At the end of The Winter King Arthur fought the battle that forces unity on the warring British kingdoms, and now he sets out to face the real enemy—the English (it is one of the great ironies of the Arthur stories that he should have become an English hero when, if he existed at all, he was a great war-leader who opposed the invading Sais).
First, though, Merlin leads a perilous expedition into the mysterious west to retrieve a cauldron, one of the treasures of Britain. This cauldron story is almost certainly the root of the holy grail strand in the Arthur tales. The treasures of Britain, Merlin believes, will bring the old Gods onto the side of the British in their struggle against the Saxons (and the Christians, whom Merlin hates). But the treasures will also set Briton against Briton—especially as Guinevere, now Arthur’s wife, wants to make a magic of her own.
“Chaos was now thick across Britain, for someone had spilt the Cauldron’s power and its horror threatened to engulf us all.”
©1996 Bernard Cornwell (P)1996 Penguin Books Ltd
In this story, protagonist, Derfel Cadarn, provides the moral core to an exciting adventure tale. The familiar mythological story of Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot is turned into a wonderfully human exchange. The battle scenes frame the stories, and are so detailed that the reader understands the fearful thrill of shield-wall fighting.
The quest for the Cauldron in Lleyn, a forbidding and mysterious region, is where Merlin exerts his power through more than seemlingly magical means.
Tim Pigott-Smith performs each and every character with subtlety and deftness. This is an adventure story and Pigott-Smith conveys that excitement. He manages to provide the women with strength and the men with quandaries without ever straying into caricature. He is particularly poignant in the scenes concerning Derfel's young family.
Derfel's story throughout this book is an odyssey of body, mind and spirit. Though he is a warrior, he prefers peace; he is loyal to Arthur, but not blindly. Derfel's dilemmas are always questions of loyalties in opposition to truths. Or in matters of love.
I have read and listened to all of the Bernard Cornwell books that I can lay my hands on. I wasn't really into the King Arthur/ Camalot thing so I thought that listening to the audio version would be a good experience. It was different and much more entertaining than I expected. Cornwell is fantastic.
Start with the Winter King, read Enemy of God and finish with Excalibur.
All of the Warlord series and Heretic that I know of.
Much better that I expected.
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