The Romans have left Britain, and the long dark night begins to cover the land... this is historical fiction as it should be written...dark, bloody, funny at times, with characters that you actually care about. Arthurian novels really are ten a penny these days and Bernard Cornwell must have been very aware of this fact when he opted to write a trilogy based upon the legends. What he has done is to go back to the original Dark Age and craft a Britain set during the twilight days of paganism, as the Christians begin to make themselves heard, as the warring tribes strive to hold back the Saxons from their lands, as the Roman technology begins to crumble, rust, and be forgotten. In doing so, he has written the only Arthurian books worth reading, outside of Robert Nye's classic 'Merlin'. The subtleties within this book, and the trilogy overall, are marvellous... is this a fantasy novel? Well, there's plenty of magick, but it's of a psychological nature... you're never quite sure whether magick actually works... certainly the characters believe it does, but there's always a rational explanation for any effect, in addition to a supernatural one. The first book of the series sets the scene, introduces the characters and allows Arthur to make his initial mistakes, the repercussions of which will dog him until the bitter end. The key to the series is realism. Battles are fought with shield walls of frightened men who need to get drunk before they have the courage to charge. There is mud, and there is rain, and there is the slight glimmer of hope that Arthur's plans really will build a better Britain.... And then it all goes horribly wrong... These are real people, with real emotions, not the stock, cardboard clichés of nearly all Fantasy novels these days. The Winter King is an exhilarating start to a classic series. If you have any interest in Fantasy and/or the Dark Age period, this really is about as good as it gets.