Stonehenge

Stonehenge

3.7 43
by Bernard Cornwell
     
 

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Four thousand years ago, a stranger's death at the Old Temple of Ratharryn-and his ominous "gift" of gold-precipitates the building of what for centuries to come will be known as one of mankind's most singular and remarkable achievements. Bernard Cornwell's epic novel Stonehenge catapults us into a powerful and vibrant world of ritual and sacrifice at once

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Overview

Four thousand years ago, a stranger's death at the Old Temple of Ratharryn-and his ominous "gift" of gold-precipitates the building of what for centuries to come will be known as one of mankind's most singular and remarkable achievements. Bernard Cornwell's epic novel Stonehenge catapults us into a powerful and vibrant world of ritual and sacrifice at once timeless and wholly original-a tale of patricide, betrayal, and murder; of bloody brotherly rivalry: and of the never-ending quest for power, wealth, and spiritual fulfillment.

Three brothers-deadly rivals-are uneasily united in their quest to create a temple to their gods. There is Lengar, the eldest, a ruthless warrior intent on replacing his father as chief of the tribe of Ratharryn; Camaban, his bastard brother, a sorcerer whose religious fervor inspires the plan for Stonehenge; and Saban, the youngest, through whose expertise the temple will finally be completed. Divided by blood but united-precariously-by a shared vision, the brothers begin erecting their mighty ring of granite, aligning towering stones to the movement of the heavenly bodies, and raising arches to appease and unite their gods. Caught between the zealousness of his ambitious brothers, Saban becomes the true leader of his people, a peacemaker who will live to see the temple built in the name of salvation and regeneration.

Bernard Cornwell, long admired for his rousing narrative and meticulous historical imaginings, has here delivered his masterpiece, the most compelling and powerful human drama of its kind since Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and Edward Rutherford's Sarum. His re-creation of civilization as it might have been in 2000 B.C. at once amplifies the mystery of his subject and makes the world of Stonehenge come alive as never before.

About the Author:

