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The Winter King: A Novel of Arthur (The Arthur Books #1)

4.27  ·  Rating Details ·  26,137 Ratings  ·  1,091 Reviews
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 disap
ebook, 448 pages
Published April 15th 1997 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published January 1995)
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Bryan Forsyth The 'magic' is purely in the minds of the characters. Its source is superstition, irrationality, ignorance, and religion.

You will not see thunderbolts…more
The 'magic' is purely in the minds of the characters. Its source is superstition, irrationality, ignorance, and religion.

You will not see thunderbolts fly from staffs or supernatural healing of deadly wounds.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Apr 03, 2007 Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: see review
I really can't say enough about this book. There are a lot of reasons to enjoy books and this one scores highest in so many categories. It is just very fun to read.

Who would I recommend this book to?
If you loved The Lord of the Rings but the smallest part of you that doesn't care about poetry kind of wished it had a little more action . . .
If you loved watching the movie Braveheart but wish it was a little more accurate historically . . .
If you were excited about the 2004 movie King Arthur, whi
Bookdragon Sean
Nobody does this quite as well as Bernard Cornwell. He is quite literally the master of this genre. He creates a vivid warrior culture time and time again, and I will never get bored of it. This is saying a lot because Bernard Cornwell has written a huge amount of novels over the years and a few are similar in ways, but I don’t care because they’re just so good. This time Bernard Cornwell tells the story of Arthur, though not from the perspective of Arthur; he tells it from the point of view of ...more
Daniel Ionson
This is my favorite Cornwell series (it's Cornwell's too), for it covers my favorite historical era--that mysterious gap in between the Roman departure and the Saxon Invasion. This retelling of Arthur works so well because it's divorced from Mallory.

I love BC's ability to pull me into the muddy, primitive Dark Age Britain world. He's one of the very best at avoiding anachronisms, a skill which gets so little praise. None of his characters feel like modernistic men and women dressed up in 5th Ce
Mayra Sigwalt
Apr 05, 2010 Mayra Sigwalt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Primeira leitura: 2008
Releitura: 02/2016

Acho que essa é uma leitura muito recomendada para os fãs de As Crônicas de Gelo e Fogo. Com a vantagem q os livros são mais curtos e você só tem um ponto de vista, então a história anda bem mais rápido.
Acho q os fãs das lendas Arturianas talvez amem ou odeiem, pois esse é um retrato muito mais cru e humano de Artur. Eu amo. Mas aqui toda a magia e romance medieval é substituído por um retrato muito mais provável do que realmente teria acontecido naquela
The horn sounded a third time, and suddenly I knew I would live, and I was weeping for joy and all our spearmen were half crying and half shouting and the earth was shuddering with the hooves of those Godlike men who were riding to our rescue.

For Arthur, at last, had come.


Presenting a saga so epic it needs three pages to list the characters, two pages to mention the places and another two pages of maps! And you know what? The story was so involving, I never once glanced at any of th
4.5 stars

The legend of Arthur has been told time and again over the centuries. From ancient British folk tales to 5 season of 'Merlin', from 15th Century French verse to 'The Mists of Avalon'. With this book Cornwell has left his mark on that tradition. He's taken a tale examined from almost every angle and made it his own. Most of all he's written a story filled with complicated characters, visceral battles and ambitious intrigues in a brutal, immersive setting.

The protagonist of this story i
This is a mix of legend and History, and, King Arthur will probably always be that way since there's so much info. missing.

In this tale the focus is open the original Britons fighting the influx/invasion of Saxons and dealing with the petty British kingdoms. All want to rule and there are a number of very detailed and well-written battles.

First person POV.

The typical cast isn't what it appears to be. For instance, Lancelot is a coward and villain whose bards paint him differently.

The interp
Jan 08, 2012 Magdalena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 18, 2010 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
TWK The Winter King (The Arthur Books, #1) by Bernard Cornwell is easy 5 stars for bringing this oft-told tale to us in a completely new (and I do mean new) way. WARNING! Do Not read this book if you like your Arthur legend gauzy, frilly, magicky and cheesy. All previous Arthurian tales pale in comparison to Mr. Cornwell’s version. All of the usual suspects are present here but you will not see many of them portrayed in the standard ways. You will also meet a host of new companions and enemies. It is safe to say that you will never look at Lancelot, G ...more
I haven't read all of Cornwell's books but from what I've read this is my absolute favorite so far. It's a fantastic vision of what Arthur's life might have really been like. The typical idea that seems to stick in people's heads is of this romantic story with gallant knights, fair maidens and all that boring stuff but when you think about it, there really was no room in the post-Roman Dark Ages Britain for that kind of shit. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of heroism in this book but it's mo ...more
These are the tales of Arthur, the Warlord, the King that Never Was, the Enemy of God and…the best man I ever knew.

