After reading all 12 books of the Saxon Chronicles by Bernard Cornwell, I picked up his Warlord Chronicles with a little trepidation. On the one hand, I was hopeful as the books appeared to offer as much fun as Utred’s story. On the other hand, the Warlord trilogy is a retelling of Arthurian legend, which I find overfamiliar and boring. I was pleasantly surprised to find the first novel, THE WINTER KING, is his best yet, offering everything I loved about the Saxon Chronicles while offering a story of Arthur that is totally fresh and engaging.
In THE WINTER KING, the High King Uther dies after designating Mordred, his infant son, as his heir. His bastard son Arthur returns from Brittany in France to protect the kingdom until Mordred comes of age. He forges what appears to be a lasting peace between all Britons in the hopes of uniting them against the Saxon invaders, but the peace doesn’t last, resulting in endless war culminating in a final climactic battle. The story is told in the reminisce of Derfel, an orphan raised by Merlin, who becomes a great warrior serving Arthur.
This is classic Cornwell, a lived-in world that is the product of thoughtful research, fantastic characters, incredible action, and in this case an entirely new telling of Arthurian legend.