These are the tales of the last days before the great darkness descended. These are the tales of the Lost Lands, the country that was once ours but which our enemies now call England. These are the tales of Arthur, the Warlord, the King that Never Was, the Enemy of God and, may the living Christ forgive me, the best man I ever knew. How I have wept for Arthur...
Fifth-century Britain lies on the edge of darkness. Memories of Roman civilization are fading; the pagan Gods are retreating before the spread of Christianity; the Saxons are snapping and snarling at the borders. Only fragile bonds unite the unruly kingdoms of Britain against the invaders, bonds cemented by the vigour of the High King, Uther Pendragon. But the Pendragon is failing, and his heir is no strong leader but a child, born on a bitter winter night.
Only one man could keep Uther's throne safe; only he could hold the warring kingdoms together to face their true enemy, the Saxons. That man is Arthur: soldier, statesman, Merlin's protege, Uther's illegitimate son. But he has been banished, exiled by his own father to Brittany. Derfel, one of his spearmen, narrates the story of Arthur's return and of his quest for peace: embattled, bloody and, finally, triumphant.
The Winter King is a magnificent tale of the Dark Ages and the reality of war and political strife in a landwhere religion vied with magic for the souls of the people. It portrays Arthur the man rather than the legend, a military genius who, with a small band of warriors bound to him by loyalty and love, struggled to keep alive a flicker of civilization in a barbarically brutal world.
Bernard Cornwell (born 1944) is a prolific and popular English historical novelist.
Photo: Kelly Campbell (HarperCollins).