The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, Excalibur...the infamous Sword in the Stone, magic, epic’ve heard it all before, right? Perhaps--but you may not know the real history behind the mythic legend. The Winter King, masterfully written by Mr. Bernard Cornwell, tells this timeless tale in a bold new way.

Unending wars fought across a multitude of lands, carefully negotiated and fragile alliances, quick and nasty double-crosses, the clashing swords of a thousand mighty knights, impenetrable shield walls, the thundering charge of a score of armored horseman. This is the true, battle-filled life of the honorable, valiant Arthur. A man endlessly fighting to keep his pledge to unite Britain in peace and deliver a safe kingdom for the child king Prince Mordred to rule when he comes of age. Arthur fights not for a crown of his own, nor to conquer new lands, but to do what is good and right. And he fights to protect his beloved Guinevere, with the vision of settling with her late in life to finally enjoy a life of peaceful quiet with land and a real family.

It’s a long, fascinating, epic tale and it’s wonderfully written by Mr. Cornwell, who’s well-known for being an expert historical fiction story-teller. I truly enjoyed the way he chose to frame this book, having written it from the perspective of one of Arthur’s knights named Derfel, who (in the book) is writing down the legend of Arthur so it can be enjoyed by future generations. Derfel knows Arthur, has fought for him and next to him, and he spins amazing stories of battle, glory, and passion. My other favorite part is Cromwell’s usage of Merlin as a fringe character constantly cloaked in mystery, yet bursting with power and significance.

I highly recommend this book to all fans of fantasy, historical fiction, and legendary adventure tales. An obvious comparison here is the Game of Thrones series. If you’ve watched those shows but never read the intimidating novels--get in on these books for sure. There are several more to read after this magnificent first volume. The action is pretty bloody in all the descriptions of war with plenty of specific details so do be aware of that. However, it’s handled with informative eloquence and not graphic for simple shock value. I’m certain it’s nowhere near as gory as GoT. There is also some fascinating pagan sorcery too with Merlin and the other Druids. But a strong undercurrent of Christianity runs in the book as well, as the new religious beliefs of the land begin to challenge the old. Lastly you'll find a bit of chivalry and romance too, but nothing offensive. All in all, this is a long, complex, brilliant, entertaining novel meant to challenge and amaze mature readers.

So immerse yourself in the legend, respect the writer, and feel the power of Arthur by challenging The Winter King. I know you won’t be defeated!

Happy Conquering--and Reading!