The Once and Future Warlord
Currently on Loan from the Library:
Excalibur by Bernard Cornwell
Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
Other Books I’m Reading:
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Once the local Library unwound it’s tangled computer system I was abel to pick up Enemy of God and Excalibur by Bernard Cornwell. The books that complete his Arthur trilogy. Which made me so happy. Although, after two weeks of almost solid battles and gore, I may need to pick up and romance novel just to balance it all out. Possibly something with lace on the cover.
Enemy of God picks up nicely where The Winter King leaves off. Arthur is still holding the kingdom for his younger half brother Mordred, much to Guinevere’s disgust. In fact most of the other kings, nobles, warlords, and druids throughout the series seem to think that Arthur should just kill Mordred, or have Mordred killed, and assume the throne. Arthur, naturally won’t be tempted, and refuses to take the crown.
The first half of Enemy of God is about Arthur and his allies putting down a Christian uprising caused by the Pelagian heresy. The Christians decide to remove Arthur and Mordred who are nominally Pagan from the throne, and replace them with the supposedly Christian, Lancelot. A Christian king on the throne is supposed bring Christ back. This conflict sets up rather elegantly the classic Guinevere/Lancelot betrayal that has been hanging in the air since the first book. Guinevere decides to put Lancelot on the throne, since her husband doesn’t want to rule. Her means are acts of corporeal exuberance in the name of Isis.
Perhaps as an example of what should have happened to Guinevere, Cornwell throws in Tristan and Iseult just before Guinevere is discovered with her lover. Always good to remember that in these sorts of tales adulterous consummation only leads to madness and death. In the case of Iseult, death with her lover’s body burning on the pyre next to her while her husband watches. Arthur, however, decides not to kill Guinevere for her betrayal with Lancelot. Instead he imprisons her, which leaves her free to come back later. Lancelot gets away, and returns to his kingdom to join forces with Arthur’s enemies the Saxons.
The second half of Enemy of God focuses on Merlin’s efforts with Nimue to bring the god’s back to the land. An effort which is nixed by Arthur, who doesn’t want his only son sacrificed to the gods. Go figure. Thus Arthur is viewed as the enemy of all religion, not just the Christians.
Excalibur, the final book of the trilogy features the Saxon’s threat, and the battle of Mount Badon. There is a bit more noodling around in the final installment than in the other books of the trilogy. Mordred finally gets to rule his kingdom. Badly as expected. Guinevere is back, but to help Arthur rather than revenge herself on him. Also, she seems to finally decide to be a good wife to him. Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, imprisons Merlin as revenge, and wrings most of his secrets and power from him. Also, Lancelot buys it, in one of the more satisfying death sequences in the trilogy.
We do get the classic scene at the end where Arthur disappears into the mists. Although, Cornwell has his own special take on that as well.
Enjoyability: I give the whole series five stars. Even the middle book, which is traditionally the weakest in a series is an excellent read. However, again, sensitive people should be aware that there is a large amount of gore and messy death.
Where to read this book: Anywhere you won’t be interrupted during the climatic scenes.
Further reading: Well, I’m moving on to Game of Thrones which comes highly recommended. We shall see.