Bernard Cornwell, is the author of the highly acclaimed American Civil War series The Starbuck Chronicles: Rebel, Copperhead, and Battle Flag. A native of England, where he worked as a journalist in newspapers and television, Cornwell is now a resident of the United States and lives with his American wife in Cape Cod.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
A fantastic story in intertribal rivalries, Machiavellian scheming...and fierce battles.
Times Literary Supplement
An epic story told with a master's skill.
Yorkshire Evening Post
[Bernard Cornwell] makes use of all his skill in creating memorable characters and historically authentic settings...Powerfully imagined and well-sustained.
Bookpage
A sweeping, dramatic epic...a story of human greed and passion backlit by the construction of [Stonehenge].
Barnes & Noble Guide to New Fiction
"Evocative and stirring," this "compelling" historical novel explores the possible origin of one of man's greatest mysteries: Stonehenge. Weaving "a tapestry rich in detail and characterization," though "a bit gruesome in parts," it centers on the relationships between three rival brothers, and details various religious and "deliciously primitive" coming-of-age rites, as well as sorcery and battle scenes of that era. "A potent tale of what might have been." " A great read that was tough to put down."
South Wales Echo
An ambitious, thrilling and imaginative yarn [about] the riddle of who built Britain's greatest historical monument.
New York Times Book Review
A fantastic story of intertribal rivalries, Machiavellian scheming...and fierce battles.
Library Journal
This new novel by Cornwell, author of the best-selling Sharpe series, is the epic tale of the construction of the famous megalithic temple. It is also the story of three quarrelsome brothers vying for leadership of their tribe: Lengar, the fierce warrior; Camaban, the maimed sorcerer-priest; and Saban, the compassionate hero. Each brother has a different idea of what is best for the people of Ratharryn, but it is Camaban's vision of a glorious temple to the sun god that fires their imagination. Saban must figure out how to build the enormous stone rings while protecting the people he loves from his brothers' obsessive behavior. Cornwell's work is rich in detail, but Stonehenge is slow paced and light on plot, while its characters seem one-dimensional. Suitable for public libraries where Cornwell is popular. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/00.]--Laurel Bliss Sterling Memorial Lib., New Haven, CT Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Micheal Porter
Bernard Cornwell has written a diverting novel that imagines the history behind Stonehenge... The historical note that closes the book attests to Cornwell's concern with getting the details right, but his chief interest seems to lie in borrowing these details for a fantastic story of intertribal rivalries, Machiavellian scheming by rival sect leaders and fierce battles over talismans. In the end, the book is more likely to appeal to fans of J. R. R. Tolkien than of David Macaulay.
New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
An acclaimed historical novelist (Sharpe's Triumph, 1999, etc.) casts a canny eye way, way back. It's 2000 b.c., and the old ways—and the old gods—seem somehow less controlling than they used to be. Even Hengall, the once tyrannical chief in Ratharryn, appears unusually vulnerable, and his oldest son, sensing this, is on the point of challenging his authority. Hengall has three sons: Camaban, whom he's ashamed of because he was born club-footed; Saban, whom he favors but who, at age 12, is a nonplayer, politically speaking, and Lengar, who is the tribe's great warrior and hunter. Obviously, then it's the latter who will have to be killed if Hengall's to stay alive. The power struggle mounts in intensity, complicated by the existence of nearby marauding bands in Cathalla and far-flung ones in Semennyn. And as men betray and murder each other, the wayward gods watch—ever in need of placating, usually by human sacrifice. Camaban, written off, startles all by becoming a first-class sorcerer-visionary and later point-man for a new religion, one that will award ascendancy to Slaol, the sun god, who in turn will end winter, eliminate death, and generate better behavior among humans. A new temple must be built in his honor, Camaban insists, the likes of which has never been seen before, a circle of magnificently massive stones and boulders—never mind that nothing of this description is indigenous to Ratharryn. Camaban has his way. Saban, the youngest of the brothers, grows old building a Slaol-worthy edifice; but when it's finished, the men are still up to their old tricks: betrayal, murder, the usual. Whatever the period, count on Cornwell to serve upthedetails on which verisimilitude thrives. Lots of that here, maybe more than required, but it's a sturdy story, too—an ancient sibling rivalry full of enough blood and thunder to hold anyone's interest.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780736663496
Publisher:
Books on Tape, Inc.
Publication date:
03/12/2001

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The gods talk by signs. It may be a leaf falling in summer, the cry of a dying beast or the ripple of wind on calm water. It might be smoke lying close to the ground, a rift in the clouds or the Right of a bird.

But on that day the gods sent a storm. It was a great storm, a storm that would be remembered, though folk did not name the year by that storm. Instead they called it the Year the Stranger Came.

For a stranger came to Ratharryn on the day of the storm. It was a summer's day, the same day that Saban was almost murdered by his half-brother.

The gods were not talking that day. They were screarming.

Saban, like all children, went naked in summer. He was six years younger than his half-brother, Lengar, and, because he had not yet passed the trials of manhood, he bore no tribal scars or killing marks. But his time of trial was only a year away, and their father had instructed Lengar to take Saban into the forest and teach him where the stags could be found, where the wild boars lurked and where the wolves had their dens. Lengar had resented the duty and so, instead of teaching his brother, he dragged Saban through thickets of thorn so that the boy's sun-darkened skin was bleeding. "You'll never become a man,"Lengar jeered.

Saban, sensibly, said nothing.

Lengar had been a man for five years and had the blue scars of the tribe on his chest and the marks of a hunter and a warrior on his arms. He carried a longbow made of yew, tipped with horn, strung with sinew and polished with pork fat. His tunic was of wolfskin and his long black hair was braided and tied with a strip of fox's fur. He was tall, had anarrow face and was reckoned one of the tribe's great hunters. His name meant Wolf Eyes, for his gaze had a yellowish tinge. He had been given another name at birth, but like many in the tribe he had taken a new name at manhood.

