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80 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historically plausible
Nobody knows the truth about King Arthur. What Cornwell presents here is an historically plausible version of the familiar tales. He's stripped away all the romanticised, magical, mediaeval nonsense. In its place he's given us the story of a warlord struggling to unite the British kingdoms in the wake of the collapse of Roman rule in the face of invasion by the English...
Published on 21 April 2006 by A. R. Wilkinson

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A VERY LONG WINTER
I have all the Sharpe novels and Azincourt. I like Cornwell's style and pace. Azincourt has become the annual Christmas holiday read so I looked forward to this first of three Arthurian novels. Sadly it has proved to be a let-down. It is a very slow burn and one waits and waits for Arthur to appear. The main problem centres on the names (both personal and geographic). No...
Published on 31 Dec. 2012 by H. G. Shearring


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80 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Historically plausible, 21 April 2006
By 
A. R. Wilkinson (Somewhere in the North of England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Nobody knows the truth about King Arthur. What Cornwell presents here is an historically plausible version of the familiar tales. He's stripped away all the romanticised, magical, mediaeval nonsense. In its place he's given us the story of a warlord struggling to unite the British kingdoms in the wake of the collapse of Roman rule in the face of invasion by the English and the Saxons, and the growing influence of a middle-eastern cult called Christianity. The charactersisation is well-rounded and the evocation of time and place is stunning. Many of the characters and battles refer to real people and events documented in Dark Ages history. Most of the usual Arthurian characters and episodes are present, but re-told within this pre-English British context, e.g. there is no hunt for the Holy Grail, but there is a search for a mystical, Druidic cauldron. Good quality writing, great adventures and a great study of leadership and national identity. The other two books in the series are equally strong, and are highly recommended too.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best of Cornwell's work, 13 Aug. 2004
By 
Marcus Pailing (Bartlesnipe's Revenge) (Nottingham, England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I read the Warlord trilogy as soon as it was published and I've just finished re-reading all three books ("The Winter King" is the first). I remembered that I had enjoyed the books immensely first time around - and they were no less gripping second time!
I've read two or three of Cornwell's Sharpe novels and his most recent, the Grail Quest trilogy. In my opinion his Arthurian stories are much, much better than the others. So, if you enjoy Sharpe, you ought to enjoy these books - if you don't like Sharpe, don't let them put you off!
I've read plenty of Arthurian literature, and I reckon The Warlord trilogy comprises the best I've encountered. Set in a believable 5th century, with the vestiges of Rome competing with British resurgence, competing with Saxon invasions and with encroaching Christianity, the plot isn't hugely complex, but complex enough to be believable. The battle scenes are gritty and visceral. Most important, as another reviewer has noted, the myth of Lancelot is brilliantly shattered (I love it when authors turn the tables on traditional heroes).
There is also plenty of humour. Cornwell makes Merlin a very funny character, showing a weary cynicism that competes with his fervour to save Britain. Sometimes I felt his humour was inappropriate, then changed my mind as it helped to show that here was a man (druid) who is operating on a totally different level from anyone else.
All in all, an extremely good book, and well worth reading.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh Approach to the Arthurian Legends, 2 Sept. 2006
By 
J. Chippindale (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Bernard Cornwell is one of that rare breed of authors who are able to write convincingly on a broad range of subjects. Present day thrillers, the Sharpe novels about riflemen in the days of the Duke of Wellington, even an ancient historical novel about Stonehenge and it doesn't come much more ancient than that. His more recent novels have been about the Saxons and very good they are too. But I think that the trilogy he has written about the Arthurian legends are certainly among the best, if not the best of his novels.

The legends of King Arthur hold a magical attraction for many people, myself included and I enjoy reading about them very much. The tales of Arthur and his knights of the round table riding about in full and shining armour are of course a total nonsense and a more or less modern day depiction of Arthur. Suits of armour were not even invented until several hundred years after Arthur's death, if indeed he existed at all. But if he did it would be more around the time in which the Winter King is set.

Mr. Cornwell puts a more realistic slant on the existence of Arthur in or around the sixth century, and the author himself believes that Arthur was some sort of war chief rather than a king.

The book begins after the death of Uther Pendragon, an event that has left Britain in turmoil. Britain needs a strong hand to keep the squabbling tribes of Britain from one another's throats. Can he hold Uther's throne for the infant heir . . .
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52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Twlight of the Gods...., 27 Feb. 1999
By A Customer
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.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grows on you!, 2 Dec. 2004
By 
B. Jonsson "Literate Warlock" (falun, dalarna sweden) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Cornwell's Arthur saga is a new touch to the old legends and lore about perhaps the most famous king of all times. It is a wondrous thing that we "know" so much about him, when we cannot even say for certain that he ever existed.
Guinevere, Lancelot and Merlin, Hector, Gawain; Galahad and many more familiar names turn up, only perhaps not as you would be used to seeing them. Lancelot is a snob, a coward and a generally disliked figure, Guinevere a heathen priestess.

Arthur is the strong, seemingly invincible warlord, strong in action but insecure in life.