What I loved about reading this tale for the first time is that I had no expectations. Of course, I did have a little knowledge of Arthur, but nothing that would give me an impression of who he should be. I knew he was a king and possibly a Christian (not in this version). And I had also heard of Galahad, Lancelot, Merlin and Camelot, but basically, this was all new to me.

Dec 28, 2014 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

It took a while for me to get into this, I was overwhelmed with the amount of names thrust at me from the off. From the start you've learnt more characters names in the first few pages than most series will have in their entire run only for the majority of these to be killed off before you've remembered who they are! Luckily, things steadied after a while and you had a core group and things became more focused and the story was able to really progress.

I guess the story of King Arthur and M
Jan 22, 2013 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first of a trilogy in a magnificent telling of the Arthurian legend. Yeah, that one: Arthur, Merlin, Uther Pendragon, Guinevere, Morgan, Mordred, Lancelot, Galahad — the whole cast, as far as I know (well, Morgause appears to be missing).

I haven’t read any of the others Arthurian books, so I can’t comment on any linkages between this and the agglomeration of other tellings. My knowledge of this history/legend/mythos comes mostly from what I’ve picked up here and there, with a heavy d
Kate Quinn
May 06, 2009 Kate Quinn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hands down the best King Arthur fiction ever written. "The Winter King" begins Bernard Cornwell's trilogy of Arthur, the king who may have lived in early Britain, driven back the invading Saxons, and inspired a legend. Interestingly enough, Arthur is not the central hero of the book - that role falls to Derfel, a Saxon boy who escapes a Druid death pit to be raised by Britons and eventually become Arthur's right-hand man. Derfel is a very old man when the story begins, a monk in a Christian mona ...more
Jul 27, 2010 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent novel. Cornwell has truly taken the Arthurian legend and made it his own. All the old names are here, but often in much different forms than expected.

This tale is told by one of Arthur's warriors, Derfel. In his old age, Derfel has become a monk. While serving as such, he is writing the story of Arthur, who he knew personally.

Cornwell's Arthur is a delight. While maintaining a degree of the larger-than-life qualities we come to expect of this character, Cornwell makes him human. Gives
Vagner Stefanello
Apr 19, 2014 Vagner Stefanello rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physical
Review in Portuguese from Desbravando Livros:

Depois de tanto tempo, finalmente consegui começar a ler As Crônicas de Artur e descobrir se os livros são realmente bons como as pessoas falam por aí. O Rei do Inverno é o primeiro livro da trilogia de Bernard Cornwell e nos coloca na pele de Derfel Cadarn, filho de uma escrava saxã e atualmente aos cuidados do druida Merlin. Derfel (pronuncia-se Dervel) é introduzido em um cenário de guerra e várias disputadas pelo poder dentro da própria Grã-Bretan
rating: 5.5/5

Cornwell uses what little historical facts there are regarding the originator of the Arthurian legends and plays around with history to show us what could have been (meaning no magic). He freely admits that he had a lot of room to play and that this is just one interpretation, but damn, it's a brilliant interpretation. All the well knows characters are included (Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, King Uther, Morgan, Galahad, etc.) but not necessarily as the legends describe them.
*Please don’t label ME an Enemy of God for only rating this 3 stars.

I’ve been a fan of Bernard Cornwell for some time now and believe him to be one of the best historical fiction writers out there. While I enjoyed this book, something about it just felt off to me, lacking that distinct Cornwellishness that I’ve come to love. The Winter King is a slow build, to be sure, but has some interesting payoffs along the way.

The debate on whether or not Arthur ever existed is still undecided, but Cornwell
Alex Telander
Apr 25, 2012 Alex Telander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There have been many books written about the legend of King Arthur, the knights of the Round Table, Lancelot and Guenevere; a story that is known the world over and been talked about for more than a millennium. Some of those stories have tried to remain true to the original myth — though it still remains unknown whether there really was a man who went by that name — and others have gone off into their own world, using these familiar characters. Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles is one that r ...more
Adam Raúl Mendez
Feb 19, 2016 Adam Raúl Mendez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! Well bugger me! Now that's what I call a great beginning to a trilogy.

'The Winter King' is book 1 in the 'Warlord Chronicles' trilogy and is a unique retelling of the stories surrounding King Arthur and his legendary companions. The Arthurian legends that we all know and love are those of myth, and this adaptation is told through the eyes of an elderly monk named Derfel Cadarn. It may seem an odd perspective to tackle this epic tale, but Derfel wasn't always a religious man, he was once a b
Mar 14, 2012 Lucinda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The winter king is the first novel in the acclaimed Warlord chronicles trilogy that is set around the myths & legends of King Arthur and Merlin from the Dark Ages. It is a book that sheds new light on the Arthurian legend which combines myth with historical accuracy and the brutal action of the battlefield with such spellbinding realism. You can tell that this book is going to be good just by basing it on the background of the author and how utterly sucsessfull he was with the no.1 bestselli ...more
Apr 15, 2015 Lavanya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An Amazing Novel!

