The Winter King (Warlord Chronicles Series #1)

( 97 )

Overview

It takes a remarkable writer to make an old story as fresh and compelling as the first time we heard it. With The Winter King, the first volume of his magnificent Warlord Chronicles, Bernard Cornwell finally turns to the story he was born to write: the mythic saga of King Arthur.

The tale begins in Dark Age Britain, a land where Arthur has been banished and Merlin has disappeared, where a child-king sits unprotected on the throne, where religion vies with magic for the souls of ...

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The Winter King (Warlord Chronicles Series #1)

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Overview

It takes a remarkable writer to make an old story as fresh and compelling as the first time we heard it. With The Winter King, the first volume of his magnificent Warlord Chronicles, Bernard Cornwell finally turns to the story he was born to write: the mythic saga of King Arthur.

The tale begins in Dark Age Britain, a land where Arthur has been banished and Merlin has disappeared, where a child-king sits unprotected on the throne, where religion vies with magic for the souls of the people. It is to this desperate land that Arthur returns, a man at once utterly human and truly heroic: a man of honor, loyalty, and amazing valor; a man who loves Guinevere more passionately than he should; a man whose life is at once tragic and triumphant.

As Arthur fights to keep a flicker of civilization alive in a barbaric world, Bernard Cornwell makes a familiar tale into a legend all over again.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Without smoke and mirrors, the magic in The Winter King is conjured within the human heart.." —People magazine

"Great battle scenes and brilliant political intrigue swirl about a cast of legendary but very human characters. The redoubtable Cornwell strikes again." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Cornwell takes us into the world of mystery, adventure, passion, and love with exquisite skill. This is a riveting, heart-topping tale that will enchant all those who read it." —Deepak Chopra

"The strength of the tale lies in the way Cornwell tells it through the creation of flesh-and-blood players who make a historical period come magically alive." —The Washington Post

Library Journal
The Arthurian legend has seen countless renditions over the centuries. The Winter King is a retelling that is reminiscent of Mary Stewart's "Crystal Cave" series (e.g., The Crystal Cave: The Legend of Merlin, Dove Audio, 1989). Characters are rearranged, resulting in a vain and unpopular Lancelot, an ambitious and scheming Guinevere, a Merlin who is more absent Druid than mystic magician, and a Mordred who is Uther's grandson and legitimate heir. The tale is told by the Saxon-born monk Derfel Cadarn for Igraine, a young queen. He relates his childhood in Merlin's compound, his years soldiering with Arthur, and the deeds he witnesses. This gritty tale is well read by Tim Pigott-Smith. Author Cornwell is perhaps best known for his Sharpe military fiction series. Recommended.Denise A. Garofalo, Mid-Hudson Lib. System, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Kirkus Reviews
The author of the accomplished Richard Sharpe naval adventure novels (Sharpe's Battle, 1995, etc.) takes on Camelot in the wonderful beginning of a new series.

Of course, as Cornwell acknowledges in his wry introductory note, so little is known of sixth-century Britain that "we cannot even be certain that Arthur existed," much less his knights of the round table. Cornwell is free, therefore, to present Galahad as a fine scholar, and Lancelot as a cowardly politician and pretender to Arthur's glory. But history does provide a record of the crumbling Roman Empire, the ascendancy of Christianity alongside Druidism, and a Britain besieged by invaders; and these Cornwell portrays in amazing, colorful detail. His narrator is Derfel Cadarn, one of Merlin's odd foundlings who becomes a valorous warrior for Arthur against the Saxons. Derfel witnesses an excruciating royal childbirth, strikes out in love, and embarks upon a perilous journey before the appearance of Arthur, who arrives on a black horse to turn the tide of battle. Many battles ensue, and Derfel prospers at the right hand of Arthur, but his master is the bastard son of a king and, though a hero of the common born, no sure prospect politically. Meanwhile, the aging, rather comical Merlin pursues what may be a madman's agenda on the Isle of the Dead: He hopes to coax the true, Druidic gods back to Britain and banish the silly Christians forever. His magical alliance with Arthur gives the latter the power to rid the kingdom of its enemies, yet Arthur's bravery and decency cannot conquer the whimsical, less-than-worthy Guinevere, or outmaneuver the crafty Lancelot.