The book grew on me and I ploughed through it and eagerly awaited the sequels.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 15 Sept. 2007
By 
Celtes (wales, uk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I found this book in one of the caravans that we rent out. The lady must have forgotten to pack it. What a lucky find!

This has turned into my favorite series of books. I have always been fascinated by British/Celtic myths and legends and you don't get much better than the Arthurian Tales. This is a totally different look at those tales. It gives them a more historical basis rather than a mythical feel. When you read this book you feel that all the events described could have happened. This doesn't mean that all the magic has been taken out of the stories however... there's plenty left to satisfy!

Cornwell creates wonderful characters and I'm sure you will be surprised by some new views on some of the old regulars! It's nice to see an author who doesn't romanticise the relationships either. Guinevere, for example, is a far more complex character than has been portrayed previously, and her story makes for very interesting reading. Arthur himself has also been fleshed out- as we see him as not only a great warrior and leader, but also as quite an insecure man in his personal life. The narrator- Derfel- who's story we follow from a young boy to one of Arthurs best warriors- is a very likeable character who we can sympathise with entirely.

The battle scenes are engaging, exciting and fresh. It's nice to see an author who isn't afraid to shy away from the gruesomeness of what battle must have been like. Like the character stories... Cornwell does not romanticise the battles... they are bloody and disgusting.

I also like that the author takes a look at the effect of Christianity on the native Pagan beliefs. It's interesting to read about the invasion of a foreign religion from the eyes of a native... and how Arthur, as a country's leader deals with the conflicting beliefs within the kingdom.

This is a brilliant book. The best take on the Arthurian Legends that is out there- by far! I couldn't put it down and had to order the other two books straight away!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Winter King, 30 Dec. 2003
By 
Mr. Andrew Moore "lord derfel cadarn" (Worcestershire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I cannot recommend this book more highly. I have it in both book and audio book form and simply can't stop re reading or listening. The first of three novels following the story of Derfel Cadarn (the narrator) who is one of "King" Arthurs leading warlords. Pure escapism, tremendous detail and some lovely twists of character and plot away from the norm of Mort D'Arthur etc. Bernard Cornwells attention to detail is second to non, the battles are tremendous, the love stories perfect... need I go on? Reading this puts you there, you can feel the spear thrusts, smell the countryside and the characters. Go on, read this and its two sequels for the full story and I guarantee you a good read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Arthur the Possible, 13 Mar. 2000
By A Customer
The short of it: This book is very good. The long of it: This book is very good. Bernard Cornwell manages to place King Arthur in a historical setting and manages to make it interesting. Admittedly, it all feels a bit foreign at first, and not very Arthurian, at least as we 20th-century folks know it. However, the feeling of authenticity given by the gritty realism of the narration more than makes up for this until you get a feel for the novel. The narrator himself is pehaps the best part. He is a character you can sympathise with, and gives the book a "Chronicles of Britain" feel. This promises only to get better as the characters and plot further develop in book two. I personally don't mind the fact that the magic is more subtlee- It leaves you to decide what it real and what is not, and subtlelty in magic is way better, in my opinion, than some magical pyrotechnic laser-light show. I HIGHLY RECCOMEND!
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantastic Historical Novel, 22 Feb. 2002
By A Customer
"The Winter King" is the high point of Cornwell's writing. From the gruesome battle scenes at Benoic to the spirit-strewn Isle of the Dead, the book is vivid in detail and leaves the reader feeling as though they have lived the myth. In my opinion the characters are the most compelling factor of the novel. Arthur, the noble warlord with visions of a united Britain. Derfel, a Pagan spearman who narrates. Nimue, the fiery and, at times, slightly disturbing priestess. Lancelot, the conceited, self-appointed 'warrior'. Guninevere, the strong-willed wife of Arthur who must be surrounded by beautiful things. Mordred, the maimed babe edling who has Dumnonia's future on his tiny shoulders. And the enemies are just as intriguing. The bloody Saxons; the evil Gundleus; the viscious Franks. The battle scenes are truly terrifying and prayed on my mind for days afterwards. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I heard about the next books in the trilogy - "Enemy of God" and then "Excalibur". I have great faith in them both.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Believable legend, 13 April 2000
At last here is is the Arthurian legend set out in all it bloody detail. Rather than relying on christinised tales these stories present a believavle account of Arthur. Taking into account both archaeology, history, legend and common sense this book is possibly the best ever written about Arthur. The battle scenes are unnervingly brutal, while the stories of love and betrayal are equally moving. It is impossible to do this book justice. This is the Arthurian legend as it should be... Raw, moving and above all believable. Arthur is not the goody goody christian of earler tales but the raw savage warlord seeking to protect Britain from the Saxon invaders. This book is amazing as is the rest of the trilogy. Read them all.
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The Winter King (A Novel of Arthur: The Warlord Chronicles)
The Winter King (A Novel of Arthur: The Warlord Chronicles) by Bernard Cornwell (Hardcover - 5 Oct. 1995)
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