Saban was also tall and had long black hair. His namemeant Favored One, and many in the tribe thought it apt for,even at a mere twelve summers, Saban promised to be hand-some. He was strong and lithe, he worked hard and he smiled often. Lengar rarely smiled. "He has a cloud in his face" the women said of him, but not within his hearing, forLengar was likely to be the tribe's next chief. Lengar and Sabanwere sons of Hengall, and Hengall was chief of the people of Ratharryn.

All that long day Lengar led Saban through the forest. They met no deer, no boars, no wolves, no aurochs and no bears. They just walked and in the afternoon they came to the edge of the high ground and saw that all the land to the west was shadowed by a mass of black cloud. Lightning flickered the dark cloud pale, twisted to the far forest and left the sky burned. Lengar squatted, one hand on his polished bow, and watched the approaching storm. He should have started for home, but he wanted to worry Saban and so he pretended he did not care about the storm god's threat.

It was while they watched the storm that the stranger came.

He rode a small dun horse that was white with sweat. His saddle was a folded woolen blanket and his reins were lines of woven nettle fiber, though he hardly needed them for he was wounded and seemed tired, letting the small horse pick

its own way up the track which climbed the steep escarpment. The stranger's head was bowed and his heels hung almost to the ground. He wore a woolen cloak dyed blue and in his right hand was a bow while on his left shoulder there hung a leather quiver filled with arrows fledged with the feathers of seagulls and crows. His short beard was black, while the tribal marks scarred into his cheeks were gray.

Lengar hissed at Saban to stay silent, then tracked the stranger eastward. Lengar had an arrow on his bowstring, but the stranger never once turned to see if he was being followed and Lengar was content to let the arrow rest on its string. Saban wondered if the horseman even lived, for he seemed like a dead man slumped inert on his horse's back.

The stranger was an Outlander. Even Saban knew that, for only the Outfolk rode the small shaggy horses and had gray scars on their faces. The Outfolk were enemy, yet still Lengar did not release his arrow. He just followed the horseman and Saban followed Lengar until at last the Outlander came to the edge of the trees where bracken grew. There the stranger stopped his horse and raised his head to stare across the gently rising land while Lengar and Saban crouched unseen behind him.

The stranger saw bracken and, beyond it, where the soil was thin above the underlying chalk, grassland. There were grave mounds dotted on the grassland's low crest. Pigs rooted in the bracken while white cattle grazed the pastureland. The sun still shone here. The stranger stayed a long while at the wood's edge, looking for enemies, but seeing none. Off to his north, a long way off, there were wheatfields fenced with thorn over which the first clouds, outriders of the storm, were chasing their shadows, but all ahead of him was sunlit. There was life ahead, darkness behind, and the small horse, unbidden, suddenly jolted into the bracken. The rider let it carry him.

The horse climbed the gentle slope to the grave mounds. Lengar and Saban waited until the stranger had disappeared over the skyline, then followed and, once at the crest, they...

