Top positive review
45 people found this helpful
A Neolithic swashbuckler!
on 12 June 2005
The only thing harder to research than a historical novel is a pre-historical one. Cornwell has made a serious effort to understand the how the Neolithic looked in southern Britain, then fit plot and characters into that landscape. It's an exciting story, full of duplicity, heroics, deeply held feelings and almost convincing people.
Centred, as the title suggests, on the great stone monument on Salisbury Plain, he builds a narrative suggesting the motivation and labour involved in building this ancient site. He uses two trinities to develop his story. One trinity is comprised of brothers who represent material, mysticism and morality. The other is three who, by stretching your imagination, might be Mother, Maiden and Crone of the slassical witchcraft Sisterhood, although those identities shift drastically as the story progresses. The clash of greedy warlords with messianic figures is like something out of Sir Walter Scott. Cornwell's technique makes thrilling reading while upholding modern standards of justice and rewards for the good. The good, of course, don't come through unblemished or painlessly, but they survive. All the excitement and maneuvering raise this book a step above the modern fantasy novel, but the step is a small one.
If you're looking for adventure with an unusual twist, this is the book for you. You will be taken back in time, through some spatial adjustment, but most importantly, view a society very different from the one you know. Prepare yourself for a harsh existence while remembering that "progress" is a word with many definitions. Perhaps there's some benefit in reading the "Historical note" at the back first, then delving into Cornwell's sources, before returning to this fictional account. All of his resources are at least as readable as this book, and infinitely more informative, if not as imaginative. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]