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The Winter King (The Warlord Chronicles, #1)
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The Winter King (The Arthur Books #1)

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  17,092 ratings  ·  744 reviews
Uther, the High King, has died, leaving the infant Mordred as his only heir. His uncle, the loyal and gifted warlord Arthur, now rules as caretaker for a country which has fallen into chaos - threats emerge from within the British kingdoms while vicious Saxon armies stand ready to invade, As he struggles to unite Britain and hold back the enemy at the gates, Arthur is embr...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published April 15th 1997 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published January 1st 1995)
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The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer BradleyThe Once and Future King by T.H. WhiteMary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy by Mary StewartLe Morte d'Arthur by Thomas MaloryThe Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
Best Arthurian Fiction
5th out of 327 books — 1,141 voters
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur GoldenGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Best Historical Fiction
140th out of 4,239 books — 17,704 voters


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Community Reviews

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Ryan
Apr 18, 2007 Ryan rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Melki
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.



Dun-da-da-da!

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...more
StoryTellerShannon
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...more
Conor
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...more
Richard
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...more
Magdalena
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nate
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
Chris
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...more
Mike
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
Artemas
*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...more
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.
Robin
This book, along with the two that follow it, really break the mold when it comes to Arthurian legend. These stories are told much more factually, set against feudal Britain. The bit of magic that shows up doesn't dominate the story like all other Arthurian legend. It is much easier to picture this Arthur as having actually existed and the things that happen as having actually happened. It's not even told from the viewpoint of a character that we are used to seeing in King Arthur stories. It pai...more
Kate Quinn
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
Bryn Hammond
Four with a push.

His post-Rome Britain is as much a battleground of religions as of peoples; Arthur seems to be the secular arm of Merlin’s fight. I felt a homage to T.H. White in the extended description of Merlin’s eccentric home, and in the comedy he can make of a scene – but that might just be me. Nimue is Merlin’s worthy offsider, with a fierce, single-minded commitment to their fight. The druidry is truly weird and very violent; Christianity has the book stacked against it, a bit too obvio...more
Jane
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,...more
Kerri
Wow! What happens when you combine the Arthurian legends with gritty reality? This book (and presumably the rest of the trilogy) is a very real, gritty, in-your-face take on Arthur, Merlin, and the rest. There are no swords in stones here, no young Wart being tranformed into a bird or squirrel by Merlin. Rather, Arthur is a warlord and acts the way I imagine a warlord would in that day and age...that is to say, brutally. Some of the battle imagery was pretty intense so I liked this book best whe...more
Jeremy
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...more
Cara
As a fictionalized account of the final attempt of the Britons to defend their land from invading Saxons and Irish, this is an engaging tale, with likeable heroes. As a tale of Arthur, it disappoints.

The major problem with Cornwell's characterization is that the villains are without redeeming qualities. They are invariably a combination of the following qualities: brutal, vicious, duplicitous, selfish, and cowardly. This makes Arthur come off as particularly obtuse. For example, I don't have a...more
Lolly's Library
This is not a nice book. This is not a tale of King Arthur of which Disney would approve. It's not romantic, glossy, subtle, or sanitized. There are no chivalrous knights, the kind which spring from the pages of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur: King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table. There are no lessons of magical shape-shifting as in T.H. White's The Once and Future King. And there are certainly no rites celebrating the strength of female divinity as portrayed in Marion Zimmer Bradley's The...more
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...more
Alex Telander
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
Alicja
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....more
Chris
I had forgotten how much I love this series. There are individual books of Cornwell's that I enjoy more than any of these, but as a whole, this trilogy is amazing.

Cornwell manages to be a real storyteller. He can always write well, but this series, more than his others, just feels so complete, so fullfilling.

