Everyone knows of King Arthur and his knights of the round table. All know the famous stories of brave and gorgeous Lancelot, powerful Gawain and all those other knights. And all know the Druid Merlin.
However a different story is told here. Here is the story of how Arthur, the bastard of the High King Uther and Igraine, a man without land and with only a reputation to protect, becomes a man of legend.
“Once upon a time, in a land that was called Britain, these things happened. These are the tales of Arthur, the Warlord, the King that Never Was, the Enemy of God and, may the living Christ and Bishop Sansum forgive me, the best man I ever knew.”
This story is written down by, at that time, an old monk called Derfel. He was asked by his queen Igraine to write down the real story of King Arthur.
When you read this story you will be brought back to a time most of you will know of the Dark Ages. Not much is known about these years in history except what survived on parchment, words written down by monks.
Derfel will tell his own story, how he came to know Merlin and Nimue and later on met Arthur himself.
The Winter King is the first book of the Warlord Chronicles. When I first read this series I was about 11 years old and back then I already thought this was the most epic story I ever read.
Now, some 9 years later, I am still in love with this book.
Bernard Cornwell did an amazing job and I grovel before his awesomeness.
When last year I tried to become a history teacher, I failed miserably, I learned a thing or two about these Dark Ages. Indeed there is not much know about this period and the things we do know are mostly religious. I confess that I’ve never read any Author’s note in my life, but I did this time.
He did a lot of research to write this book with an amazing result. He brought life to a period few people can imagine and he did great. He describes the land itself, the people and the history beautifully. For example:
Ynys Wydryn, despite its name, which means the Isle of Glass, was not a true island, but rather a promontory of high ground that jutted into a waste of sea-marsh, creeks and willow-edged bogs where sedge and reeds grew thick. It was a rich place, made so by wildfowl, fish, clay and the limestone that could easily be quarried from the hills edging the tidal wastes that were crossed by wooden trackways on which unwary visitors were sometimes drowned when the wind came hard from the west and blew a high tide fast across the long, green wetland.
He made the characters alive and used a lot of humor! Here an example the king being a fan of old writings and having this incredible library while a monk hates everything the king thinks is lovely.
“I make all the Fili study Horace’s maxims. ” the king told me.
“Which is why they’re all such execrable poets, “the priest put in.
“Oh Turtullian!” the king slid the scroll from its box and blew dust from the parchment. “A copy of his Apologeticus!”
“All rubbish” Celwin said. “Waste of precious ink.”
Though Derfel tells the story, you’ll find it easy to connect to the other characters in this book. Some you’ll hate, uhum a certain priest, some you’ll love, Nimue, and some you’ll want to kill yourself, tiny spoiler; Lancelot.
You’ll follow Derfel himself, though he will not bore you with endless details about how he’s feeling or anything, through his ‘childhood’ to how he kills his first enemy and eventually becomes a oath-bound warrior to Arthur himself.
For the first time in a very long time I find myself without any words to describe this book. This is just a perfect example of a great writer and I think I’ll never have enough words to make you love this book. You simply have to read it for yourself.
So because I love this book, and because it’s one of my all time favorites, I’ll give this five stars! BAM!