I read The Last Days of Pompeii at the age of nine. I was fortunate to have a few teachers early on who encouraged my literary tendencies—i ...more
More about E.C. Ambrose...

Other Books in the Series

The Dark Apostle (3 books)
  • Elisha Magus
  • Elisha Rex: Book Three of The Dark Apostle

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