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It seems like ages ago when I began reading this book. It's not for lack of want, but other things - namely the new year closely followed by my holiday in England - just got in the way.

Having said that, I finished the book this morning and have to say... Wow.

The Winter King, by Bernard Cornwell, is the telling - or perhaps retelling - of the time honoured tale of King Arthur. But in this tale, he is not the king of the book's title. He is merely a warlord in Britain during the period just after the Romans left. He's not the romanticised king of legend. He is a more realistic and flawed man.

The story is also told through the eyes of Derfel, a friend and warrior of Arthur. As a Saxon child, Derfel survives a death-pit created by a Druid and is therefore seen to be touched by the Gods and is allowed to live with Merlin and others who are, like Derfel, touched by the Gods. As a young man, Derfel meets Arthur and his friend Owain. Between the two of them, Derfel learns how to be a warrior. Derfel falls into the service of Owain for a time, though his loyalty is more toward Arthur, and when Owain is killed, Derfel pledges his allegiance to Arthur.

The rest of the tale centres around Arthur's oath to keep Mordred on the throne to become High King like his father before him. As Arthur's warrior, Derfel is also oathbound to fight for Mordred.

After finishing the book this morning, I have to wonder if Cornwell knew as he was writing this book as a part of a trilogy. He ties all the ends of this book together, but still leaves you wanting more. Derfel is, as I mentioned, the narrator and is an old man writing the tales of his youth for his current queen. By the end of the book, though, Derfel hasn't reached the end of his life and Arthur hasn't become the king of the tales we are all so familiar with. I look forward to reading the next two books.


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