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Not the Swashbuckling Cornwell of his other novels
on 22 December 2011
In "Enemy of God", Bernard Cornwell bravely tries to reconstruct the King Arthur legend in a similar mould to his "Uhtred" stories. For me the experiment does not work. The problem is that the Arthur characters have largely pre-determined characters and pre-set destinies, and the story is contrived to fit round this with the result that it feels stilted, clumsy and, worst of all, ponderous. In fact the slow pace of the book is its biggest failing. In the early part of the book we are offered a dark quest (for a sort of grail) into a wild and dangerous land with a terrible foe - but nothing happens! Shortly after that we are promised a fierce and desperate battle with the Saxons - which is dealt with in about half a page with none of the usual Cornwell flair for action. Throughout the book, Cornwell builds the vain and insecure Lancelot and his entourage as a threat, and this gives us the climax of the book, but it is a fairly uninteresting showdown - not like his normal rattling stories. Guinevere too, we are led to think will cause trouble; but her malevolence fizzles out. While Mordred is built up as a character of real menace, only to be written-off in a few sentences.
Cornwell usually delivers excitement, strong pace and magnificent action scenes. Sadly this book contains none of these features. Perhaps this book is just a holding strategy, and it will all come together in the next book in the series. The trouble is I am not sure I can be bothered to find out!