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Meet the Author

BERNARD CORNWELL is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling Saxon Tales series, which includes The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, and, most recently, The Empty Throne, and which serves as the basis for the BBC America series The Last Kingdom. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Stonehenge 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Stonehenge' is really quite interesting! From the human drama played out between brothers to the building techniques of the Sky Temple, Bernard Cornwell does an excellent job of writing about one of man's compelling architectural mysteries. I have always wondered how the erectors of Stonehenge got those trilithons up; and although no one may ever know the answer for sure, Cornwell does write a plausible scenario. But what makes this book worth reading is not another theory on how Stonehenge was built, but the story and characters Cornwell offers up. It's a suspenseful and intriguing story filled with loyalty and betrayal, emotions of love and hatred, adventure, sorcery, and human achievement. I recommend this book for everyone, especially those who ever wondered about Stonehenge. It may be fictitious, but as far as I'm concerned, this account is what really happened some 4000 years ago. EnJOY!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very good read, if a bit long. Mr. Cornwell takes on the very difficult task of creating a complete and complex culture and religion from a time when we have pitifully little hard evidence to go on. Incorporating most of what recent archeologists and anthropologists have theorized he gives us a very entertaining read. If there is a disappointing area it is in his reach for technology with what is probably a far too sophisticated use of bronze and a highly unlikely use of oxen. His religious motiffs seem to borrow heavily from the much later Celts and what is probably a misplaced focus of blood sacrifice to a sun god in the late paleolithic. Overall, well worth the effort.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you liked the 'Clan of the Cave Bear' series, you'll probably like this book.It is a similar type of book. The characters were fairly well developed and the story moves along quickly. It has got its fair share of blood and gore, human sacrafice, etc. Having recently been to several archeological sites in Scotland, the physical descriptions rang true. Reading this makes you feel glad to live in 2000 AD rather than 2000 BC!!!!!! Don't skip the author's afterword - it is extremely interesting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A good book, but Bernard Cornwell failed to mention the first stones brought to Stonehenge in the Late Neolithic Period from the South Wales Coalfield area. Stonehenge's first hauled stones, of course, are the white Early Carboniferous (Mississippian) Period, Arundian Age, High Tor (Birnbeck) Limestone Formation calcium carbonates of its original counterscarp bank (3/4's later moved to Heelstone ditch and Stonehenge's nearest barrow 100 metres east-southeast of Heelstone). These first transported stones overlay Stonehenge's geologic outcrop of white Late Cretaceous Period, Santonian Age, Seaford Chalk Formation calcium carbonates. Other than Bernard Cornwell not mentioning these Stonehenge Whitestones, as they are commonly referred to by BGS (British Geological Survey) geologists, the book 'Stonehenge' is a good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like a story thats 'Just the facts' then you may like this tale of ancient religion and 3 brothers at odds. The plot is compelling and there is lots of it - but the major flaw is the lack of character for each person. The book spends pages describing the hut or stone or boat of someone - then spends 2 paragraphs on the death of a major character. People, like stone, serve as devices for the plot but never have a life or depth of their own.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was hard to put down. The story of three very different brothers involved in the building of Stonehenge moves right along. The possibility of how the stones might have been moved and the temple constructed is plausible. The three men are fairly stock characters - the ruthless leader, the fanatical religious, and the peace-loving good guy - and would probably be right at home dressed in expensive suits in a contemporary novel, but the tale is so well-told it doesn't really matter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just finished this--a fabulous account of building the great circle of stones, an incredible human achievement, told here w/ great drama, using the rivalry betw. 3 brothers to advance the story. Forewarned is fore-armed: no Druids or UFOs here!
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CRB69 More than 1 year ago
Cornwell makes the reader feel as if they are there! Stonehenge is another example of Cornwell's mastery of his craft.
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KnightLB More than 1 year ago
I've come to love the writings of Bernard Cornwell with the warlord series those books made me feel like I was right there and I have read the saxon tales and the archers tale books also I was so looking forward to reading stonehenge. I wanted to find out more about how where and when about that site but I came to find out that this book was dry and hard to keep me excided about the book. I found it was a hard read due to the dryness of the book. I couldn't connect with the lead characters. It was almost like hoping they would all die off just to get the book over and done with. Where it takes me about 6 days to read one of his books this one took me about a month. I can not in good mind recommend this book sorry. I am still a fan of Bernard Cornwell just did not like this book at all and I wanted so much to read it. Glad I did but also sorry I did.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cornwell has a wondeful ability to take the past and bring it to life. We all know there is a great mystery for the stone circles and in partciular, Stonehenge, and about the people that lived during that time. But Cornwell has taken a time period and given it a good shot at what it might have been like. Excellent read...
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