It takes place in the late 400s AD, at least to begin with, and centers around a historical Arthur (though a warlord, not a king). Obviously much of Arthurian legend is a later invention, b...more
Joyce Lagow
First book in The Warlord Chronicles (Arthurian) trilogy.[return][return]Cornwell is a first-rate writer of historical action-adventure stories. He� s also extremely creative in the ways he uses his historical material. I always enjoy reading the historical notes at the end of his books, because they give fascinating details about the site, usually, of the action and, of course, when he deviates from historical accuracy.[return][return]But in this series, about the legendary Arthur, Cornwell out...more
Kit Fryatt
The most subtle and self-reflexive of Cornwell's books that I've read so far. The framing device asks us to reflect on mythic accretion in the Arthur story, and by implication, on the very notion that there was a historical reality to accrete *to*. Cornwell's note suggests that he takes a mainstream view of the evidence, i.e. that there may have been a 5th-century British warlord, maybe or maybe not called Arthur or a name like it, who had a number of successes in repelling Saxon invasions, and...more
Benjamin Thomas
Some of my earliest memories of the world of fiction and story telling involve tales of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Most have read at least one such story in their childhood while many of us have consumed many versions of this classic and continue to do so to this day. So it was with a mixture of anticipation and some trepidation that I began this trilogy. Not having read Cornwell's well-received "Sharpe" novels, but having been inundated with praise for them, I wondered at h...more
Ryan
Being 'Sharp' fan I decided to look into other books by Bernard Cornwell. Seeing that Cornwell wrote a trilogy based on the King Arthur mythology I was curious his take on the legend.

I can honestly say hands down that Bernard Cornwell's interpretation of a historical King Arthur is the best I have ever read, I highly recommend the Warlord Chronicles to anyone. He paints a time and world that is dark and gritty. Life is tough and death means nothing.

Through the eyes of Derfel Cadarn the reader s...more
Livvy
This book my friend has bugged and pestered me to read for absolute months, along with a tonne of other books so she can finally find somebody to discuss books with and because I read a little bit of everything and I’m unable to say no, I finally got around to picking this one up. I’m only glad for the extra encouragment and can safely say I wasn’t tossing this book aside as something I wanted to forget. It was also entertaining to read this book as part of a read along, which pushed me to read...more
Paul 'Pezski' Perry
4.5 stars

Cornwell's retelling of the Arthur tales is, if the other two volumes match up to this, set to become one of my favourites. while he includes characters that are undoubtedly mythical and, as he admits in his afterword, continues to put together characters from different mythical or semi-historical heritages (such as Arthur and Merlin, only put together by Mallory but now indivisible), I would still class this work as a historical fiction, even a realistic historical fiction.

The author p...more
Iceman
Esta opinião visa toda a obra no seu conjunto não especificando nenhum dos volumes em particular.

Esta é uma obra que já reli por diversas vezes.. Na minha primeira leitura, há uns 10 anos, fui levado por um entusiasmo e um fascínio tão grande que e durante muito tempo, considerei esta obra como a da minha vida, aquela que recomendava sempre que me solicitavam alguma opinião sobre bons livros (ainda recomendo).

Senti-me novamente maravilhado e, embora agora não a considere como a obra da minha vid...more
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Finally. 13 116 May 29, 2014 03:33AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Strange made up name for a series 5 92 Apr 01, 2014 12:40PM  
Ancient & Med...: AUGUST 2013 (Group Read 1) The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell 253 147 Sep 17, 2013 11:40PM  
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Cornwell was born in London in 1944. His father was a Canadian airman, and his mother 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 mother's maiden name, Cornwe...more
More about Bernard Cornwell...
The Last Kingdom (The Saxon Stories, #1) The Pale Horseman (The Saxon Stories, #2) Lords of the North (The Saxon Stories, #3) The Archer's Tale (The Grail Quest, #1) Sword Song (The Saxon Stories, #4)

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“Life is a jest of the Gods and there is no justice. You must learn to laugh… or else you'll weep yourself to death.” 153 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.” 46 likes
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