Great battle scenes and brilliant political intrigue swirl about a cast of legendary but very human characters. The redoubtable Cornwell strikes again.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312156961
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/1997
  • Series: Warlord Chronicles Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 97,101
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.13 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Bernard Cornwell, was born in Britain, is the author of numerous international bestsellers, including the Sharpe series. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 97 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(66)

4 Star

(22)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 97 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2000

    What a writer and storyteller!!!!!

    If you love good action, strong characters, unusual plot twists, and a historical setting, then Bernard Cornwell's Arthurian trilogy is for you. His books are not for the timid--especially if you still hold the old ideals of Camelot. I felt I discovered a real, almost factual, telling of this classic legend. Cornwell is the writer I dream of becoming. Just a little tease, in the second novel, Enemy of God, there is a wedding scene I had to read twice to make sure I was visualizing it right. But, don't jump ahead, read Winter King first or you will be lost. And, make sure you read the final novel, Excalibur, to see what happens to all the characters you will grow attached to.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Winter King is the start of an amazing adventure.

    Bernard Cornwell takes you on an interesting journey to a time when magic and mystery ruled the land. His interpretation of the King Arthur legend is both refreshing and entertaining. He has a unique way of intermingling
    the charectors and story line, that holds your attention and makes you
    eager for the next chapter in this capitvating tale of the dark ages of England.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 7, 2012

    This book is exceptional. Bernard Cornwell does more than just d

    This book is exceptional. Bernard Cornwell does more than just do the story of Arthur justice. He presents it in such a way as to make it "shiny and new" again. He breaths life back into Arthur, Merlin, and all the rest of the characters of the legend. In his book they become again, the living three dimensional people that they once were; not the stilted caricatures that they have been turned into over time by un talented hacks. So if you want to read a stunning and bold re-telling of the legend of Arthur, written by an exceptional author; this is the trilogy for you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2012

    No fantasy here.


    The power vacuum left when the Romans retreat from Britain, had been filled by kings and warlords who not only fight amongst themselves but also fight off invading Saxons and Irish warbands. One king, Uther, manages to cobble together a group of kingdoms. But he's dying, and leaves behind him only one legitimate son, Mordredd, born with a club foot. He gets a promise from one of his allies, that he will marry Mordredd's mother, Uther's queen, and act as regent until Mordredd, then only a baby, comes of age.

    When Uther dies, the king betrays his promise and attacks, killing Uther's widow and attempting to kill Mordredd. But Merlin's band of Druids and outcasts manages to save and hide the future king.

    Into that tableau comes Uther's bastard son Arthur, who had been banished to Amorica and who is now a warlord of great renown. Arthur promises to protect Mordredd and hold the kingdom for his half-brother.

    Following the actual historical record (what there is of it), the tale is unlike all the other Arthurian books I've read. There's little brightness in the world of the Dark Ages. It is full of betrayals and endless wars and there are few men of honor to be found. Even Arthur is flawed and despite his desire to war for peace, he's foiled at almost every turn if not by his own flaws, then by betrayals and impossible odds.

    An amazing book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2012

    The Winter King is an entertaining retelling and expansion of a

    The Winter King is an entertaining retelling and expansion of a myth that has captivated humans since the 6th century. Mr. Cornwell weaves a tale that captures the reader and transports them into the realistic world of Early Britain during the Dark Ages complete with all the brutal savagery that satisfies the reader’s most dark curiosities. Abandon all preconceived images of the “heroes” of the Arthur legend, the author has challenged all our images and spun those one-note characters of legend into a rich tapestry of complex, emotional, and riveting entities that just leap off the pages. Battle scenes galore will meet the reader and the author’s artistry with descriptions of geography and the grittiness of early human life will cause you to read far into the night. It’s very hard to put down this book, once you enter the unpredictable kingdom of Dumnonia and its surrounding realms.

