Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Winter King: A Novel of Arthur (Warlord Chronicles)” as Want to Read:
The Winter King: A Novel of Arthur (Warlord Chronicles)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Winter King: A Novel of Arthur

(The Warlord Chronicles #1)

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  34,407 ratings  ·  1,556 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 ...more
Kindle Edition, 518 pages
Published April 15th 1997 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1995)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Winter King, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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)
Dan Pepper Nope. This is the beginning of a trilogy, followed by The Enemy of God and Excalibur. Unrelated to anything else Cornwell's written.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  34,407 ratings  ·  1,556 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Winter King: A Novel of Arthur (Warlord Chronicles)
Jul 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical fiction & Arthurian fans
Recommended to Petrik by: John Gwynne
4.5/5 Stars

Depending on the rest of the trilogy, this could be the most original and the best Arthurian legend retelling of all time, out of all medium.

A little background before I start my review; this is my first dive into Bernard Cornwell’s work and only my second time reading a historical fiction, so this is totally out of my comfort read but I’m delighted with my decision to go out of my usual read. I’ve heard of the name Bernard Cornwell several times until now, all pretty much claimed he’
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The tale of King Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, the Knights of the Round Table, Sir Galahad and his quest for the Holy Grail, Excalibur, Merlin and his sorcery, and the age of chivalry are the ingredients of medieval fantasy and folklore. Bernard Cornwell writes his account which feels the most authentic version I’ve encountered and turns many of these former images on their head. The resulting novel creates an imagined tale that feels legitimate and historical.

The story is told in the
Apr 03, 2007 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,
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, historical
Full review now posted!
Original review can be found at Booknest.

Here lies a book that didn’t enthrall me, but somehow fascinated me. I wasn’t filled with longing to pick it up and continue reading, but every time I did I was given incredibly interesting theories and historical information. This was likely the most probable telling of the Arthurian legend that I’ve come across. The mythos of Arthur and Merlin and Excalibur and Camelot has always intrigued me, but it’s always remained in the realm
Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
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
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
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
Will.J.R. Gwynne
My BookNest review -

“The bards sing of love, they celebrate slaughter, they extol kings and flatter queens, but were I a poet I would write in praise of friendship.”

If you love stories consisting of memorable characters you love and despise, fantastic storytelling, stunning action sequences and moral lessons, then you will adore this historical telling of the chronicles of Arthur
Not oft, actually hardly ever, do I read a second series by an author set in a diffo historical period for fear of more of the same but jus a diffo setting (its happened with others) but here I am giving Bernard Cornwell a go with his Arthurian saga – Its only a short series & having heard many good things, I’m intending to bang the lot of in one go (3 books) to complete my Summer read.

It’s also one of my favourite legends so I hope he does it justice!

The story begins with a scribe (Derfel)
Aug 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2017
Firstly I'd like to thank Craig for an awesome first buddy read and for putting up with me in general. I look forward to reading with you again, if you'll have me.

The Winter King is a tremendously well written book. Cornwell is an amazing author and I can't wait to give some of his other books a go. Looking at you Last Kingdom!

This one gets a 3 star rating from me. I think 3 stars adequately represents my overall enjoyment of the book. I liked the story, loved the writing. But found it hard to
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.

Scott  Hitchcock
A different take on the tales of Camelot and Arthur. Book one deals with the early struggles to start building the kingdom and bringing the Britons together. I enjoyed this darker version which made me think Lancelot or some relative of his must have pissed in one of Cornwell's relative's Cheerios once upon a time. He and Guinevere definitely take a battering in this version. This version makes more sense in many ways than the more romanticized version of the tale.

Galahad on the other hand
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.

Mar 18, 2010 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, ...more
Jan 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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 ...more
Jul 27, 2010 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
Nov 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Arthur.
Actual review: 4.5

“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.”

This was absolutely fantastic!

We meet the same characters we’ve known through countless stories, re-imaginings and movies, and we see them in a world based in reality. The concept is one that many have attempted but none have pulled off satisfactorily…. until now.

Kate Quinn
May 06, 2009 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 ...more
Mr. Matt
Jan 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 28, 2014 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
Jan 22, 2013 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
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
'The Bards sing of love, they celebrate slaughter, they extol kings and flatter queens, but were I a poet I would write in praise of friendship.'

This was an adventure. This was unique. Can't lay a finger on it but I know i've never read anything quite like this. I remember getting jarred at the start because of this, fearing this may not be my cup of tea after all, but even while contemplating whether to continue or not I knew deep down I was already hooked. I got used to the narrative,
J.P. Ashman
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me by a friend, another friend and, well, several friends.

I’m a fan of Bernard Cornwell and that’s a fact. One of my favorite series is his medieval Grail Quest series, which follows an English archer during The Hundred Years War. It’s fantastic. I love it (and highly recommend it). Surely, then, I would love The Winter KingArthurian legend by Cornwell, for crying out loud! Well, read on and find out…

Read the rest of my review here.
Jul 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bernard Cornwell is one of my favorite writers of historical fiction. Thus, I was surprised to see him write a book about Arthur. I am certainly glad that I picked this up. It is a very strange book in that it technically belongs on my "fantasy" shelf, but the accuracy of the settings and weapons makes it a weak "historical fiction" as well. Mr. Cornwell admits as much, in the notes, when he points out that the monk Gildas's "De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae" (written during the 540s) about ...more
Igor Ljubuncic
This was a good but exhausting book.

The tale of King Arthur, expect he's no king, Avalon and Camelot and all that aren't quite what you expect, Merlin isn't quite what you expect, Guenevere isn't quite what you expect, and nothing really is the gushy, soft tale you get from a Christianity-veiled Holy Grail Arthurian mythology.

Instead, we have small, colorful bands of warriors, breakdancing druids who spit a lot, tiny fiefs that call themselves kingdoms but fight among themselves, the Saxon
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical

I have 2 reasons for not giving this book 4 stars. Firstly, this novel was quite slow at places and I know that Mr. Cornwell can do better. Much better. Secondly, narrator lacked the charisma of true hero and it took me almost whole book to bond with him.

Fortunatelly everything got better in last 20% and I already look forward to continuing with this series!
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.
Apr 15, 2015 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,
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Genghis: Birth of an Empire (Conqueror, #1)
  • Bones of the Hills (Conqueror, #3)
  • A Batalha do Apocalipse
  • Blood Eye (Raven #1)
  • Khan: Empire of Silver (Conqueror, #4)
  • Under the Eagle (Eagle #1)
  • Outlaw (The Outlaw Chronicles, #1)
  • Off Planet
  • Lancelot
  • The Whale Road (Oathsworn, #1)
  • Genghis: Lords of the Bow (Conqueror, #2)
  • Odinn's Child (Viking, #1)
  • The Gates of Rome (Emperor, #1)
  • Conqueror (Conqueror, #5)
  • God of Vengeance (The Rise of Sigurd, #1)
  • The Death of Kings (Emperor, #2)
  • Sworn Sword (The Bloody Aftermath of 1066, #1)
  • When the Eagle Hunts (Eagle, #3)
See similar books…
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 ...more

Other books in the series

The Warlord Chronicles (3 books)
  • Enemy of God (The Warlord Chronicles, #2)
  • Excalibur (The Warlord Chronicles, #3)
“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.” 225 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.” 85 likes
More quotes…