This is a book about King Arthur (not King, but Warlock). It's written by Derfel, one Merlin's collected orphans.

Derfel, who was one of Merlin's Tor and who became most trusted, brother-like to Arthur and Gallahad and many such good men, now is a follower of Christianity.

He is one of the last of people left who remember King Arthur, other than the Saint who's Bishop of the Church he's sworn to stay in- Sansum. And he is only one who can write about the most hated by Christians,
Mr. Matt
Simply one of the best historical fiction reads out there. A unique retelling of the Arthur legend as it may have really happened. Arthur is a Celtic warlord in a post-roman Britain. Merlin is a druid, but his magic is more of he slight of hand variety. The story takes place against a ripe backdrop of change - Romano-Celts versus invading Saxons and Angles and the new Christian God against the Old Gods. Great stuff. Highly recommended.
sir Lancer Cairns
Sep 20, 2016 sir Lancer Cairns rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to give this around a 4.25 and round it down. That being said it was fantastic. Cornwell was able to take a setting we all known (Early Briton) and make it so foreign and so desolate that it seemed like an original fantasy world. I felt quite a connection with the lead character/narrator Derfel as he reminded me of myself at times. Many of the Arthurian characters that we know from its various versions show up like Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, Galahad, Tristan and the oh so hate-able Lan ...more
With all three books of this series, Cornwell manages to walk a masterful line here between historical realism and magical interplay. It's kinda left up to the reader just how 'magic' Merlin is, for example. No firebolts here. Just when you think its all trickery... theres a kinda suggestion of something else. I really enjoyed that.

Arthur was great too, and the take on Lancelot and others. I laugh when I see reviews questioning the motivations and actions of these characters. 'how could he be so
It's easy to explain why a novel works. It's even easier to explain why it doesn't––and a lot more entertaining. The hardest challenge for a reviewer is expressing the murky middle. Cornwell's arthurian novel The Winter King is a perfect example, because within these pages are a number of points to praise and a number to damn. How does one arrive at a final tally without hitting them all? We'll see if I can figure that out as we go along.

If we were to take a vote on what is the cornerstone of fi
Jul 26, 2013 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, king-arthur
Forget *any* preconceptions of Arthur that you may have gleaned from previous reading--from the Arthurian romances to straight historical fiction. Remember the names but no previous notions. This is Cornwell's unique concept of the Arthurian characters. It took me about a quarter of the novel to get used to his portrayals; but once I did, I was engrossed.

Derfel, formerly one of Arthur's warriors, is an old man and has become a monk. He, with the help and questions of the present Queen of Powys,
Aaron Dembski-Bowden
This was one of those great moments where you come across a book that feels like it was specifically written for you.

I finished The Winter King, turned the last page, and went to make some coffee. The first thing I did when I headed back upstairs was open it at page 1 and start it again.

I'm not sure what I can say about this that'll actually do it justice. The characters' journeys through the story were variously gripping, heart-wrenching and tense, whether on the battlefield, travelling betwe
Feb 04, 2013 Joel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks, hard-copy
The Winter King is a book that I've had circled on my 'to-read' for literally around two years - when I'd first read it's description, I found it to be one of the more fascinating concepts on my list. I never grew up much for Arthurian lore, aside from your typical sword in the stone business, however medieval Britain has always been an interest, and I wanted to see if a talented author could re-write something that has been told so many times, and make it fresh and interesting.

The tale is large
Aug 17, 2012 Kerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cornwell accepts historical information which indicates Arthur was more great warlord than great king. Cornwell's Arthur story is from the p.o.v. of a 5th century warrior named Derfel and he has a fictional life of his own. Therefore, Derfel's story of Warlord Arthur (The Winter King is Mordred) is more about the time of Arthur and less about Arthur's life around the round table (also historical fallacy it appears).

As for other familiar personalities, Lancelot is an unproven self promoting crav
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Cornwell was born in London in 1944. His father was a Canadian airman, and his mother, who was English, a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted and brought up in Essex by the Wiggins family, who were members of the Peculiar People, a strict Protestant sect who banned frivolity of all kinds and even medicine. After he left them, he changed his name to his birth mother's maiden n ...more
More about Bernard Cornwell...

Other Books in the Series

The Arthur Books (3 books)
  • Enemy of God (The Warlord Chronicles, #2)
  • Excalibur (The Warlord Chronicles, #3)

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“But fate, as Merlin always taught us, is inexorable. Life is a jest of the Gods, Merlin liked to claim, and there is no justice. You must learn to laugh, he once told me, or else you'll just weep yourself to death.” 198 likes
“I do understand that you can look into someone’s eyes,” I heard myself saying, “and suddenly know that life will be impossible without them. Know that their voice can make your heart miss a beat and that their company is all your happiness can ever desire and that their absence will leave your soul alone, bereft and lost.” 68 likes
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