Not Even A King
Currently on Loan from the Library:
Other Books I’m Reading:
I’m considering my options.
I ended up returning a bunch of books to the library today without actually reading three of them. This is very sad to me, and I will surely have to check out at least two of them at another time. However, the Library computer system is having a meltdown this week. As it happens I am deeply addicted to having the Library computer system on line. I can order things in from other places. I can have exact change on those occasions when I owe money. I can make sure I don’t have overdue books, because I always lose the little slips they print out for me. It’s just thrown my world off. Okay, not my world. My reading habits.
The book that I did manage to finish this week was The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell. I came to Cornwell’s work because I like Vikings and happened across the first book of his Saxon Chronicles at the library. That series turned out to be everything I think is missing in most historical fiction. So I read on to his Grail Quest series too. Don’t roll your eyes. I know the Holy Grail has been done to death. Cornwell’s Grail Quest is so far from what I would have expected from a Grail based series that I read them all in about a week and a half.
After that, there was no way that I couldn’t move on to The Arthur Books. Although I swore off Arthur years ago after a crazy month during which I read The Once and Future King, The Mists of Avalon, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, back to back, I couldn’t help myself. Nor was I disappointed. Cornwell has stripped the Arthur legands back to their root in away that could leave modern readers confused. There are no knights in shining armor, no round table, and if you can believe it, Arthur is not a king.
Conrwell, sets his books in the late 400’s. After Rome has left the isle, but before the Viking expansion into the area which started in the late 700’s. Many of the familiar players in the story have been recast, or taken from the oldest versions of the legand. The narrator, is one of Arthur’s knights in retirement as a monk. His name is Derfel. Arthur is now a Warlord, the illegitimate son of Uther. Arthur is sworn to protect the throne of his nephew Mordred. Mordred, Uther’s grandson, and legitimate heir, is a baby born on stormy winter night, with a club foot, and a displeasing personality. Lancelot while still there too, is now cast as a cowardly mamma’s boy, who lies to look good in battle. Guinevere is more huntress than princess. Morgan is more hag than woman. And Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, is less Lady, and more half mad priestess. Meanwhile, Merlin, always a staple of other works, is absent for a full 90% of the book. Still, it is a deeply enjoyable read, full of dry humor, and well, battles.
I will say that much of what I enjoy about Cornwell’s writing may be what other people would not like. These are not books where the historically named rogue woos his historically named lady fair. These are not books where the author tries to stay true to the facts we know, but ends up wandering in to speculation or supposedly well hidden scandal. These are not books about how women are the real power behind the stupid stupid men in their lives. Cornwell’s books are unabashedly bloody, battle filled, and harsh. No one comes out well, and most people end violently. A Cornwell book is more likely to have a description of a severed head than it is to have heaving bosoms.
They are very testosteroni reads and should be avoided by sensitive readers.
Still, I think they are smart, well written, and more accurate than we’d like to think most of the time.
Enjoyability: Very Enjoyable. I give The Winter King five stars.
Where to read this book: Anywhere. Just be careful. It may cause you to be short with people who interrupt you during the exciting parts.
Further reading: I was hoping to move on to the next book in the series, Enemy of God. But since the library is still all widdershins I guess I’ll have to find something around here. I’d love some suggestions too. What has everyone been reading lately?
Posted on July 14, 2011, in around the house, Fiction, Reading, review and tagged A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Bernard Cornwell, Grail Quest, Holy Grail, King Arthur, Lady of the Lake, Once and Future King, Winter King. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.