    In the end however, there were a few topics and details that brought down my overall rating: combating and shockingly insulting Religious topics (that began to upset and bore me), long political and war strategies (that unfortunately dragged the pace and story down), repetitive scenes/ actions and curses, the continued almost uncharacteristic emotional displays of strong male characters, Arthur’s portrayal etc. Overall, I would still recommend this book and will read the next two in this series. Mr. Cornwell has broken any mold I have ever experienced or known that existed and paints with his pen a world that I will be pleased to enter again.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2012

    Highly receommended - action packed and well written

    Cornwell can get a little carried away with descriptive prose but in this book he sticks to an action packed storyline and wanders very little ! Set in the middle ages, this book is captivating from start to finish. Recommended for anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    IceSnow's Den

    As you go through the forest, the air grows cold, and, suddenly, you walk into a clearing that is susspended in an everlasting winter. An igloo den made of snow and ice is centered, a bit towards the back of the clearing. Pine trees encircle yhe clearings edge, drapped with snow, but unbreaking. Beautiful largish snowflakes, not one alike glitter in dellicate ice chains encircling the tree. The clearing ground has lots of soft and fluffy snow, and snow falls lightly from the air. Inside the igloo-den, in a dip in thw floor is a nest made large enough for one. In a small circle of logs is the freshkill pile, always with enough for one, and at the most two guests. The nest has soft fresh grass for the very bottom layer, with moss layered on top of that. Next up are soft feathers of birds, and then rabbit skins. A very comfortable den. Cubbies have been cut in the back wall, anf herbs, along with cobwebs are kept, just in case. IceSnow's bio coming soon in tale of ice result one.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2014

    Hard read

    This book didn't catch my attention when I started reading it. Dissapointed because the reviews were good. Upset I spent money on it.

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  • Posted February 8, 2014

    Not up to Cornwell's usual standards

    I am a big fan of Bernard Cornwell, having read all his tales of Uhtred of Bebbanburg as well as The Archer's Tale, 1353, The Heretic, The Gallows Thief, and Redcoat. This novel of King Arthur's time is not as much fun; unlike the Uhtred series, the difficult place names do not correspond to modern places with which I am passingly familiar, and there is no map at the front of the book to which I can refer. Nor is there a pronunciation guide to assist me with names that, to my modern eye, look Welsh, with "w" replacing vowels but having an unknown sound. Similarly, I have no idea of "Nimue", a major character, is pronounced with two syllables and a long "u", or three syllables (Nim-oo-eh) or in some other fashion.
    Like the "longbow books" featuring Thomas of Hookton or another master of the weapon s central character, the hero Derfel is not as interesting, his literacy is not well explained, his motives are less clear.
    In summary, I liked the book, but I did not love the reading experience.

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  • Posted January 31, 2014

    Terrific!

    This is a dynamite book. Many writers have tackled the Arthurian legend. No one that I have read has done as good a job (except maybe T.H. White in "The Once and Future King").

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    Arthurian legend

    A slightly different take on the legend of Arthur - was an engaging book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2014

    Great book!

    I have read numerous books concerning King Arthur. I really loved this book and Mr. Cornwell's "world of Camelot". It's a completely different take than any you may have ever read so if you are reading it solely for the romantic aspect of Camelot, I don't think it will be what you are looking for but otherwise I absolutely recommend it.

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  • Posted January 24, 2014

    Love Cornwell's novels ... but this one, not so much!

    If you are looking for soul-searching introspections and musings over the meaning of life, Bernard Cornwell is NOT your author. His historical novels are straightforward escapist action stories of war and intrigue set in well-researched historical backgrounds. Perhaps that is why this particular novel (and, I assume the other two in this series) was less satisfying than most. As the author himself points out, the post-Roman, pre-Saxon period of British history in which the legend of Arthur took root, is murky at best. We do not even know for sure that the supposedly historical characters really even existed. The story is, therefore, necessarily much more loosely tied into known history. For me, as a lifelong historian and a fan of Cornwell's other fiction, it was less satisfying. Still, it was entertaining and a welcome relief from efforts to understand the dynamics of the grinding bureaucratic brutality of the National Socialists or the soulless nihilism of Russian Communism.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2014

    A cat

    Get up she hisses at Snow.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    Tom

    You still on?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2014

    Snow

    She slept. Her two kits suckled.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2014

    Silverstar

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  • Posted September 13, 2013

    Great Cover

    I believe Bernard Cornwell is on of the greatest writers of historical fiction.
    I've read all of the Saxon series and loved everyone. However, I had difficulty with reading "The Winter King" following the plot or characters in the story was not easy. I'm sure the book was difficult to write and was well written but the book was not for me.
    I would recommend "Winter King" for book club discussions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 15, 2013

    Not quite the vagabond but still great reads

    Good stuff

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2013

    Master of historical fiction

    I love historical fiction and Cornwell is my favorite. I've read many of his books and have never been disappointed. 500 to 1000 A.D. is my favorite period. His take on the Arthurian legend is superb!

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