The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Cornwell's take on the Arthurian legend is both violent and introspective. Of course there are battles: big battles, small skirmishes, fights between two men to settle disputes, fights between entire kingdoms to settle a slight. And Cornwell knows how to write battles so that the individual cost isn't lost in the description of the vast landscapes. But he also knows how to tell the story of what is going on inside the characters heads, why they fight or don't fight, and that there are emotions beyond greed that once turned the course of history. He approaches Arthur as someone who probably was a real man in some context, that all legend has its roots in a truth of some sort, but beyond borrowing a few key players of the legend and a very broad nod at the setting, this is his take on a war lord that was a good, if flawed, man, and the people he surrounded himself with. Cornwell also brings religion into the story more than most re-tellers of this legend, and the way he plays Paganism and the new upstart Christianity against each other is not only educational, it's amusing.
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